On the basis of experience alone, GIS is one of the worlds premier Counter-terrorist teams. Since thei inception in 1978, they have been in action against groups such as the Red Brigade and the Sicilian Mafia on a regular basis. Operators in the 100 man GIS force are drawn from the Carabinieri; but only if they have an outstanding military record, have passed an exhaustive security check as well as a board of psychiatrists, physicians, and senior GIS officers. This alone accounts for 40% of the attrition rate of potential candidates for GIS.

After this first phase, candidates attend a two week selection process. If they pass, there is an additional ten months of training before aspiring operators are qualified to be members of GIS. Courses in that ten monthes range from terrorist ideology to combat shooting and combat driving (reportedly held at Ferrari's famed factory and speed roadway).

Operators in GIS are not lacking for weapons in their fight against terrorists. The MP-5 sub-machine gun family (mainly the MP5 A3 and MP5 SD3) is a new addition to the GIS arsenal. The Beretta SC70/90 5.56 assault rifle is carried for more conventional deployments. Another Beretta carried by GIS is the model 92 SB 9mm automatic pistol. Revolvers such as Smith & Wesson's .38 caliber and .357 magnum are also favored by operators.

GIS also utilizes heavier weapons such as shotguns and sniper rifles; snipers are equiped with either the HK PSG-1 or the Mauser SP86 7.62 rifle. In addition, the Barret M82 .50 caliber sniper rifle is now being made available to GIS operators. Shotguns issued include the Franchi SPAS 12 and 15 12-gauge and PA3 riot shotgun.

In May, 1997 GIS was once again put to the test.

Italian Landmark Seized by Gunmen

Italian separatists, believed to be armed, smashed their way into the belltower in St. Mark's Square in Venice Friday and occupied it, demanding an independent northern state, police said. State radio said around 10 men in military-style fatigues staged the dramatic raid, using what appeared to be a six-wheeled armored vehicle to crash through the entrance to the 325-foot tower by the Grand Canal. The group unfurled a banner of the former Venetian republic at the top of the monument, while hundreds of police gathered in the square and two police helicopters hovered overhead.

GIS stormed the tower and....