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Mare Aperto 2022-1, The students of the Sant’Anna School felt part of the crew of the Italian Marina Militare: the testimonials of our students after 24 days at sea on the aircraft carrier Cavour

For the second consecutive year, talented students from the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies of Pisa had the chance of participating in the military exercise ‘Mare Aperto’ – the main training periodically organised by the Italian Navy (Marina Militare). Throughout this experience they greatly benefitted from their full integration into the various daily activities conducted by the military and had a first-hand experience of the expertise, internationalisation, and the interoperability of the Italian Navy with other Armed Forces

Publication date: 20.06.2022
Operazione Mare Aperto della Marina Militare
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A group of students from the Sant’Anna School had the change of participating for the second time in a row in the largest military exercise at sea organised by the Italian Navy: coordinated by Francesco Paolo Levantino (PhD Candidate in Human Rights and Global Politics), Gioia Franchellucci (Honorary Student in Political Science), Federica Montanaro (Student of the Master in International Security Studies) and Nicolò Pica (Honorary Student in Political Science) spent 24 days at sea on board of the aircraft carrier Cavour – the latter was under the command of Captain Francesco Saladino. Also students from the Università per Stranieri di Siena, Luiss Guido Carli, Sapienza University, Ca’ Foscari University and Trieste University participated in this unique experience together with representatives of the Italian Confederation of shipowners and the Center of Geopolitics and Maritime Strategy.  

Throughout the exercise, our students greatly benefitted from their full integration into the various daily activities conducted by the military, hence having a first-hand experience of the expertise, internationalisation, and interoperability of the Italian Navy with other Armed Forces. In this sense, units from 7 NATO Member Countries took part in this joint exercise. The latter involved 26 between aircraft and helicopters, 3 submarines, and 37 between ships and warships; other than amphibious, landing and assault vehicles. In total, the deployment of these units implied the participation of more than 4000 soldiers. What is more, the crew and means involved also included air forces from the Italian Aeronautica Militare and ground forces from the Italian Army (Esercito Italiano), the Italian Civil Protection and volunteer corps from the Red Cross and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Within this exercise, this broad array of parties cooperated hand-in-hand in several training activities aimed at verifying, stimulating, and enhancing their readiness and capabilities, even in adverse and extreme conditions.  

During the exercise, the Commander in Chief of the Naval Fleet – Admiral Aurelio De Carolis – offered our students the possibility of meeting several high-level officials of the Italian Armed Forces, thus allowing them to share their enthusiasm about the participation in such a unique and stimulating experience. The figures involved included the Minister of Defence, Lorenzo Guerini; the Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Defence, Stefania Pucciarelli; the Chief of the General Staff of the Navy, Admiral Enrico Credendino; the Chief of the General Staff of the Air Forces, General Luca Goretti; the Secretary-General of Defence, General Luciano Portolano; the Commander of the Joint Operational Command, General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo; Deputy Chief of the Defence General Staff, General Carmine Masiello; the General Commander of the 'Guardia di Finanza', General Giuseppe Zafarana

The role of the students in this training mostly consisted in supporting the work of the specialised personnel, which on a daily basis combines the strategic, operational, and tactical needs of the Navy with the respect for obligations and principles stemming from various branches of International Law. The highly hands-on nature of such activities prompted our participants to grasp the operational needs deriving from the fast-changing scenario of the exercise and interpret them in light of relevant legal sources. This process allowed them to timely propose and draft tailored-made solutions to the challenges posed by the development of the different training phases constituting the exercise. 

More specifically, the students from the different participating universities were divided into two opposing groups, each of them pursuing specific yet conflicting interests corresponding to those of two fictitious states. According to their respective areas of interest and expertise, participants held the role of political advisors (Polad), legal advisors (Legad), or public information operators (Pi). The numerous documents produced by the participants – including diplomatic and/or legal notes, opinions, memoranda of understanding and news articles – were designed to promptly and creatively respond to the directives received by the military staff leading the respective teams of which they were part. Their brilliant work contributed to the continuous evolution of the narrative, legal, and political framework within which the military exercise was being conducted. 

On other occasions, our students had the extraordinary possibility to observe the most diverse operations taking place on the ‘Cavour’, the Flagship aircraft carrier of the Italian Navy. These activities granted them a better knowledge of the various roles, places, and crucial moments characterising the warship that hosted them for 24 days. Among these, the flight operation involving aircraft and helicopters, refuelling operations at sea – even in adverse weather conditions, and training activities at the target practice facility of Teulada (Sardinia) deserve a special mention. 

Already before boarding the warship, the students of the Sant’Anna School were exposed to some preparatory activities in view of their participation in this intense, challenging, and rewarding experience. Thanks to the prompt cooperation between faculty members, PhD Candidates and research fellows from the International Law Department of the Sant'Anna School several seminars have been organised to further enhance the preparation of the participants on topical issues fundamental for their active role during the military exercise. 

Under the supervision of Professor Andreas de Guttry and with the participation and coordination of the PhD Candidates Marta Stroppa and Francesco Paolo Levantino, Professor Emanuele Sommario, Dr. Luca Poltronieri Rossetti and the PhD Candidates Francesca Romana Partipilo and Alessandro Mario Amoroso contributed to the preparatory teaching activities delivering to our students dedicated and tailored-made classes. Then, from a different angle, also the participants of the 2021 edition of the ‘Mare Aperto', i.e. Zahra Bel Arache (Honorary Student in Political Science), Anna Pagnacco (Honorary Student in Political Science) and Alberto Baldini (Honorary Student in Law) shared their experience and useful tips before the beginning of the activities at sea. 

Thanks to the warm hospitality and professionalism openly demonstrated by the Marina Militare, our students had the incredible opportunity to live as part of a real crew, putting at the service of the Italian Armed Forces the knowledge, skills, and expertise gained at the Sant'Anna School; a research community committed to academic excellence.