Italy’s agile bersaglieri mark 171 years
Stars and Stripes June 19, 2007
European edition, Tuesday, June 19, 2007
CASERTA, Italy — Every bersaglieri is a soldier, but not every soldier is a bersaglieri.
That honored title is reserved for a distinct corps of Italian soldiers best known for peak physical fitness, agility, sharpshooting skills, and the tradition of running in formation — everywhere they go.
When a company moves, they do so at a trot, clad in ebony rooster quills that spill from their dress-uniform hats.
Italians hold steadfast to traditions — and the Bersaglieri Brigade is no different, Gen. B. Vincenzo Iannuccelli, commander of the 8th Regiment, Bersaglieri Brigade “Garibaldi,” told a crowd of roughly 200 people on Monday.
The audience gathered Monday at the “Ferrari Orsi” barracks in Caserta, Italy, near Naples, to celebrate the brigade’s birthday.
“One hundred seventy-one years of history, uninterrupted continuity between the past and the present; yesterday like today, always the good of our native land as the point of reference,” Iannuccelli said of the brigade.
Iannuccelli extolled those soldiers who recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan and as a peacekeeping force in Lebanon.
Created in 1836 by Italian Gen. Alessandro La Marmora, the brigade provided the Italian army with a light, agile force of deadly accurate sharpshooters, or bersaglieri.
Today, roughly 5,000 soldiers, both men and women, make up the seven regiments, which include tanker, artillery, cavalry (now in motorized armored units instead of on horseback) and construction regiments.
“I joined the Navy to travel and experience different cultures, just like this,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Dustin Huner, 23, invited from U.S. Naval Support Activity Naples to attend the anniversary celebration.
While he noted a “same slice of culture” between U.S. and Italian military systems, there were enough distinctive features — such as uniforms and running in formation — to appreciate the learning experience, he said.
“I was in awe watching them [perform],” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Rebecca Marcantel, 21. “They were very disciplined.”