After attending the Italian Military Academy in 1987, Lieutenant General Zanelli commissioned into the 187th Parachute Regiment. After passing the two-year SOF selection course moved on to the 9th Assault Battalion "Col Moschin" (ITA Tier 1 SOF unit).
Lieutenant General Zanelli has commanded Italian SOF combat formations at every level and has extensive experience in counterterrorism operations alongside NATO and regional partners.
In particular, his Command appointments include:
· Lt/Cpt – OC Platoon/Detachment/Company 187th Parachute Regiment and 9th Assault Battalion "Col Moschin";
· Lt Col – Commanding Officer 1st "Raiders" Battalion (9th Assault Regiment "Col Moschin");
· Col – Commanding Officer 9th Assault Regiment "Col Moschin";
· 1 Star – Commander ITA Army Special Operations Command (COMFOSE);
· 2 Star – Commander ITA Joint Special Operations Command (COFS).
Staff posts have been mainly Joint Operational and international-facing appointments including:
· Maj – Operations Section Head Officer Parachute "Folgore" Brigade HQ;
· Maj – Training Section Head Officer, 9th Assault Regiment "Col Moschin";
· Maj – Exchange Officer British 3rd Division, stationed in Bulford (Wiltshire);
· Lt Col – Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations (ACOS OPS) ITA Joint Special Operations Command (COFS);
· Col – Chief of Staff ITA Joint Special Operations Command (COFS).
Lieutenant General Zanelli's last appointment was as Deputy Commanding General ITA Land Component Command (COMFOTER – COE).
During his military career, Lieutenant General Zanelli has taken part in numerous missions abroad, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, including:
· Op. "Airone" – Iraq (1991);
· Op. "Restore Hope" – Somalia (1992 – 1993);
· Op. "Telic 1" – Iraq (2003).
Furthermore, Lieutenant General Zanelli attended the Italian General Staff Officer Course at the Army War School in Civitavecchia (Rome) and the UK Joint Command & Staff Course in Shrivenham where he obtained a Master's degree in Military Studies from King's College London.
Outside of operational theatres he has also served as Military Attaché in the United Kingdom for three years, with accreditation extended to Ireland and Iceland (2010 – 2013).
Lieutenant General Zanelli is married and has four children. As a keen sportsman he enjoys many sports, with a preference for mountaineering, parachuting, rowing and diving.