VICENZA, Italy — Construction is under way at the Dal Molin airfield on facilities that will eventually serve the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

Italian contractors have driven about 800 concrete pilings into the ground to support the foundations of several multistory buildings, said Susan Wong, senior project manager for the Transformation Construction Management Office.

The buildings will serve as barracks for 1,200 soldiers and office space for four brigade battalions currently based at Bamberg and Schweinfurt in Germany.

Wong said on Wednesday that everything still appeared to be on schedule for the buildings to be finished in the summer of 2012.

"All of the buildings have been demolished that were to be demolished," Wong said. A stretch of runway on the property that the Italian government has designated for use by the U.S. also has been demolished. The rest of the runway on the adjacent property remains intact, but isn’t long enough to be used.

The joint venture of two Italian firms — C.M.C. di Ravenna and Consorzio Cooperative Construzioni of Bologna — will finish with the pilings before starting foundations for those buildings and other structures on base, Wong said.

Work continues on two other fronts. The U.S. is funding Italian efforts to clear unexploded ordnance from the airfield, formerly used by the Italian air force. American funds are also paying for an Italian archaeological team that’s digging around all the construction sites.

The ordnance clearance has been going on for about a year and has unearthed about 30 bombs, Wong said. Most are Italian and date to World War II. Others were dropped by British forces during the war.

She said the work is painstakingly slow, because it requires contractors to dig holes roughly 3 meters apart over about 100 acres.

Wong said an average of 145 workers have been toiling on the site recently. That’s expected to increase to about 550 when structures start rising from the ground in a few months.

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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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