The 9th Parachutist Assault Regiment, also known as Col Moschin. It is the fiore all’occhiello or proudest unit of the current Italian Army — in part due to its distinguished history, but also due to the arduous training which members must undertake. It’s motto is Della Folgore L’impeto — which roughly translated is With the power of thunderbolt. Training takes no less than two years for long-term members, and five months for short-term volunteers (with 1–2 years total military service). Roughly equivalent in number, tasking and quality to the world-famous British Army SAS, the 9th — or il nono as it is known in Italian military circles — is capable of operating in all environments. The roughly 700 members train in mountainous, wooded, desert, and amphibious terrain. The 9th’s specialty is operating independently of outside support and far from friendly lines. From 2004, “Col Moschin” is integrated inside the Comando Forze Speciali Interarma (C.O.F.S.), Italy’s special operations command.
The origins of the 9th Parachutist Assault Regiment can be found in the World War I. Among its precursors is the 9th Assault Section, known as the Arditi (or ‘Arduous Troops’), who were often tasked with preempting infantry assaults on the Italo-Austrian frontlines (which is currently the border between Italy and Slovenia). It was during this period that the 9th earned its reputation as a fierce fighting force. ‘Going over the top’, followed by the launch of hand-grenades deep into enemy territory, was commonplace. The 9th was responsible for the capture of numerous Austrian positions on Mount Grappa, including Peak Moschin (or Col Moschin), and the Peak of the Beretta (or Col della Beretta).
The inter-war years saw the demise of the 9th Section, and a similar unit was not reestablished until 20 July 1942, when World War II was in full swing. Dubbed the 10th Arduous Regiment, they conducted patrols in Tunisia; and occupied Sicily, and Algeria under the orders of Mussolini. After 8 September, 1943 — the surrender of Italy to the Allies — the 1st Battalion of the 10th Regiment spent the next few years fighting its way up the Italian Peninsula in the Italian War of Liberation.
Disbanded in 1946, the 9th was reassembled as a company-level unit at the Cesano Infantry School in 1953. On 1 June, 1954, the unit became the ‘Sabateur Parachute Section’, and in 1961, it mutated once more into the ‘Sabateur Parachute Battalion’. Fourteen years later, it received the standard of the 10th Arduous Regiment, and became the 9th Parachute Assault Battalion (Col Moschin). Finally in June 1995 the battalion became a Regiment.
As part of the Parachutist Brigade Folgore — which distinguished itself in World War II by defending of Italian positions in North Africa so heroically that Winston Churchill dubbed them ‘as fierce as lions’ — the 9th Regiment has engaged in numerous post-WWII exploits.
As part of the peace treaty signed by Italy following WWII, Italy could not deploy armed forces outside of Italy for 25 years, except, of course, the destruction of Nazi Germany and her allies. This restriction expired in 1970, but circumstances did not call upon Italian military participation in foreign missions until 1982. Since that time, the 9th has been engaged throughout the world.
Modern Operational History
- In 1982, Italian paratroopers of the 9th took part in the multi-national UN-sponsored mission of establishing peace and security in parts of Lebanon that were shattered by years of civil war. The Italians achieved great operational success, and were widely praised for their work.
- In May of 1991, the humanitarian crisis precipitated by Saddam Hussein led to hundreds of thousands of Kurd refugees in northern Iraq. The 9th was deployed to assist the people fleeing Saddam, following his defeat in the 1990–91 Persian Gulf War.
- Mafia assassinations of top Italian magistrates in 1992 resulted in the deployment of military forces to Sicily, including the 9th.
- From late 1992 to late 1993, the 9th was deployed to Somalia in Operation Restore Hope, a UN mission to alleviate the suffering of the Somali people, who were deeply affected by the on-going civil war.
- The 9th was deployed within the IFOR to keep the peace in Bosnia following the Dayton Peace Accords of 1995. They served numerous tours of duty. They were also dispatched several times to Kosovo, following the NATO-Serbian War in 1999.
- Additional recent operations include a tour in Albania, following the near-collapse of the Albanian government in 1997, and an operation in East Timor, following that country’s referendum for independence from Indonesia.
- In Afghanistan, the Incursori provides support of Italian troops engaged in ISAF.
- In Iraq, Operation Antica Babilonia (Italian contingent of Multinational force 2003 – 2006) includes a section of special forces operatives, from the 9th, the Carabinieri’s GIS and the Navy’s COMSUBIN, mostly deployed for patrol missions, training local police and Army, and to arrest suspects of terrorism.
The 9th Parachute Assault Regiment, Col Moschin, is part of the Italian Army Parachute Brigade, which is part of the 1st Defence Forces Command — composed of the front-line units of the new professional Italian Army.
The 9th itself is made up of the 1st Incursori, or ‘intruder’, Battalion, which is composed of the 110th and 120th Incursori, or ‘intruder’, Companies and the 111th Guastatori or ‘sabateur’ Company. Another company (the 101st) is the Training Company. There are also the Command and Support Companies.