The Italian Almanac
Italian News - August 4
Smartly dressed soldiers were let loose on beaches near Rome on Thursday, in a bid to drum up new recruits among young Italians soaking up the sun. The move, part of a summer-long recruiting campaign in Italian coastal resorts, is aimed at overturning preconceptions about the armed forces and painting them in a youthful, upbeat light.
"An activity such as this would have been inconceivable a few years ago," said Defence Undersecretary Marco Verzaschi, who attended the initiative at the beach of Ostia, a few kilometres outside Rome. "The army has come out of the barracks to open itself up to society. Older soldiers no longer have traditional privileges over new recruits, and the army's activities are very different from in the past".
The seaside recruiting campaign, which wraps up on September 13, has proved a hit so far. Over 2,000 youths have supplied their names and details following an initial chat, and will be contacted in coming weeks for a more in-depth discussion on what enlisting entails.
Despite the new recruiting drive, the Italian army is not short of personnel. Since January, it has received 100,000 applications for 20,000 year-long trial positions, while 28,500 people have applied for 136 officer training posts. Army conscription was phased out on December 31, 2004 after 164 years.