An Italian paratrooper gets out his gear, including a portable espresso maker, during Exercise Swift Response, in Bobocu, Romania, Friday, June 14, 2019.
BOCOCU, Romania – A lot goes into preparing soldiers for battle. They need to make sure they have enough ammunition and check if they’re missing anything they might need. And sometimes, they need to whip up a batch of smooth, dark espresso coffee.
Since Sgt. 1st Class Felix Sanchez-Carrera, a paratrooper with the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), was dropped into farm fields in Romania last week with the Folgore, the Italian Army’s paratrooper brigade, he’s been battling a mock enemy alongside Italian allies.
But in between fighting, without leaving the steaming hot combat zone, he’s been living “la dolce vita,” thanks to a piece of equipment the Italians took into battle: a portable espresso machine.
“They love espresso,” Sanchez-Carrera said. “They have their portable little machines, and they’re making it out here in our defensive positions. And it’s really good stuff, top notch. I feel bad for all the guys drinking terrible field coffee.”
The Folgore is a mix of infantrymen and engineers. “They’re all airborne, just like us,” said Sanchez-Carrera, who is one of a handful of U.S. soldiers attached to the Italian unit during Exercise Swift Response, a U.S.-led mission involving more than 7,000 soldiers from eight NATO allies.
He was selected to work as liaison to the Italians because he can speak a little Italian.
“I’m of Mexican descent, so I can speak Spanish,” which made picking up some basic Italian a little easier, he explained. “I can order a pizza pretty good in Italian, but I’m getting better the more I’m around these guys.”
No one should assume the Folgore are anything less than battle-ready just because they like a good cup of coffee, Sanchez-Carrera said.
“They’re professional warriors and they know their stuff,” he said. “I feel lucky to be out here with them.”
This past weekend, Sanchez-Carrera and the Italians fought a night battle to seize an airfield from a mock enemy played by U.S. forces.
The Italians used a flanking maneuver during the battle, in which one platoon provides cover fire while the other platoon goes into position, explained Capt. Valentino Luciano, the company commander of the Folgore.