VICENZA, Italy (Dec. 16, 2013) -- The U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza hosted a first-of-its-kind intercultural event dedicated to young Italian and American female military at the Golden Lion Conference Center on Caserma Ederle, Dec. 5.

"Bringing young Italian and American female Soldiers together is a way for them to share not only the joys, but also the challenges of becoming female leaders in the armed services," said Col. Robert Menist Jr., USAG Vicenza commander, who addressed the nearly 130 guests in his welcoming remarks.

"Over my 23 years in the Army, I have seen the Army evolve and become more inclusive as women have taken on so many critical roles. It was inspirational for me to talk to some of these dynamic young women and to hear both their experiences and their ambitions," Menist said.

The "Home for the Holidays" gathering was part of the "Female 2 Female," or F2F, program created to help younger service members adapt and thrive in a new military environment, said Julia Sibilla, Community Programs manager with Army Community Service, and organizer of the event in coordination with BOSS, the USO and the Vicenza Community Club.

"One of the key concepts of the F2F initiative is mentorship and professional development, and we saw firsthand that it can happen across cultural lines," Sibilla said. "The positive relationships and connections established tonight will be long lasting and contribute to stronger friendships between the armed forces of our two countries," she said.

More than 30 Italian female service members from seven installations in the Veneto Region joined the 65 American female service members from the Vicenza Military Community, to attend this social networking event. Three female Soldiers and one airman from Camp Darby also attended the event.

Italian Army female soldiers came from the Comando Logistico Nord and 32^ Rgt. Trasmissioni, both from Padova; the Multinational CIMIC Group from Motta di Livenza; and the 7^ Rgt. Alpini of Belluno. Female airmen arrived from 51^ Stormo of Istrana and 3^ Stormo of Villafranca. A female Carabinieri attended from the Center of Excellence of Stability Police Units, Vicenza.

It was an experience for all involved that should be repeated as soon as possible, said Maresciallo Elena Scalco, COESPU. Aside from the excellent food, the good company and the friendly atmosphere, Scalco said she hopes that "this is the first of a series of encounters that help build bridges among women in the military, and help appreciate the value of professional exchanges among people from different nations."

"The F2F events are such a great opportunity to network with other female Soldiers and civilians in an otherwise male-dominated organization," said 2nd Lt. Rachel Kim, a deputy disbursing officer with Detachment C, 106th Financial Management Support Unit.

"I just arrived in Vicenza approximately a month and half ago and the reception from this community is unparalleled. The Italian-American Thanksgiving exchange dinner was definitely a unique and rare opportunity to interact with our allied female military members, and to attempt to practice my novice Italian and enjoy an amazing meal," Kim said.

Italian Army Cpl. Maggiore Scelto Silvia Franzon, from Padova, said she was deeply impressed with the organization and the joyful, familiar atmosphere she and her colleagues found upon arrival at Casema Ederle.

"We loved the room's setting, the laughs at the tables and the good food. We were hesitant to participate when they first told us about the event, but in fact we are happy we came because it has been an amazing learning and fun experience and we'll make sure to bring more soldiers from our regiment next time," Franzon said.

First Lt. Lauren Johnson, executive officer with Company C, 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), said she had the opportunity to meet a great group of Italian soldiers at her table and throughout the evening.

"We were able to share a few stories here and there. It was very interesting to hear how different the militaries are," she said. "The collaboration between our militaries will open more doors for female Soldiers down the road. We have the opportunity to further our knowledge and experience by working together in future operations," Johnson said.

The F2F aims to be a proactive, community-based initiative to create a nurturing social environment that puts single female Soldiers at ease, builds a positive sense of community and engagement, and empowers them to thrive.

"Our event showed that the same principles can be applied to our host nation military as well. There was so much positive energy and enthusiasm all around, and I am confident that everyone left the event with a new perspective and sense of confidence," Sibilla said.

Page last updated Mon December 16th, 2013 at 00:00