Design for troop expansion in Italy by 2010 not yet set
VICENZA, Italy — If all goes according to plan, there will be about twice as many U.S. soldiers stationed in Italy in 2010 as there are now.
Details of that plan aren’t complete, though. The Pentagon has announced that it will add 2,000 troops — a battalion and other support elements — to the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
How that will be done, when it will be done and where it will be done are still not clear.
Brig. Gen. Jason Kamiya, the commander of the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) said much of that depends on ongoing talks with the host country. Americans in Italy work — and sometimes live — on bases owned by the Italian military.
The “where” in the equation will likely not be at Caserma Ederle, the current headquarters for both the 173rd and SETAF.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discover we have space issues here,” Kamiya said.
It’s possible that the troops could go to other bases in northern Italy, such as Camp Darby — where there’s room but no facilities — or Aviano Air Base — where there is no extra living facilities and space is questionable. But Kamiya said those aren’t the first choices.
“We want to keep the forces of the 173rd and SETAF in a small area,” he said.
That leaves open the possibility of an existing Italian facility near Vicenza — Tomasso Dal Molin, for instance. The former Italian air base is being used by civilian interests, but the Italian military still controls sections of it.
Moving into parts of such a place could allow the United States to essentially consolidate its forces in two areas of Vicenza, eliminating about $2.5 million it pays annually to lease a handful of smaller compounds around the city.
The brigade won’t really be building up its forces until it returns from Afghanistan — possibly around the summer of 2006. And it might be several years after that for significant increases, because it would probably take several years to build more facilities, regardless of where they’re located.
In the meantime, the brigade has undergone some transformation already. It has more than 100 troops than it did before deploying to Iraq, thanks to the formation of a forward support battalion.