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AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Servicemembers based at Aviano can watch their Italian neighbors set off fireworks on New Year’s Eve. But they’re now prohibited from engaging in any pyrotechnics themselves.

Brig. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the 31st Fighter Wing, issued a memorandum Thursday prohibiting all active-duty personnel from making, buying, possessing or detonating fireworks while they’re based at Aviano.

“It’s a force protection issue,” Franklin said Friday. “I can’t afford to lose someone to a fireworks incident.”

Two airmen were seriously injured Nov. 12 when fireworks they were using in a field near Polcenigo exploded. One lost his hand and the other suffered severe injuries to his leg. At least one of them will be facing a medical review board to see if he’ll stay in the Air Force.

“The incident in November brought it to my attention,” Franklin said. Since then, he’s talked about it on a radio show and had the base’s legal office review policy options.

The ban on airmen participating in the revelry will be in place as long as Franklin is commander, he said. The decision doesn’t directly apply to family members or Department of Defense civilians, though they’re encouraged to follow along.

“[Servicemembers] can be at an event where there are fireworks,” Franklin said, adding that the base’s professionally run Fourth of July show is still a go. “But they can’t set them off themselves.” Or purchase or store them. The base is exploring options on how those who already have fireworks can get rid of them.

U.S. Air Forces in Europe does not have a blanket ban on airmen setting off fireworks, according to a USAFE spokesman. Such bans are at the discretion of individual commanders. Currently, no other USAFE bases have a ban on fireworks use.

Fireworks are legal in Italy, and Italians set them off to mark a variety of occasions throughout the year. They can be purchased at stores and many families buy small quantities to set off during New Year’s, other holidays, or even for birthdays or weddings. The practice is similar in Germany, where people flock to the streets on New Year’s Eve to set off fireworks.

“They’re certainly prevalent,” Franklin said. “I hear them near my house all the time.”

A handful of servicemembers interviewed Friday all said they were aware of the policy.

“As a first sergeant, it’s good for me,” said Chance Glascock. “In the two years I’ve been here, we’ve had a guy who has lost three fingers and then the one lose a hand and another a large chunk of his leg. [Fireworks] aren’t regulated here the way they are in the States.”

Staff Sgt. Jeff Braselton said he wasn’t planning to use fireworks.

“I guess it’s a good idea, but you can’t regulate all potentially dangerous activities,” he said.

“It’s a good idea,” said Airman 1st Class Brittany Weekly. “I like watching them. But I don’t want to play with them myself.”

It’s not the first time Franklin has issued a basewide ban since he took command of the wing in June. Following a series of alcohol-related incidents, he told servicemembers in early November that they couldn’t leave their homes from 1 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. That curfew lasted a few weeks.

“It got everyone’s attention,” Franklin said. “It was effective. I ended it, but I can bring it back if needed.”

Col. Michael Schaffrinna, commander of the 31st Medical Group, banned all servicemembers in his unit from smoking while in uniform in March. That ban, believed to be the first on that scale in the Air Force, is still in effect.

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 almost 38 years.
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