Vicenza, ITALY - Italian and American leaders from Vicenza and Camp Darby Army communities met here Jan. 30-31 for a two-day Senior Leader Conference to discuss ways installations, military personnel, and their families can be better protected.

The conference was the first to bring the leaders of Army communities in Italy together to focus on a single topic: force protection.

"This was the first of a series of discussions focused on improving the security posture and force protection with our leaders here in Italy. We have to decide what is best and how to proceed," said U.S. Army Garrison Italy Commander Col. Erik M. Berdy.

The two-day conference was designed to stimulate discussion on a wide range of issues focused on protecting military installations from a range of threats such as terrorism, organized crime and cybersecurity.

Challenged with protecting military forces and families in austere defense budget times, Italian and American leaders also face the challenge of geographic separation. Vicenza and Camp Darby military communities are more than 200 miles away from each other. According to USAG Italy Provost Marshal Lt. Col. Michael Parsons, this discussion is an opportunity to find common ground and uncover some best practices.

"This security forum provided a great opportunity for the garrison staff, garrison commander, and both Italian base commanders to dedicate two days reaffirming our strong bond and partnership. The collaborative effort helped us understand each other's perspective on security. This is just another step in remaining vigilant on our No. 1 priority here: force protection," said Parsons.

The success of Army communities in Italy rely on the strength and trust of host nation workers and military officials. This is perhaps more important in Italy than Army communities in other parts of Europe because of the Italian-American agreements to base military persons and their families here. The final authority for day-to-day operations of a U.S. Army garrison is the Italian base commander.

Vicenza Military Community Italian Base Commander Col. Umberto D'Andria says there is a true partnership between him and Berdy when it comes to operations here, especially in the area of force protection.

"When it comes to protecting the Vicenza installations, there is no Italian way or American way. There is just one way. We agree and understand the need to approach situations with integration and to liaison more," said D'Andria.