Maj. Gen. Virgil Packett

Senator Bosi, General Bellini, it is for me a pleasure to see you again, dear General, Excellencies, honourable guests, it is a pleasure to see familiar faces coming from the Balkans. It is an honour and a pleasure for me to be here today, to represent the practical perspective of the MSU commanders, of the Carabinieri’s capacities, what they can really do and what they contribute to a commander during an operation. The Carabinieri are a very flexible tool for a commander; they are like a velvet glove in a context that may sometimes require the Commander’s fist. Moreover, in Bosnia, the uniforms of the Carabinieri of the MSU are the most beautiful. For us, in America, it is very important to speak of the MSU because it means speaking of capacities, flexibility, mobility and stability. These are the qualities a commander requires, qualities that belong to an MSU, especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina and particularly for what concerns the SFOR. I must say that the SFOR, counted 60.000 men 8 years ago and has gradually reduced the number of soldiers, thus returning to a more conventional role.

The presence of the Carabinieri, instead, their capacity and that of the MSU has remained steady in time. I also wish to add that the Carabinieri, as an organization, are far more complex than what we may believe. If we look into the Slovenian, Hungarian and now also Rumanian contributions (Austria will soon contribute too) to the MSU, we understand the complexity of the MSU, as well as the further qualities it will express in the future. In Bosnia, this tool is not only self-sufficient, but very mobile as well. The Carabinieri MSU is self-sufficient and capable of carrying out the mission it is assigned and any connected task: in particular, it gives the commander a unitarian picture of the situation, thanks to the collection and analysis of the information it acquires. This is one of the aspects the MSU has always guaranteed to the SFOR commander and represents the capacity to operate in any place throughout the country, even beyond the various boundaries and sectors. It greatly contributes to the success of the mission with its capacities and flexibility and is proved day after day.

What is ever clearer is that I myself as SFOR Commander (during the last 6 months), with the task of observing the Balkan situation, have always been able to rely on the MSU as the main character in the play. This gave me great confidence in facing my responsibilities Some of the MSU’s capacities include versatility, the ability to face any theatre, because the MSU allows a commander to understand the situation in which he has to act. The men in the MSU have a good knowledge of the culture and the people. In the Balkans, for instance, there are many cultures, different ethnic groups, several religions that must be understood and observed day by day, because they represent a difficult reality to cope with. This is all part of the characteristics offered by an MSU, which has the necessary equipment and components capable of employing it and who want to use these tools.

30 This allows us to give a controlled response and carry out our mission in a rather insecure environment because the MSU is in a position to guarantee security. In Bosnia and Herzegovina there are very few missions without the MSU’s participation. Moreover, I rely on the Carabinieri, their wisdom and their knowledge of the situation. I would also like to praise your Commander because he is a great commander: he is someone you can most certainly trust, someone who knows how to enhance our capacities. In Bosnia-Herzegovina no other unit can guarantee as much flexibility as the MSU. We are there to build a democratic, pluralist country and have to take care of the people; the MSU is in daily contact with the people, with the local community. It is widespread throughout the country and reaches the remotest corner because its men are free to act as they think best to get in touch with each inhabitant of the country. We are talking of peace operations, of operations in support of peace (when we started, in Bosnia, we took care of peace making).

We are also talking of peace support, everything that implies humanitarian means, law formation, and fight against crime and corruption. This requires facing the situation with a juridical outlook; a unique capacity that is not generally found in a conventional context. Here again you need flexibility in military capacities. When we first went to the Balkans, we had to carry out a pacifying activity. We stopped and separated the belligerents and were thus able to begin our peace-keeping mission. We then started our function of establishing a presence in the country. We are now at a transition stage, we continue to assess the environment and the context, we have to guarantee security and stability and then we can diminish the conventional military presence. We are beginning to speak of support to peace operations that also foresee the use of local forces. The MSU is mentoring and training local police and knows how to do this; it knows the right way to do this, which is a superior model.

In this the Carabinieri give a further remarkable contribution with their experience and their know-how and they thus help the growth of local institutions, which is absolutely vital in this country. I am very proud of this MSU: were I young, I would consider the possibility of entering this unit because it seems a really excellent unit; we should promote and publicize what the MSU has done so far. One night, in Kosovo, Admiral Johnson, called me around 1,15 in the morning; he wanted help: “what can you send here, in such an unstable environment?”. I answered: “Of course, we have something to send you”. “And when can it arrive? A plane is available at 8 o’clock”. I answered that an MSU could arrive much earlier and this is exactly what happened. Thus, as a Commander that has to decide what to do, it is important for me to be able to rely on the MSU; it gives us confidence and contributes with its enthusiasm and determination, because the MSU is always ready to carry out its tasks and always at the highest level.

I have always trusted the MSU without the slightest hesitation and have always relied on the readiness of its men and their determination in operating. I would like to thank the Italian authorities for the support given by the government and the entire Italian population. There is an element linking all of us and that is the desire to sustain fair causes, but we also have to have the capacity to act and I know that you have this capacity. I know I can rely on the MSU. For instance, when the Admiral called me I was sure I could rely on the MSU and in 15 minutes the MSU was ready to deploy the first unit in Kosovo, in times of crisis, of necessity. And this is what this meant: I spoke to Admiral Johnson, to the country’s Chief of Staff, and the first elements to arrive on the terrain, the first elements that started transmitting the symbol of NATO solidarity and capacity were those of the MSU. A truly exceptional result! Believe me, Ladies and Gentlemen, here the MSU showed all its flexibility. Had the Carabinieri not been inserted into the military structure, they would not have been able to guarantee the same efficiency.

The MSU has the ability to wear a velvet glove, but the fist of the commander remains. The MSU has played a very important role in the insecure environment in which we operate. We can rely on the MSU also thanks to its investigative capacity and this Unit’s contribution to the development of democracy and the fight against crime. Nine important operations have been carried out: the MSU, for instance, seized huge quantities of weapons: it acted with great determination. Its components know how to work with the community and within the military structure. Day by day I learnt to trust the MSU, which allowed its commander to work well and which is a tool which a commander knows he can rely on. It is a military structure that knows how to operate without conditions or hindrances, in difficult situations such as those in the Balkans and Bosnia. Thank you very much.

(*) - Major General of the United States Army.