Stripes Spotlight: Former Army rigger jumps back into service
January 31, 2005
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Martin Fano doesn’t jump from airplanes anymore.
But after spending two decades as an Army rigger, he hasn’t gotten very far away from military aircraft.
In fact, as F-16s noisily lift off the runway, his office near the flight line is probably a bit too close — and loud — for most people.
Not that he’s complaining.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” he says of his position, which he simplifies as a point of contact between the Army and Air Force in northern Italy.
As an American civilian working for the Army on an Air Force base, Fano is a bit of an oddity. He has dual citizenship, but his British accent stands out. He’s a graduate from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in England and endured a tour of duty in Northern Ireland in 1979. During stints with the British and American forces, he’s been an officer, an enlisted soldier and a warrant officer.
“He brings a lot of experience in our air operations,” said Lt. Col. Angela Haynes, chief of plans and operations for the 22nd Area Support Group’s directorate of logistics. “He knows how to put a plan into action.”
That’s probably a comforting thought to the thousands of paratroopers who will soon be heading to Afghanistan by flying out of Aviano.
“He is the lynch pin for the airborne portion of this deployment,” Haynes said.
Fano has had that role before. He was in charge of getting the heavy equipment aboard for the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s entry into Iraq in 2003.
At the time, Fano was still in the Army and the chief rigger stationed at Aviano. An amateur photographer, he also documented the movement on film.
He retired as a chief warrant officer 3 in late 2003, capping a 21-year career in the Army. He became a warrant officer in 1994 after advancing to the rank of sergeant first class. He had joined the U.S. Army in 1982 as a parachute rigger, not long after leaving the British army.
Fano, who says he had wanted to become an American citizen, joined the enlisted ranks even though he was an officer in the British forces and a graduate of Sandhurst, the British equivalent of West Point.
In about five years with the British forces, he served in Germany as well as Northern Ireland, where he led an armored car platoon.
“Basically, escorting infantry guys around,” he said. No one in his platoon was killed, but not for a lack of effort by those who wanted British forces out.
Attacks on the convoys came “on a daily basis,” he said. “Small arms fire, anything they could throw at you basically.”
He spent most of his time in the U.S. Army with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., with stints in South Korea, Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War and a final tour in Italy.
Fano says his upbringing made military service seem like a natural fit. His father was a salesman for DuPont and the family lived in a handful of countries in south and central America. He learned Portuguese — which he’s since lost — and Spanish. He started attending boarding schools at the age of 8.
“So I’ve always been used to sort of a regimented lifestyle,” he says. “I saw a lot of chaos in the civilian life and I didn’t like it.”
So how’s life out of the military?
“Now I’m a civilian,” he says. “But I still work out every day. I have a uniform and still feel like a warrant officer.”