Amid rumors, Navy says Sigonella won’t change
The U.S. Navy base in Sicily is staying just as it is, Navy officials said.
And yet, in spite of the Navy’s emphatic denials to the contrary, Italian and international media continue to report the opposite.
“We have no plans for anything regarding increasing the sailors here or building additional housing,” said Lt. Jon Groveman, spokesman for Naval Air Station Sigonella. “There is no truth to any of it.”
Not true, he says, that the base is gearing up for 6,800 new sailors, as cited in newspaper and wire reports.
No truth to construction of new housing.
No truth to talk of relocating residents from one housing area to another.
Feeding the rumor mill was Lentini Mayor Alfio Mangiameli’s quote in Italian media reports that the base planned to build new housing units.
When interviewed Tuesday, Mangiameli said he was misquoted, possibly as part of anti-U.S. military sentiment sweeping the nation after the Italian government said it would not oppose a controversial U.S. military request to expand the base in Vicenza in northern Italy.
“They (the media and far-left politicians) are taking advantage of the sentiment,” Mangiameli said.
Mangiameli thinks the rumors started when the city council approved the use of a 93-acre tract of land near Sigonella for a housing complex — if the U.S. government wanted to use it — that could accommodate roughly 1,000 small houses, he said.
But the U.S. government has made no such request for the land.
“We haven’t asked for it,” Groveman said.
Mangiameli concurred: “No, they have not asked for it, but if they do, it is ready,” he said.
He said the council’s preemptive vote occurred because of rumors he’d heard that the Navy was considering relocating the Mineo housing complex, about a 45-minute drive from the NAS I base along often-dangerous roads prone to flooding.
“The decision of where to build Mineo was the right decision for the Navy and we’re not planning to move it,” Groveman said.
Media references to Sigonella being a “nuclear base” also incite criticism and feed the rumor fever, Mangiameli said.
In 2005, the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council released its “U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe” report and cited two bases in Italy that store nuclear weapons: Aviano Air Base and Ghedi Air Base in northern Italy, said Hans Kristensen, who authored the report.
The report hasn’t been updated since 2005, but Kristensen said Wednesday that he continues to monitor nuclear warhead locations and the information remains current.