A soldier named Roberto who is stationed in Rome discusses life in the armed forces. He also describes what its like to be on duty amidst the threat of terrorism and during a Presidential visit from Donald Trump
A soldier sits in a pub on a Wednesday night still dressed in his uniform, savouring his beer. His eyes are fixed on the football game that is being displayed on the television screen. The bags under his eyes make him appear drained. Perhaps this may be his way of winding down after a long day of patrolling the streets of Rome.
The man in questioned is named Roberto, a 25 year old soldier who has been assigned to security detail on the streets surrounding The Vatican. He grew up in the countryside in Tuscany but moved to Rome in his early teens. He speaks about his decision to join the army with a thick Italian accent.
“I joined as I felt it was the right path for me. I had the chance to go to University like most of my friends but I just don’t think it would be for me. I want to be able to serve and protect my country. Therefore the army was the best place for me to be.”
Roberto was assigned to a street near The Vatican as part of additional security measures to accommodate the arrival of US president Donald Trump. The Manchester bombing also provoked the Italian government to deploy more troops to the streets of Rome, in case of further attacks.
It’s been quite the week for Roberto.
“The last few days were always going to be crazy with Donald Trump visiting Rome. The attack in England has just made it worse. I’ve been stationed at The Vatican mostly, but I’ve also been stationed at the US embassy and on street patrols. It’s been tiring especially in this heat, so I think I’ve earned this” as he takes another sip from his beer.
He licks the froth from his upper lip and continues, “It’s all necessary for making people feel safe. We can’t let terrorists stop us from living our lives despite their threats.” Isis released a video in August, 2016 in which they repeatedly stated that they were “going to conquer Rome” a threat that has not been taking lightly.
However being a soldier In Rome isn’t as exciting as life as you’d think it’d be according to Roberto. “There isn’t much excitement being a soldier in Rome really. Very rarely are we called into action, you won’t see us in shootouts like the movies. The most action we get up to is helping little kids who have wandered off to find their parents and point tourists in the right direction. However we must always be diligent and watch out for suspicious activity.”
Life in the armed forces has its downsides. He orders another beer and explains how his life can change in an instant. “I could get called into my superiors office tomorrow and be assigned to Afghanistan or Iraq or Libya. I guess I shouldn’t really complain. I am quite comfortable here in Rome at this moment. I can still live my life here. However if I am called upon then I will work as hard as I possibly can, no excuses.”
For the moment Roberto lives in Rome, preparing for the busy summer months. With a major influx of tourists entering the city it it is difficult to notice suspicious activity. “I have to really concentrate over the next few weeks. There are so many people that it’s hard to see anything out of the ordinary unless it’s staring you in the face. We just have to try and protect the people of this city as best as we can.”
The increased security measures seem to be very popular with both the locals and visitors. An elderly British couple who were at table behind Roberto commended him on his duty. “Having a young gentleman like himself around the city really makes us feel safer” said the husband, Kevin (64). “We were nervous about travelling around Europe give what’s happened over the past few years. However seeing soldiers like Roberto really makes us feel safer.”
The bartender, Anna also praised Roberto and the rest of the armed forces for protecting the people of Rome. “Ive done a lot of travelling and most cities don’t have the level of security that Rome does. There is always a police or army presence around the streets so you really feel protected. I think that the security we have in place will scare away any attacker.”
Roberto orders a final drink before he retires for the night. He sits in silence for a moment while he ponders on a thought. After a few brief moments he lets out a sigh and gives the harsh reality of his profession. “So far our city has been lucky to avoid any attacks. We’re a big city which makes us a prime target. Our national security has done a good job to thwart attacks so far (at least 5 known attacks have been prevented by Italian authorities) but if one slips under their noses, lives could be lost.”
“You have that constant fear that something could happen and if something does happen will I be able to protect those in danger? But I can’t let myself think in this way. I just need to be ready when and if the time comes.” It’s almost as if Roberto considers the safety of the public to be his burden, a burden that is certainly not his to bare.
He finishes his drink, tips the bartender and sets off on his journey home to rest for the following day. No doubt it will be tiresome. Unless transferred to another location, Roberto will continue to try and keep the streets of Rome safe, a duty that he is devoted to.