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Army Sgt. Thomas Garrard, a DARE officer for U.S. Army Garrison Livorno, talks to a group of Italian students Thursday during a visit to Camp Darby. School visits are rare to the base and this might have been the first one by students whose first language is Slovenian.
Army Sgt. Thomas Garrard, a DARE officer for U.S. Army Garrison Livorno, talks to a group of Italian students Thursday during a visit to Camp Darby. School visits are rare to the base and this might have been the first one by students whose first language is Slovenian. (Courtesy of U.S. Army)

CAMP DARBY, Italy — Michaelangelo’s “David”? Check. The red roofs of Siena? Check. The Leaning Tower of Pisa? Check. Camp Darby?

A typical tour of Tuscany by Italian students generally doesn’t include the small logistics base that about 300 American active-duty personnel call home. But it did Thursday, when a group of 41 high school students and three teachers paid a visit to the base.

“This is something very different for us,” said Elena Braini, who teaches English at the school in Gorizia.

It was also very different for the base. Officials said they rarely host school groups at Darby. That’s partly because it takes time to arrange such visits. The group from Gorizia started making inquiries in November.

And while Italian is heard on Darby just as frequently as English — the local workforce is about the same size as the American civilian and military population — Slovenian is not.

Gorizia is on Italy’s border with Slovenia, and these students attend one of the two high schools where Slovenian is the prominent language.

“Italian is the second language,” Braini said. “We are a language minority in Italy.”

English? Maybe third, though German is also taught.

That meant that students had to pay close attention to understand Lt. Col. Stephen Sicinski, commander of the U.S. Army Garrison Livorno, when he and Italian Col. Raffaele Iubini — the Italian base commander — gave them an overview of the base.

Vanessa Bratasevec, 17, had an easier time than most. She has spent several summers in the United Kingdom and has also visited the United States.

She said she enjoyed a demonstration provided by the base’s military police and said the base wasn’t what she expected. What did she expect?

“More military. More green. More gray,” she said.

How about Americans being stationed in her country?

“Cool,” she said with a wide smile.

Braini said that most of the news on American military bases that people see in Gorizia — about an hour’s drive from Aviano Air Base — has tended to be negative recently. But she said the school wasn’t interested in getting into politics.

The stop was just viewed as another educational opportunity, and a break from the traditional Italian sights.

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