Aviano opens facilities to 32-nation delegation
June 12, 2009
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Foreign visitors are frequent guests at the Air Force’s premier installation south of the Alps.
But a 44-member delegation representing military and civilian leaders from 32 countries isn’t an everyday occurrence, especially when some of the delegates hail from places such as Egypt, Turkmenistan, Thailand and Mongolia.
"We’re thrilled to have them here," said Col. Patrick McClelland, vice commander of the 31st Fighter Wing, who welcomed the group on base. "We have a great story to tell."
The U.S. is obligated to tell such stories at least once every five years under the Vienna Document of 1999.
That treaty, signed by 56 nations, was designed to "build cooperation and security" among the countries signing it, according to Anthony Warner, treaty compliance officer at Aviano.
"They have the right to look at our equipment and talk to personnel on base," he said.
Col. Jose Evaristo, one of two Portuguese delegates and the group’s spokesman, said Thursday morning that the group intended to do just that.
It also visited U.S. Army facilities in Vicenza on Tuesday.
"The impression of the group so far, from Vicenza, is good," he said. "I believe the U.S. met its obligations there."
Asked if he expected the same at Aviano, he smiled and said, "Ask me at the end of the visit."
Warner expressed no doubts that the group would be pleased. He had arranged for morning tours of the fitness facility and dorms.
After lunch, they were set to visit maintenance facilities and see some of the wing’s F-16s up close. They were also to visit the base’s air control tower and Airman Leadership School.
Evaristo said he had visited U.S. facilities before, but believed that many members of the delegation had not. Several of them asked airmen questions while visiting the dorm rooms. Airman 1st Class Sabrina Byford, who was born in Germany, answered several questions in German. All members of the delegation — the majority of whom come from Europe — are fluent in English, though.
The delegation was accompanied by more than a dozen American and Italian escorts. Italy and the U.S. were co-hosts of the visit.