Hundreds of soldiers and airmen stationed in northern Italy will get to meet the United States’ second-highest elected official Tuesday.

Vice President Dick Cheney, making a rare overseas trip, is scheduled to visit Aviano Air Base and Caserma Ederle in Vicenza.

Officials at each base declined to talk about the visits, which are expected to be officially announced Sunday.

Cheney, who served as secretary of defense from 1989 to 1993, was set to start his trip to Europe on Friday by flying to Switzerland. He’s to participate in an economic conference in Davos.

His next announced stop is in Rome, where he’ll meet with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi — a strong supporter of the U.S. efforts in Iraq — and help mark the 60th anniversary of the American landing at Anzio during World War II.

Security will be tight during his visits to the bases, and those wishing to see him speak will have to pass through several checkpoints.

In Vicenza, Cheney is scheduled to talk to a large group from the community in the afternoon. Space is limited, so those attending will need to have tickets. Base officials are distributing the tickets at various locations around the base.

Cheney is also set to talk privately with a selected group of soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade who served in Iraq. Lynne Cheney, the vice president’s wife, will also talk to community members in the base library.

It will mark the first time in at least several decades that such a high-ranking official from the States has visited troops in Vicenza. Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, came to the base in October. Air Force Gen. Richard Meyers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited last January. Former Secretary of the Army Thomas White, who visited in October 2002, has been the highest-ranking civilian in recent years.

In Aviano, Cheney is scheduled to address a large gathering in one of the base’s hangars. All members of the base community can attend.

He’ll join a long list of high-ranking officials who have visited the air base in the past decade, including current Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in February. Former President Clinton, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Javier Solana, former NATO secretary-general, all visited the base in 1999. Clinton also visited in 1995.

For Cheney, a former congressman from Wyoming, the trip is only his second overseas since he took office in 2001. His first visit was to the Middle East prior to the war in Iraq.

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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 almost 38 years.

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