Today, Taranto's Petty Officer Academy (Mariscuola Taranto) looks like a modern day university campus with wide avenues and various buildings immersed in nature; a place where time is set to the pace of military life and educational activities; a place where one realizes to be in a military environment only because the students wear uniforms and move through the streets in formation. Mariscuola Taranto is far from the hubbub of the city, located in San Vito, a charming resort between two strips of land enclosing the Mar Grande. Its entrance is only a few hundred meters from a wonderful beach, where students can enjoy moments of healthy relax during summertime.
Mariscuola's 43 buildings are scattered on an area of 32 hectares, while 80,000 sq. m. are dedicated to nature. More than 57,000 sq. m. are occupied by academic buildings with 71 classrooms, 25 fully equipped laboratories and a 534-seat conference hall.
Around 52,000 sq. m. are for logistics and technical buildings: barracks, mess halls, offices, sports centers, recreation and TV rooms, a sick-bay, a library, workshops, a powerhouse, and a sewage plant: all necessary to manage a community of 2,000 people at work. The infrastructures dedicated to sports include an indoor pool, a five-a-side football pitch, three tennis courts, two volleyball courts and two basketball courts. A small port equipped with row, sail and motor boats is located 500 m from Mariscuola.
Mariscuola can house up to 2,500 cadets, while sleeping accommodations are provided for 108 permanent staff members – 23 officers and 66 petty officers. The institute also includes two large dining halls, which can feed 1,360 people at the same time.
On average, from October to June, Mariscuola hosts about 500 students and reaches up to 950 people, when the Volunteers who sign a one year contract (VFP1) are at the Institute.
The personnel planning for the permanent staff is composed of 686 people - 64 Officers, 292 Chief Petty Officers, 258 Petty Officers and 41 civilian employees (white and blue collars).
Head of the School Commanding Officer is an Admiral.
The Admiral exercises the senior management of all the activities of the School and supervises the students' education.
To perform his duties, the School's Commanding Officer cooperates with:
- A Vice Commanding Officer who is a Capitan. He manages the classification, education and logistics support. He represents the Admiral in his absence. Senior Officers, Directors of the Chief Petty Officers and Operators' Courses, in charge of the management of the educational departments, the Heads of the Services who are responsible for providing support, all are his subordinates;
- Director of Studies;
- A Logistics/Personnel Department Head who is responsible for logistics, economical and administrative aspects.
- An Officer in charge of a "Justice and Discipline" department.
Mariscuola Taranto depends organically on the Italian Navy Schools Command (MARICOMSCUOLE, based in Ancona) and on the Southern Maritime Command (MARINA SUD, based in Taranto).
The School's educational curriculum aims at developing military bearing and ethical behavior in students, who will acquire nautical knowledge, improve fitness; complete their specialization courses, learn civics and educational knowledge.
In particular, Mariscuola Taranto has the following objectives:
- Train the Chief Petty Officer cadets and Senior Enlisted personnel in view of their tasks when in permanent service;
- Train the Junior Enlisted personnel with one-year (VFP1) or four-year (VFP4) contracts in view of their tasks during the enlistment period;
- Train regular members in the ranks of Third-class Petty Officers (Sottocapi) and Second-class Petty Officers (Sergenti) in view of their tasks at different career levels;
- Complete training of volunteer personnel of all ranks in permanent service in view of specific roles;
- Hold refresher courses, training, qualification, requalification, suitability and professional specializations for the Ministry of Defense civilian personnel, or other Public Administrations and for other Armed Forces military personnel, including foreign Armed Forces;
- Train Musicians.
Mariscuola Taranto provides training for Petty Officers belonging to the ten Petty Officers' Categories: Weapons Systems Specialties, Weapons Systems Maintenance, Engineering Specialties, Administrative and Logistics Support Specialties, Special Forces, Navy Riflemen, Divers, Raiders, Medical Service and Deck Specialties. However, regarding Petty Officers and Seamen advancement courses at the Navy School in Taranto, all rating Specialties are taught, except for Deck and Engineering courses (held at La Maddalena Navy School with the exception of the Petty Officers and Seamen with one and four-year contracts VFP1 – VFP4 in the Deck, Engineering and Mess Specialties from the Coast Guard who complete their training at Taranto).
The School Command may start "ad hoc" courses, for military, civilian or foreign personnel, in accordance with the current regulations.
Moreover, since the Academic Year 2005/06, the Navy has introduced for the Chief Petty Officers educational courses leading to a Bachelor's degree, run by the Aldo Moro University of Bari.
Nowadays, for the Chief Petty Officer cadets, both the Regular Navy Course (Corso N.MRS, whose students are winners of a public admission process) and the Reserve Navy Course (Corso C.MRS, whose students are already in permanent service as Second- or Third-class Petty Officers and who are winners of an internal admission process), enrollment as a Major in Sciences and Management of Maritime Activities or as a Major in Nursing is expected.
It is not a coincidence that, over the years, the Navy has spent huge financial resources to upgrade Mariscuola Taranto to a university campus, a place selected to train a new generation of Chief Petty Officers.
Therefore, Mariscuola Taranto is "the Academy for Chief Petty Officers," not so much for the amount of activities performed here, with no equal in the Armed Forces, as for the quality of its teaching and content of the educational activities taught by highly qualified teaching and training staff.
Also located in San Vito is the Air Naval Training Centre (MARICENTADD), the cradle of the Navy's crews which, by means of high standard training systems, provides also to the training of Mariscuola Taranto's students belonging to the 'operations personnel' categories/specialties.
Mariscuola Taranto includes two main fields: services and education.
The Services Sector includes a range of "Services" that oversee all the activities of Mariscuola Taranto with the sole exception of the teaching-educational ones.
The Service General Affairs and Support provides the general services management of the School, of the motor vehicles parking and the management of the guest rooms for Officers/NCOs and accommodation for troops.
The Health Service is in charge of the Institute's sickbay, the hygiene of the School and the personnel's health; it is also responsible for the training of Navy nurses, which takes place at the Taranto military hospital and other civilian hospitals in town. For some years, the Service has been supporting young students to enter the "military world" with psychological assistance.
The Administrative-Logistic Service is in charge of the accounting-administrative activities of Mariscuola, manages credit funds on different expenditure headings and, together with the Taranto Italian Navy Directorate of Finances, administrates the permanent military and civilian personnel, teachers, students, troops, and so on. Moreover, this Service deals with the personnel's accommodation and provisioning needs, and with the students' clothing, teaching materials, etc...
The 'General Works' Service is in charge of the efficiency of Mariscuola's infrastructure, coordinating all technical support and maintenance activities: a very difficult task, since in Mariscuola there are more than forty buildings, many of them impressive.
The 'Defense Office' is responsible for security at Mariscuola; the 'Welfare Office' is in charge of the general conditions of the personnel; the Spiritual Welfare Service is run by a military Chaplain, and the Prevention and Protection Service takes care of problems related to the security of the "workplace."
The Teaching/Educational Sector includes the Directorate of Studies, the Directorate for all the Chief Petty Officer's Courses and the Directorate for the Operators' Courses working in synergy.
The Director of Studies organizes all the teaching activities taking place at Mariscuola: all the technical-professional and specialist subjects and those of general culture.
These nine Teaching Departments are:
- Electronics Department;
- Medical Services Department;
- Dection (SONAR, RADAR) Department;
- Deck Department;
- Coast Guard Branch;
- Engineering Department;
- Telecomunications Department;
- Weapons and Torpedo Department;
- Logistics and Administrative Services Department.
In addition, it manages the Coordination Unit for Law and Humanities (Department of law, psychological, pedagogical and social sciences and the Humanities).
The Director of Studies manages the Office Manager of the Teaching Coordinator, who is responsible for the Secretary of the Courses, Teaching Staff and the Educational Support Section that includes: Typography, Library, Didactic Warehouse and Books Warehouse.
Both The Director of the Chief Petty Officers' Courses and he Director of the Operators Courses, in their areas of competence, are responsible for the students' daily life and for aiming at their military and ethical education, as well as seafaring.
In practice, they organize the sports activities, seafaring, and all different courses necessary to infuse the students with the ethical-military principles and values which represent the most valuable heritage of the Navy.
The two Directorates have a Director's Office and a Secretariat, a Courses Administration general Office and offices for the different courses.
The Director of the Chief Petty Officers' Courses manages the Courses Coordination Office, the Sporting/Seafaring Section with their facilities at the marina and vessels (sailing boats, rowboats and motor boats for the students' sailing activities), three Offices for the N.MRS and C.MRS Commanders (of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd academic year) and of the Commander of I.MRS/Requalification/Qualification and Special.
The Directorate of the Operator Courses manages a Coordination Office and 3 Courses Commands:
- Second-class Petty Officers in permanent service (SGT/VSP) Command;
- Volunteer Petty Officers and Seamen with a four-year contract. (VFP4) Command;
- Volunteer Petty Officers and Seamen with a one-year contract (VFP1) Command.