AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Airmen and civilians stationed at Aviano are getting a good reason to order new business cards: The on-base commercial phone numbers will change Jan. 31.

It’s the first part of a process that will eventually replace an antiquated system with a capacity of about 4,000 phone numbers.

“We need to expand that to 10,000,” said Master Sgt. Mike Freeman of the 31st Communications Squadron.

But to do that, some of the numbers need to change.

Telecom Italia has already assigned other numbers with the same two-digit numbers that the base currently has to customers off base. So it found another two-digit number that no one had been assigned, Freeman said.

“In effect, Aviano Air Base will become its own town,” he said.

The first four numbers — which represent the general area — will stay the same. The next two will change from “66” to “30.” The last four will stay the same.

So, for instance, the phone number for the Stars and Stripes bureau at Aviano will switch from 0434-66-7652 to 0434-30-7652. DSN numbers will be unchanged.

In a few months, contractors from General Dynamics will install a new switch that will allow the base to offer more phone numbers and provide better service. But the amount of numbers won’t actually increase until new infrastructure is installed.

That’s not likely to happen for a few years. The installation project 11 is one of eight currently on hold because of a decision by the Spanish government to delay approval NATO funding.

Crews from the squadron’s telephone maintenance section have been surveying the more than 500 facilities on base for seven months. They’ve got more work to do after the switch is installed.

But since the needed work has already been completed to change the numbers, the base decided to go ahead.

“We wanted to make sure this was taken care of first,” Tech. Sgt. Chuck Whitten said.

The move comes just about a year after the Army made a similar change to its commercial phone numbers in Vicenza.

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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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