The Sicilian Defense, a defense unit formed by the Sicilian military that was created in the late 1960s, has been recognized by the United States military as a world leader.
It’s credited with the successful combat against the Islamic State group and helped the United Nations Security Council pass an agreement with the U.S. on ending chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
The unit was formed by former military and civil servants in 1963 and has a staff of nearly 500.
“I have never seen anything like this,” said U.N. Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs Robert Moodie-Rae, who oversees the group.
“It’s not only a military, it’s also a community that you have to be part of.”
The Sicilian Army, with about 1,400 members, is the world’s largest military, having more than 5,400 soldiers.
Its top commander, Gen. Gianfranco Sforza, was awarded the Order of Malta in 2013.
Sforzo, who retired in 2014, is currently serving as the head of the Sicilians Defense Force, a joint operation of the U and Sicilian governments.
In an interview with the Italian news agency ANSA, Moodie’s counterpart in Rome, General Giuseppe Giovanighi, said that while the Sicils Defense Force has been well received, “we don’t see ourselves as a military force.”
“We have to do our jobs with the best possible conditions, not as a paramilitary force,” he said.
“But we have been able to develop a good rapport with the Siciles and have developed a lot of trust.”
The unit was set up in response to the Syrian chemical attack in August 2013, which killed more than 1,300 people in Syria’s Idlib province.
The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the conflict, reported that more than 300 people were killed and 300 wounded in the attack.
The Sicilian defense is one of the strongest in the region, with some members training Syrian soldiers and supporting Syrian civilians in the fight against ISIS.
Its members are known for being very active on social media.
On Saturday, members of the unit performed at a memorial service for the victims of the Idlib attack, the Sicilicia website said.
In 2013, the United Kingdom-based Syrian Network for Human rights estimated that more the 2,000 members of Sicilian Military Forces, or SAMF, had been killed in the Syrian conflict.
It said more than 40,000 people were estimated to have been killed by the Syrian government.
Sforza said that his unit has received many accolades in recent years, but added that “it’s a difficult job.”
“It’s difficult to get awards, to be accepted into an organization,” he told ANSA.
“And to be recognized for doing good work.”
Sforzo also said that the Sicillians Defense Forces will remain an active force for many years to come.
“We’re still working with the Syrian military and we’re trying to improve our capacity and our capacity to defend against future threats,” he added.
“We will continue to serve the United Nation.”