VICENZA, Italy - Surrounded by a thick blanket of snow, U.S. Air Force 7th Weather Squadron Airmen from Caserma Ederle and Katterbach, Illesheim and Wiesbaden, Germany, undertook training with Italian Army soldiers of the Comando Truppe Alpini-Servizio Meteomont in late December at Passo Tonale, Italy.

About 20 weather personnel participated in the training including seven Airmen, nine Alpini and four others from allied militaries. The Servizio Meteomont personnel constitute a cadre of weather personnel within the Alpini troop structure. Passo Tonale is in the Southern Alps between the Lombardy and Trentino regions.

The primary goal of this five-day training was to further strategic NATO partnerships while learning new skills in the realm of weather and weather forecasting.

"We value this opportunity as a capstone annual event to feature our capabilities as Air Force weather personnel supporting U.S. Army Africa and the 173d Airborne here at Vicenza, and other U.S. Army and Air Force units in deployed environments," said Air Force Capt. Jason Scalzitti, commander of the 7th Weather Squadron's Detachment 3.

"We build professional contacts, share expertise and strengthen the relationship with our host nation. Our Italian counterparts get the opportunity to observe our professionalism and capabilities, strengthening our allies' confidence in U.S. Airmen and Soldiers," he said.

The program with the Alpini, which dates to 2002, teaches a variety of weather related skills such as snow pack assessment, terrain and snow condition recognition, and avalanche forecasting, said Air Force Master Sgt. Kevin Goff, Det. 3 non-commissioned officer in charge.

"This training is significant as we deploy to locations such as Afghanistan, where mountain and avalanche forecasting provides a benefit to prevent significant risk to American and Allied soldiers," he said. "As part of the snow pack assessment we dug holes to the ground and examined the layers of snow for different types of grains, specifically looking for unstable layers below hard layers, which if moved could destabilize the whole snow pack."

The Airmen and Alpini also practiced the basics of skiing and snowshoeing, means of transportation which the Alpini use regularly to reach assessment locations.

Last but not least, they gained knowledge of terrain and snow condition recognition, learning to scan the mountains and snow for potential avalanches and other dangers.

Tech Sgt. Kyle Marshall, an Airman with Det. 3, said, "The training was great for broadening our meteorological and terrain assessment skills while simultaneously reinforcing the U.S. military's strong ties with our Italian Alpini counterparts."

The positive experience and the ongoing goal of developing relationships among NATO allies will lead to similar partnership training experiences in the future, said Goff.

"This training was well organized, extremely informational, and simply one of the best training events I have attended during my 16 years in the Air Force. We will look to make our attendance at this event a yearly activity. "As for hosting our event here at Vicenza we hope to schedule a training event sometime this year where the Alpini travel here for training that we provide," Goff said.