CAMP DARBY, Italy — Welcome to the big time, Camp Darby.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday for a new naval contingent doesn’t signify a large increase in the base’s active-duty population. The Navy won’t be able to even field a basketball team to compete against the Army and Air Force on base — though beach volleyball is a possibility.

More important to Darby and others who rely on the equipment and munitions that the complex sends to forward locations, there’s now a whole new set of possibilities on base.

That’s because the Navy’s Engineering Field Activity Mediterranean is responsible for supervising all large American military construction projects in Italy. And the debut of the Resident Officer in Charge of Construction office — and its two-sailor contingent — means there’s some big projects on the way at Darby.

“Opening this office is the first step in getting the projects started,” said Lt. Andrew Sonier, who will be one of those assigned to Darby.

Actually, there’s already been a decent of amount of work done on several projects. Contracts have been awarded on a 19 million euro maintenance operations facility for the Leghorn Army Depot and for about 4.5 million euros in a series of projects for the Air Force’s 712th Munitions Squadron.

“It’s going to have an enormous impact on our capabilities,” said Army Lt. Col. Mitch Wilson, commander of the Combat Equipment Battalion-Livorno.

Wilson’s work force, which includes hundreds of local national employees, has the chore of repairing and maintaining an array of Army vehicles and equipment. And it’s been doing so using facilities constructed when the base was built in the early 1950s.

“Right now, we have antiquated equipment that does not support our needs,” he said. In fact, the depot has to contract out some of its work. It has employees trained to handle the tasks, but no facilities to accomplish them.

At least some of that will change once the maintenance facility is completed. Construction could start around the first of the year. More projects may be on the horizon. A 22-million euro proposal to build seven new warehouses to store equipment and refurbish 10 others that are decades old needs funding, and Wilson thinks the prospects are “very likely.”

Lt. Col. Stephen Williams, who heads the Air Force’s munitions operations in Darby, has hopes for more projects as well. But he said he’s happy to see four projects get the green light.

They include a new storage facility and washing operations for the containers the 712th uses to ship goods around the world, the completion of the base’s munitions storage bunkers retrofitting and work on “probably the most decrepit munitions facilities I’ve ever seen,” Williams said.

As for the Navy, Capt. Paul Bosco, who commands the engineering activity from its Naples headquarters, said it’s always good to open up a new office. It’ll be the 13th ROICC office of which he’s in charge. Most are in the Mediterranean, but others are in Iceland and Bahrain.

“I’ve never stood up a new ROICC office,” he said. “This is a big deal.”

He said it didn’t automatically signify that other large projects — or more troops — are headed to Darby. But it’s a bigger possibility now than it was before.

“I’m sure we’ll be here a few years,” he said. “Maybe the better part of a decade. It’s a good sign the Army and Air Force will start pumping some money into Livorno.”

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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