Female Italian Alpine troops in Rogatica

Lt. Antonio Ruiz González
First published in
SFOR Informer#142, July 4, 2002

For the first time, the Italian Army deployed female soldiers within a combat unit on a mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There are twelve new soldiers in the 14th Alpine Regiment, the main component of the Italian Battle Group (IBG). These twelve 'riflewomen' (to use a very formal word) are in Rogatica with the 72nd Coy.

Rogatica - The new barracks of Rogatica lays 60 kilometres east of Sarajevo in the Republika Srpska. On the way to the base there is a barracks of the Army of the Republika Srpska, which is 300 metres from the Italian Coy base. For the company these new soldiers will be the main people to work in this area.
The Coy
Captain Paolo Sandri is the 72nd Rifle Coy Commander of the IBG Task Force. "It was definitely an experience, because we were the first ones to use female soldiers as riflewomen. I am absolutely happy about how things are progressing because I found out that they are very good for our controls in relationship with people, especially in a rural environment. They are more successful than most of the men," said Sandri. "Also in the base we are in a very good mood. I think it is not a problem but an advantage. I'm seeing more positive aspects than negatives," he remarked.
The Italian Army calls these new soldiers VFB. That means short time volunteer soldier. They will be working for the army for a period of three to five years. After that, they will choose either to stay in the army as a permanent troop or to finish their contract.
These women are line infantry soldiers. As a riflewoman, as a mortar crew, or as an operator of an antitank missile, they perform exactly the same tasks as their male counterparts. They have been on manoeuvres in Italy and in other countries, such as Turkey, before coming here.
Corporal Alessandro Prudente is the squad leader for some of the female soldiers: "They have been well trained, so they are at the same level as riflemen. They are only another member of the patrol," he said.
These female soldiers come from all around Italy, but at the beginning they were all trained at the same place. "Training was for three months at the 235th Regiment in Ascoli Piceno near Ancona on the Adriatic coast. That is a training regiment for women," said Lance Cpl. Giovanna Demaso.
They carry out the same tasks as their male colleagues. Lance Cpl. Loredana Petito remarked: "We develop the same duties, on patrol in our area, checkpoints, security services in the barracks and logistics for the normal life in the base."
The hometowns of some of them are very far from the 14th Alpine Regiment settlement in Italy. "I am from Naples and I chose to be an Alpine. To be riflewomen in an Alpine Regiment is the best chance to practise what I have learnt. We are very proud of our capello alpino (the hat with the feather)," said Lance Cpl. Pasqualina Lipiello.
New Rogatica Base
The IBG has been deployed in Rogatica for four years. However, they will not use the old barracks any more. At the beginning of their mission they occupied an old hotel downtown in the village. At the present time they are living in a new base near a former Yugoslavia Army barracks. The new facilities have a capacity of 150 people and was inaugurated March 28, 2001. It has everything they need for working and living there.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Italy
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Photos: Sgt. Kelly Whitteaker

Lance Cpl.'s Loredana Petito, Giovanna Demaso, Pasqualina Lipiello and Paola Trolli are the first women rifleman in the Italian Alpine Army in BiH.

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A new home in Rogatica for the 72nd Rifle Coy.

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This old hotel was the former barracks for the IBG, in downtown Rogatica.

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Lance Cpl. Giovanna Demaso on duty at the main entrance of Rogatica base.