CAMP DARBY, Italy - Lieutenant Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli paid his first visit to U.S. Army Garrison Italy, Darby Military Community, since his appointment as the Commander U.S. Army Europe in January this year.

The April 4 visit also included Michael D. Formica, region director, Installation Management Command-Europe; Brig. Gen. Eugene LeBoeuf, acting commander, U.S. Army Africa; and Col. Erik M. Berdy, commander U.S. Army Garrison Italy.

"I am eager to acquire a better understanding of functionality here with the ambition to proceed in the best interest for security, and best care for Soldiers and Airmen and their families," said Cavoli during his visit.

After receiving a briefing about Camp Darby from Catherine Miller, deputy garrison manager here, Cavoli hosted a town hall meeting at the post theater. He opened the forum by introducing himself and highlighting his Italian legacy - his father was a garrison commander in Italy for four years.

"I am no stranger to Darby," said Cavoli. "My parents live much of the year in the Dolomites, and this new appointment of mine will give me a chance to see them more often now."

Cavoli attended elementary school in Rome, and said he would come north with his family to buy milk at the commissary. He continued his studies at Vicenza High School and said he came to Camp Darby to take part in sports tournaments. Years later, as an officer, he would stop here while in transit down south. The general acknowledged that big changes have happened at Camp Darby over the years.

"Changes we are experiencing here are, and have been, huge changes that bring difficulties, but also opportunities," Cavoli said. "I appreciate your hard work, the Soldiers and Airmen, for putting up with being in a remote site and dealing with the consequences of a declining budget. And the HN [host nation] employees, who represent the Republic of Italy and support the mission, I honor and respect you."

During the town hall meeting, several questions were raised in regard to the status of medical support at Darby; Cavoli said he discovered this issue recently, and he is in the process of researching it.

"We are in the process of conducting a study of all levels of services - qualitative and quantitative - with a special consideration for Camp Darby," said Cavoli. "All of this is going back to MEDCOM [Medical Command], which is keeping the patient liaisons on board for another 12 months and will provide transparency on the best way forward based on the study results."

Following the town hall, Cavoli had lunch with Soldiers and Airmen of the community in an intent to better understand the challenges they are facing at this remote site.

The visit continued with a site visit and briefing of the tenant units and their functions, including 405th Army field Support Battalion, Africa, at Leghorn Army Depot; 839th Transportation Battalion at Tombolo Dock on Navicelli Canal; and 731st Munitions Squadron ammunition storage area.

Cavoli expressed admiration for the Darby workforce because, he said, they have continued to deliver a professional service regardless of the fact that they were not set up for success due to continuous reductions.

That special bond that ties military families

At the end of the town hall meeting, Cavoli was surprised by the sight of two old friends: Fiorella Kelso, a retired Department of the Army civilian whose son Gregory was Cavoli's schoolmate in Vicenza; and Giampiero Cauteruccio, an employee who works at the local receiving point, and whose sister was Cavoli's father's neighbor while both families were stationed in Vicenza.

"Gregory is still in touch with Chris (Cavoli), and I was friends with his parents while stationed in Vicenza," said Kelso, who was a military spouse working at the Resource Management Office at the time. "My son Gregory and Christopher were schoolmates, and when I heard Lt. Gen. Cavoli was coming for a site visit to Darby, I could not believe it was the same young boy I knew. But as soon as he heard my son's name, he immediately knew who I was, and we hugged like old friends."

Cauteruccio reminisced about the time he knew the general and his family.

"In the '80s, I used to work at Camp Ederle, and the base commander was Col. Ivo Cavoli, Lt. Gen. Cavoli's father. My sister was married to an American officer and her house in the Villaggio della Pace was neighboring the Cavoli's house," Cauteruccio said.

Cauteruccio said he spent much time with his sister and he was taking care of a garden in the back of the house when Col. Cavoli asked him what he was cultivating.

"We invited him over for a drink, and that moment marked the beginning of a lifetime friendship and many barbecues together, as well as fishing and field trips," said Cauteruccio. "I met their son Christopher, who was studying in Rome at the time, and to meet him as a three-star general is no surprise for me. I am so proud of him."

"The big hug we shared threw me back to those joyful years of my life with the Cavolis, my sister Maria and my brother-in-law Craig," added Cauteruccio.