In 1974 the Chief of the Polizia di Stato Anti-Terrorism Bureau, Emilio Santillo, announced the necessity to establish a tactical unit with the capability to arrest known terrorists and to support the local counter-terrorism field office. Personnel were selected from Police Sports Group "Gold Flames", particularly trained in martial arts. The 35-man team was denominated "counter-commando unit" and commanded by Maj. Andrea Sgandurra, an officer with counter-insurgency experiences, and a skilled proponent of hand-to-hand combat skills. After one year of training (offensive driving, sniping, various shooting skills, and a Tactical Assault Course) in 1975 the unit became operational and immediately started mission against the left wing terrorist organization NAP (Proletarian Armed Service). Later they operated against the right wing group "New Order", which resulted in the arrests of well-known terrorists Gentile Schiavone and Pierluigi Concutelli. In 1978, the Italian government decided to modify the structure of the Anti-Terrorist Bureau to improve its capabilities. This change resulted in the formation of SISMI (military intelligence), SISDE (civilian intelligence) and a police counter-terrorism agency (UCIGOS, General Investigations and Special Operations Central Office). This office was the only responsible for Italian counter-terrorism. The UCIGOS's tactical unit became the NOCS (Nucleo Operativo Centrale di Sicurezza, Central Security Operations Service), the old counter-commando unit with far more operatives, training, and responsibilities. During its 22 years of existence, NOCS has effected more than 4,500 missions and 205 arrests. The 25-42 operatives studied terrorist methodology and created innovative tactics procedures. Their motto is Sicut Nox Silentes (as silent as night).
In 1982 under the tactical command of Capt. Edoardo a 12-man section, without firing a single shot, freed Brigadier General James Dozier, who had been held hostage by Red Brigades terrorists. In the following years NOCS expanded in size and capabilities and under new command, then Maj. Maurizio Genolini, became a full fledged counter-terrorism unit, with capabilities of operations on aircraft, trains, buses, embassies, and stadium areas and established good relations with several counter-terrorism units in the western world.
Recently, NOCS has undergone another change and become the Anti-Terrorism Special Operations Division. The unit improved capabilities in C3I and a computer and video section was added. NOCS was innovative regarding the incorporation of computers in training formalizing this with the addition of a separate video section. NOCS also expanded its training in VIP protection and driving, augmented by training with the well-established United States Secret Service. This relationship sparked the creation of a unit similar in form and function to USSS counter-terrorism teams as well. It should be noted that while VIP protection is not a main mission for NOCS, but they are responsible for this duty when high risk personalities come to Italy.
Today, SOD/NOCS have 3 tactical assault teams and 1 protection division. All operatives have HALO training and several have SCUBA training, EOD, sniper and combat shooting. SOD has a logistics branch with specialized personnel in support of operatives. NOCS has several specialized vehicles, operated by specially trained drivers. The basic training last 6 months and is followed by an advance training program lasting an additional six months.
NOCS has trained with many international units including the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, Israeli YAMAM, German GSG-9 and SEK, Spanish GEO, French RAID, Japanese SAT, Swiss DEE10, Saudi Arabian National Guard CT Team, Belgian ESI, US 10th Special Forces Group, Danish Jægerkorpset and Dutch KCT and has graduated operatives through the NATO's International LRRP School in Weingarten, Germany. SOD/NOCS continues to be a leading unit in Europe and the new senior officers have establish liaisons with similar units of former East Bloc countries and the Austrian GEK.
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