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A decision on the proposed U.S. use of Dal Molin airfield in Vicenza, Italy, could come as early as next week, a U.S. Army official said Friday.

Maj. Gen. Frank Helmick, commander of the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) told Italian base employees Thursday morning that he expects a decision will be reached by next Friday, according to Maj. Ryan Dillon, SETAF public affairs officer. Reporters were not invited to the quarterly meeting.

Dillon said Helmick was stating his opinion, and Dillon didn’t know what Helmick’s information was based on. The use of Dal Molin’s airfield has been a hot topic this week, with the U.S. Ambassador to Italy, Robert Spogli, visiting the region.

His visit with Vicenza Mayor Enrico Hullweck drew protests by those opposed to the U.S. using the airfield for housing and offices in order to consolidate the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza.

According to a report in Il Gazzettino of Pordenone, Hullweck said Spogli told him a decision needed to be reached in two months or the 173rd would relocate to Germany, though not immediately.

Katherine Sharp, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Embassy, said Friday the embassy would not address Hullweck’s comments or confirm if Spogli made such comments to the mayor.

A spokesman for U.S. Army Europe indicated Friday that as far as he knew, Vicenza remains the preferred choice to host the airborne brigade.

“We want our (173rd) units together in Italy,” said Bruce Anderson, a USAREUR spokesman. “That is still the case.”

Currently, two of the brigade’s six battalions operate out of Vicenza. The other four are north of the Alps. Three are based in Bamberg, with the fourth in Schweinfurt.

“We can’t close Bamberg and Schweinfurt until we get those guys out of there” and relocated to Vicenza, Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, deputy chief of staff for USAREUR, said in an interview in November. “That’s another domino” in the Army transformation process.

Hertling, the command’s point man on transformation, noted that other options exist should the proposed expansion plan for Dal Molin fails to win support.

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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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