Italian journalists get tour of military base in Vicenza
October 15, 2006
VICENZA, Italy — While many Americans stationed on military bases around Europe might not find their normal routines all that fascinating, there are those who do.
Namely, many local nationals who can’t easily enter bases occupied by foreign troops on their soil.
After some recent Italian media reports regarding a potential U.S. move to the Dal Molin airfield contained information that U.S. military authorities say wasn’t factual, the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) decided to invite the local media onto base — without having a specific story to pitch.
“It dawned on us that maybe you don’t know what we do on Caserma Ederle,” Maj. Gen. Frank Helmick, the SETAF commander, told a small group of Italian journalists Friday.
“I think it’s important to let you know what we do here.”
So the journalists, representing both print and broadcast media, visited places such as Vicenza Elementary School, a briefing room full of servicemembers and civilians studying for an upcoming exercise, the education center, one of the new barracks buildings, the Army Community Services center and AFN-South.
After a few words from Helmick, the journalists got a briefing on the organization from Col. Skip Davis, the SETAF chief of staff, and Col. Salvatore Bordonado, the Italian base commander and deputy SETAF commander.
Bordonado’s very position might have been news to many; roughly a dozen Italians are part of the unit’s chain of command.
Although about 750 Italians work on Ederle, there’s still a lot of mystery about what happens behind the walls, according to Elisa Santucci, one of the visiting journalists.
And, she said, there’s a lot of interest about American activities in Vicenza these days, with the Dal Molin move generating a lot of it.
“I think there’s never been so much before,” Santucci said. “There are people who talk like they didn’t even really know [Caserma Ederle] was here, even though it’s been here for 50 years.”
Santucci, who works for local television station TVA Vicenza, isn’t one of those. She said she’s covered the base for years and is familiar with many of its operations.
Still, she appeared to be learning a bit here and there during the tour.
“Days like this are important to let people understand,” she said. And it is also useful for television journalists such as herself to gather footage of base activities.
Would she like to get access more often?
“Of course,” she said. “But it’s a military base. We have Italian bases and it’s not like we can go on and off the base as we wish either.”