Expansion on other side of Mediterranean
Stars and Stripes June 17, 2003
Some might argue that the Army and Air Force have already been shifting south in recent years.
In the past decade, Aviano Air Base in Italy has graduated from an Air Force backwater to a major hub supporting not only the Balkans peacekeeping efforts but also two air campaigns in Yugoslavia.
It’s also served as a launching pad for operations and exercises into Africa.
Meanwhile, the Army based the 173rd Airborne Brigade in nearby Vicenza in 2000. The only major U.S. airborne unit in Europe, the brigade doubled its combat power last year, adding a second battalion of paratroopers.
Now, top U.S. leaders in Europe want to add another battalion while expanding facilities in and around Aviano.
“I think this kind of unit is extremely useful for the theater because of their agility and their mobility,” Marine Gen. James L. Jones, head of the U.S. European Command, told the Senate military construction subcommittee April 29. “I would favor considering still another battalion to round out the unit.”
The Army is looking into adding the battalion, but it will be hard pressed to find the space, said Command Sgt. Maj. David Lady, formerly the top enlisted adviser for U.S. Army Europe.
“For the last batallion, we had to take all those people out of hide,” Lady said, explaining that the billets used to station the second airborne battalion were created by shutting down units in the Germany-based 21st Theater Support Command.
Light and heavy mix
Jones told the Senate military construction subcommittee April 29 that he wants to invest $45 million next year in projects in and around Aviano to help the Army become even more deployable.
At the top of Jones’ list is a new joint deployment facility that would support pushing 1,000 paratroopers out of Aviano within 36 hours. According to figures released in the Army’s Fiscal 2004-2005 Biennial Budget Submission, the complex would include parachute packing and maintenance spaces, a 20-ton overhead lift for rigging heavy equipment and palletization, and wash bays.
Meanwhile, officials want to build a storage site in northwest Italy’s port city of Livorno for a brigade of heavy combat forces similar to the pre-positioning facilities that have been used to stash tanks, artillery and other armored vehicles in Kuwait and Qatar for quick rollout.
According to the Army’s 2004 budget submission to Congress, U.S. Army Europe “needs the ability to inject a heavy brigade-sized reaction or augmentation force into the Southern Region at a rate which can only be achieved by pre-positioned materiel.”
The $22 million project would include stationing combat and support vehicles, ammunition and other warfighting supplies in new warehouses and maintenance bays in Livorno, as well as upgrading existing rail and port facilities.