If you’ve ever watched a film that includes scenes shot in Italy, especially those involving heart-pounding car
chases, you’ve probably seen them. If you can’t recognise them by their tailored uniforms or the distinct
flame on the front of their caps, you’ll instantly know them when you see large white letters along the sides of
their vehicles that spell one unmistakable word: Carabinieri.
What started as a police corps to protect the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1814 is now a national police force of
more than 100,000 personnel, as well as being an independent branch of the Italian Armed Forces. In
addition to their work at home, members of the Carabinieri also actively participate in NATO missions
around the world.
One such member is Italian Carabinieri Lieutenant Colonel Stefano Saccocci. Having arrived to the United
Kingdom in 2015, Saccocci has the distinction of being the first and only Carabinieri officer to date posted to the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC), one of NATO’s nine High Readiness Forces (Land).
"I was the first one to cover this position in late April 2015 as the first representative of the Carabinieri,” he said. "The expertise we add to exercises is helpful in understanding the Carabinieri role and the gendarmerie
role and what they can provide during possible operations.”
The move by the ARRC to bring Saccocci into its ranks was motivated by the desire to bolster the capability of its Military Police branch. Because of the unique nature of the Carabinieri, Saccocci’s selection was a natural choice.
"When the ARRC [would deploy] there was a capability gap that they couldn’t cover,” said British Army Colonel Nadine Parkes, Provost Marshal for the ARRC. "We would occasionally have gendarmerie forces and we didn’t have the expertise in how to use them and what those forces could deliver for the ARRC.”
"Military police do exactly that, they police the military,” she continued. "Stefano is here specifically to provide us with gendarmerie advice because otherwise we tend to be very doctrinally pure on policing the force.”
Saccocci’s police duties have taken him throughout Italy over the last 10 years, including time spent as a helicopter pilot and a helicopter unit commander. He’s served two tours in support of NATO missions in Kosovo and one in Sarajevo. His last job before the ARRC was as chief of police in an area of northwest Italy near Turin, overseeing the general police work of nearly 200 officers with a focus on organised crime.
In addition to his work with the ARRC’s MP branch, Saccocci also brings his experience to its Operational Liaison and Reconnaissance Team (ORLT), the first troops on the ground if the ARRC is requested to deploy in support of a NATO mission.
"I am bringing all of my previous experiences as a police commander, as a pilot, and I would say there are some cases where my background has been helpful,” he said. "When I have been performing my OLRT role and we had the opportunity to [reconnoiter] an airport, my background as a pilot was pretty helpful in helping the team to understand what a certain radio or an instrumental landing system was.”
Ultimately, Saccocci’s most valuable contribution is the experience and increased capability he brings to the ARRC MP branch.
"He’s very useful on things that aren’t necessarily major warfighting issues: Non-Article 5 operations, stabilisation, counter-corruption organised crime, human trafficking, all that kind of stuff is his area of expertise,” said Parkes.
"He will be particularly useful as we move into next year when we start to re-role [as a] a joint task force headquarters,” Parkes added.
With nearly two years in the ARRC behind him, Saccocci says he has enjoyed his time with the Corps and is looking forward to the remainder of his stint as well as his eventual return to Italy.
"Becoming part of the NATO family means having a clear and better understanding how the NATO planning process works and how to become flexible in performing different roles as this headquarters is required to do,” Saccocci said.
"For me personally, a great advantage has been working in the MP branch serving and working with the UK provost marshal and international fellows that have given me the opportunity to have a better understanding of what a pure MP is, and then integrate my expertise in stability policing into the MP role,” he said.
Because Saccocci views his time with the ARRC as an invaluable experience, he does not hesitate to encourage anyone, Carabinieri or otherwise, to serve at the ARRC if presented the opportunity.
"Every officer serving here will have the opportunity to go back to performing our national role with more of a planning mindset,” Saccocci said. "A police officer is trained on working in emergency situations, reacting rather than planning, so this job has given me a better understanding of planning as a part of my job that will give me the opportunity to grow in my professional skill back in Italy.”
"Having the flexibility of planning and reacting to an emergency, doing two things at the same time, is an added value to my skills so I would absolutely recommend any officer to have this experience,” he added.
Story by Allied Rapid Reaction Corps Public Affairs Office