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CAMP DARBY, Italy — Manrico Bendinelli thinks he might be losing more than his career with Army Field Support Battalion-Livorno.

“It’s not to lose our job,” the 45-year-old Italian said in an interview Friday, struggling to find the right words in English. “It’s to lose our soul.”

Bendinelli hasn’t received official notification yet that his services as a forklift driver at the depot near Livorno will no longer be needed. But he’s expecting to be among the 70 or so members of the Italian work force laid off sometime this year. The Army says the workload simply isn’t there anymore and that it’s required to take action thanks to a Congressional review analyzing the labor force.

Italians dominate the operation, with about 280 performing a variety of roles that active-duty personnel might be doing elsewhere. Many have devoted much of their lives to work for the American military, repairing and maintaining equipment that’s seen duty in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bendinelli has put in seven years. His father, Angelo, worked at the installation for 36 years.

He said he’s been told from Day One that those working at Darby are part of an important mission and that they’re family. So hearing that he might no longer be part of the operation has left him “disillusioned.”

Emma Sardella already has her reduction-in-force notice in hand.

“I don’t have any hope after the 30th of June,” the 47-year-old said, referring to the date that about a quarter of the work force is set to lose their positions. “I’m looking for some light at the end of the tunnel. But I don’t see any.”

Lt. Col. Mitch Wilson, the battalion commander, might have a small amount to offer. Wilson said he’s hoping to keep at least 50 of the affected workers employed through November. There’s a strong possibility they’ll have work repairing equipment that will eventually be sold to another government.

Wilson said he’s just following orders and trying to make the best out of a bad situation.

“No one likes doing a reduction in force,” he said. “The only thing you can do is to do it as compassionately and fair as you can.”

The issue is not one unique to Livorno. Similar operations in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have also been targeted for reductions or closure. Wilson said the problem is not the work force itself, but the work it has to do. The Livorno depot is responsible for about half the equipment it once was.

“These guys do things faster, cheaper and better than anybody in the world,” he said.

The two unions who represent the employees have been lobbying various Italian political leaders while trying to retain every position. In past layoffs, the Italian government has found jobs or compensation for those let go.

It’s unclear if that will be the case this time. Current workers who have been employed since 1989 have some guarantees of payments or jobs from the Italian government. Sardella, a quality assessment technician, falls just short of that.

“I really love my job,” she said. “We all do. We’re just hoping that something will change.”

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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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