VICENZA, Italy — When most of the soldiers at Caserma Ederle head to Afghanistan in the coming months, there will be thousands of dependents left behind.

Tuesday, the base debuts a home-away-from-home for those who will stay in Vicenza. The newly refurbished and largely reconfigured Family Readiness Center opens in Davis Hall.

“It was definitely a base-wide effort to get this ready,” said Holly Gifford, Army Community Services director, talking of both the remodeling and the movement of offices around base.

Davis Hall, a two-story structure between the 173rd Airborne Brigade headquarters and the post exchange parking lot, once housed an array of agencies providing various services to soldiers and their families.

ACS was a major tenant. Other offices included in-and-out processing, ID cards, transportation, driver’s training and customs. The SatoTravel office was there as well. Most of those agencies have shifted into a new Central Processing Facility, which will have its grand opening in a few weeks.

A remodeled lounge area will be open 24 hours a day with the 22nd Area Support Group’s staff duty officers located near the entrance. Child care service will be provided on site to those with business in the center. A translation service, staffed by volunteers, will offer free help in Italian and other languages. Eight computers with Internet access — four with Web cameras — will be set up.

Gifford said there’s enough space in the building for a few classrooms and a conference room. Some of that room could be used by Family Readiness Groups during a deployment.

Annette Evans, the interim director of community activities, said the center isn’t just for the families of deployed soldiers.

“Anyone who supports the deployment can also use this,” she said.

And some of the services provided in the center are designed for the entire community year round.

When the deployment starts, it’s likely that other parts of the building will be open for expanded hours as well. The Family Assistance Center, designed to assist families of deployed soldiers, was open around the clock for 173rd’s deployment to Iraq.

It hasn’t been activated yet. It will be housed at Davis Hall if it’s needed.

From there, people would provide help via a 24-hour phone line with toll-free numbers available from the States and other countries such as Germany.

Gifford said local military leaders wanted the center to be up and running before the deployment started. And, because of that, it only took a couple of months to get everything done.

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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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