U.S., Italian authorities swing first-ever Verona landing
Caserma Ederle and Italian airport personnel at Verona-Villafranca Airport cross the tarmac to welcome home a group of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team Soldiers Nov. 15. Landing at Verona was a first for U.S. military personnel stationed at Vicenza.

VICENZA, Italy -- What do you do when you have a plane full of redeploying Soldiers, hundreds of anxious families waiting to see them, and no place to land' That was the problem Caserma Ederle personnel faced during the recent redeployment and it took the efforts of many Italian and U.S. Army, Air Force and civilian agencies to find a solution.

The problem started when a plane returning 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team Soldiers from deployment in Afghanistan to their home base in Vicenza, Italy, in early November. The plane was scheduled to land at the Aviano Air Base, about 100 miles northeast of Vicenza. Aviano, as an Italian Air Force base, is the usual place military flights would land since civilian airports are not equipped to manage military flights and for security reasons.

However, on Nov. 6, foggy weather and the recent movement of aviation equipment combined to make it impossible for a flight full of Sky Soldiers to land at their usual destination.

"I got a call at 2 a.m. saying there were with issues with the landing at Aviano," said Randy Clark, chief of plans and operations for the Directorate of Logistics. "That started us moving to find a solution and Verona (Villafranca Airport) is the next closest military air base."

Although it has never been done before, the Italian military officials requested special support from the Verona-Villafranca Airport in Verona to land the plane there. The airport is both civilian and military and has the appropriate equipment to facilitate the landing.

"That was a very long day," said Lt. Col. Danilo Colombo, the Italian Air Force liaison to Vicenza's Southern European Task Force/ U.S. Army Africa. "The base commander at Villafranca was able to approve the first two flights," he said, but for every other flight, he had to get permission from his chain of command in Rome.

USAG Vicenza's DOL tracks every flight and had to secure permissions on the American military side to divert flights. That involved working with the U.S. Air Force and Army commands both in Europe and the United States to work out all the details.

"There were a lot of firsts on this one," Clark said. "Normally all the arrangements are handled by other organizations, but because of the complications of working in Italy, they asked the USAG Vicenza DOL to handle all the arrangements (on the American side). This has involved us building a lot of relations with the Italian authorities at Verona and it has all been going really well. The support they've given has been great and the 173rd ABCT has been really happy with it."

Colombo praised the commanders and personnel of the military portion of the Verona-Villafranca airport, saying, "They gave the maximum support. Normally they don't work on Saturday or after a certain time, but they called in the emergency team to handle the flights."

That first flight was followed by several more over the following weeks up the the end of November.

As to the Italian military personnel at Verona, Colombo said, "They were happy to support the Soldiers because they know very well that they were in theater for a long time. They did a very good job."

Caserma Ederle leaders plan to visit Verona-Villafranca Airport in early December to officially thank the airport and their personnel.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16