Sky Soldiers join Alpini to clean up historic WWI tunnels
July 8, 2014
VICENZA, Italy - Eight Soldiers from Attack Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Infantry Brigade (Airborne), based on Caserma Ederle, joined with members of the Vicenza Alpini Group June 28 for the annual clean-up day of the 52 tunnels road (Strada delle Gallerie) leading to the peak of Mount Pasubio.
The Sky Soldiers met at the Vicenza Alpini headquarters at 6 a.m. to make the hour and a half drive to Bocchetta Campiglia, where they linked up with approximately 100 Alpini. The mission: to clear large rocks and improve the appearance of the military mule road built in record time by the Italian Army between February and November 1917.
Not even heavy rain could dampen the fervor of the participants, who worked in teams along assigned sections of the road with its famous interconnected tunnels, once used to quickly and safely move troops and supplies up and down the mountain to the Italian front, out of sight and protected from the artillery fire of Austrian and Hungarian enemy forces.
For 25 years the Alpini have been in charge of refurbishing the historic Pasubio area, and there is pride in rendering the community service, which is greatly appreciated by the local population as well as tourists.
"As one of the promoters of the collaboration with the American base from Vicenza, I think it is very important to work together, as their engagement helps strengthen the ties between our two communities," said Luciano Cherobin, president of the Vicenza Alpini group.
"The presence of the American Soldiers here today confirms that we share the same values. Serving the community together is also a way to honor the memory of the thousands of fallen soldiers from all over the world who paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting for freedom up on our mountains," Cherobin said.
The road, considered a masterpiece of military engineering for its time and now converted to a hiking trail, is a hit with trekkers who admire its stunning views, sheer cliff drops and mountain tunnels.
"I was really touched by the tangible enthusiasm and the cheerfulness of these young American Soldiers who seemed genuinely eager to work shoulder to shoulder with us," said Arcangelo Murzio, council member of the Vicenza Alpini.
"I also saw their interest toward the history of the places and a deep admiration for the beauty of our mountains," Murzio said.
For several American Soldiers it was their first exposure to the Northern Italy mountain battlefields of World War I, which played a significant role in defining the identity of the Alpini, the elite mountain warfare military corps of the Italian Army, and establishing its renowned worldwide reputation.
"I enjoyed helping out the community along with the Alpini, cleaning up the tunnels," said Pvt. Sergio Delgado. "It was an honor to be a part of such an event."
"It was a great opportunity to work alongside the Alpini and also learning about all the history that took place there," echoed fellow Attack Company Soldier, Pfc. Dustin Glowacki.
The other Sky Soldiers taking part in the annual refurbishing of the historical trail were Staff Sgt. Michael Jaramillo, Pvt. Ridge Brittingham, Pfc. Edwin Jackson, Pvt. Colby Hack, Pfc. John Quiett and Pvt. Michael White.
After clearing the roads of debris, the Sky Soldiers enjoyed the camaraderie of their Alpini hosts and shared stories and laughter during a traditional luncheon consisting of Asiago cheese and soppressa salami appetizers served with ragù pasta prepared on site in a field kitchen.
"I am grateful to the American Soldier for being with us. We have accepted them as peers and this is a privilege Alpini do not bestow lightly," said Murzio.