‘Ciao’ from CEUOTC in Italy

female piper poses to camera

In March 2023, Officer Cadet (OCdt) Katie Harley, a Nursing undergraduate at Napier University and member of the City of Edinburgh Universities Officers’ Training Corps, attended the International Forum on Peace, Security and Prosperity in Sicily. 

Otherwise known as Exercise HUSKY CASTLE, the international event was an excellent opportunity to learn, to engage and to experience a different culture. Having had such an excellent time OCdt Harley, who attended as a piper, took the opportunity to detail her experience. 

Exercise HUSKY CASTLE is an international conference for OCdts held annually in Sicily. The event comprises a battlefield study, cultural events, defence engagement and academic seminars – this year’s topic was disinformation. 

URNU and UOTC members pose in group photo

📸: Aberdeen UOTC

There were approximately 200 tri-service OCdts from all over the world in attendance including members of the East of Scotland Universities Air Squadron and the University Royal Naval Unit. The event was enabled by the Italian Army and run by a non-profit Canadian organisation. Thanks to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the UK sent 30 Army OCdts to engage in this excellent developmental opportunity. 

This year’s event included a battlefield study of Operation HUSKY; this was the 1943 invasion of Sicily which eventually led to the withdrawal of Italy as an Axis power during the War. As well as the battlefield study, there were numerous panel discussions led by both experts and OCdts from their representative countries. 

Military people standing infant of Italian building

We were all given the opportunity to experience local culture. This entailed eating at local restaurants and trying regional cuisine, watching the famous Italian Bersaglieri band, listening to the opera singers and applauding well renowned pianists and composers. As the piper, my experience of Exercise HUSKY CASTLE was slightly different to those of my peers. This was a fantastic opportunity as it allowed me to not only step out of my comfort zone but to also meet some amazing people. I was also granted the opportunity to attend the Maltese mass, held in the Commenda dei Cavalieri di Malta; a great moment, exposing me to a special part of Sicilian culture. 

Piper plays commemorative piece inferno of statue

The official commemorative ceremony for the casualties of WW2 took place on the Spizzicheria square. It was amazing to play at such an important event whilst representing my country. The tune I played was ‘Flowers of the Forest,’ the music fitted the occasion perfectly. There were many reporters and photographers present which drew attention to both the event and our unit – I was also broadcast on Italian television! 

Overall, it became incredibly clear that it is so important to have international relationships and connections to maintain peace. This event has both expanded my knowledge of history and my understanding of what occupations are present within the British Army for those who are more inclined to a career using a foreign language or international relations skills. I would highly recommend this opportunity to any student.

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