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Air Force demolishes Aviano’s Area 2 after decades of use

An excavator rips apart a building on Area 2 of Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 7, 2019.

NORMAN LLAMAS/STARS AND STRIPES

By NORMAN LLAMAS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 14, 2019

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — The Air Force has begun demolishing a 13-acre parcel near Aviano Air Base, which was used by American servicemembers for seven decades before being shut down for good about three years ago.

The Air Force padlocked the gates to the property known as Area 2 in 2016, but basic upkeep still costs about $675,000 annually, base officials said.

“Since it was closed, there were no solid future usage plans presented by either our Italian hosts or any U.S. Air Force unit here,” said Lt. Col. Glenn Cameron, the 31st Fighter Wing’s Civil Engineer Squadron commander.

Area 2 first opened in the 1950s. Thousands of servicemembers used the site, which included single airman dormitories, a gym, education center, library and the base’s thrift store.

Earlier this month, Facebook user Roy Barnes posted pictures of sunlit piles of rubble on the base to a group called “Old Aviano,” saying Area 2 was “disappearing very quickly.” Others have since commented to express sadness or share fond recollections of the place where they once lived, ate or worked out.

Several said their goodbyes to their dorm buildings or the fire station, and a few mentioned the gym, long the only indoor fitness facility on the base before a facility opened on the flight line. Some said they had been happy to eat at the canteen for Italian workers, which was located on that part of the base before it, too, relocated to a new building on the flight line.

“The ‘Buon Appetito’ Dining Facility. Ate many the meal there,” wrote Facebook user Michael E. Logan. “It was more expensive than the chow hall, but you get what you pay for ... never disappointed!”

Since Area 2’s closure, community members have debated possible uses for the property.

“All options are open, but until definitive plans are made for future use of the property, it will remain closed as just a grassy field,” Cameron said.

It was marked for closure in part because dormitories built in the 1990s were constructed only a few feet from the compound’s fence line. That became a force protection concern when the military adopted new antiterrorism regulations just a few years after the dormitories were first occupied.

The Air Force attempted to gain control of the street along much of the compound’s fence line, which separates the area from Area 1, but the local community resisted and the plan was scrapped.

The building demolition project inside the compound has a budget of roughly $1.3 million, Cameron said. The project was closely coordinated with both Italian military officials and local community officials, he said.

“We are working in close partnership with our NATO partners on this project,” Cameron said. “It’s important for us to be able to balance the mission and the people’s comfort as we try to be fair to both our community and the U.S. taxpayers.”

llamas.norman@stripes.com

An excavator rips apart buildings on Area 2 of Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 7, 2019.
NORMAN LLAMAS/STARS AND STRIPES

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