LIVORNO, Italy — A look inside one of the Field Support Battalion-Livorno’s main maintenance shops shows just what the 300 workers here are dealing with.

An eight-wheel truck called a Pallet Lifting System rests on 10 car jacks while men in coveralls strip off old parts. Mechanics hoist vehicles the old-fashioned way without help from machine-operated vehicle lifts.

When a large truck is fired up, workers scatter to avoid the exhaust fumes. The ventilation system in the 50-year-old warehouse was designed to handle World War II-era Jeeps rather than the 5-ton trucks and Bradley fighting vehicles of today.

And then there’s the bat poop.

“There are piles of it,” Curtis Dabney, director of maintenance for the battalion, said of the droppings from bats living in a corner of the warehouse.

Livorno workers have a long list of gripes, most about the half-century-old building that has never been significantly renovated.

Dabney calls the facilities “one step away from a field environment.”

Alberto Chidini, chief of operations for the battalion, calls them the worst of any Army base in Europe.

Mechanics prefer to work outside in the summer because the warehouses get blazing hot. Their hands shake in the cold of winter because there is no central heat.

But safety is the main issue for Dabney. “We’re finally going to give these people a safe environment,” Dabney said.

A new, 66,000-square-foot maintenance building is the centerpiece of the $52 million construction project that started last month. The building, complete with vehicle lifts, overhead cranes, a paint booth and a static-free room for electronics repairs, is scheduled for completion in April 2007.

Mechanics will be able to work on 100 vehicles at a time, with the benefit of a modern ventilation system that should reduce the coughing on base, Dabney said. Central heat and a cooler working environment are promised. The base will also get seven humidity-controlled warehouses to store vehicles.

“The people deserve it,” Dabney said. “They’ve been working in substandard conditions for a long time.”

Highlights of new construction at Livorno

Administrative offices

A maintenance building with:

nine vehicle liftsfive overhead cranesstatic-free room for electronicspaint-and-blast boothwelding shopammunition shop22 work spaces expandable to handle 100 vehicles simultaneouslyseven, 17,000-square-foot humidity-controlled warehouses for vehicle storageSource: Field Support Battalion-Livorno

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