By Anna CiccottiJune 7, 2019
UDINE, Italy (June 7, 2019) --The annual U.S.-Italy Sustainable Training Area Management workshop was held in Udine June 5-6, the fourth in a series that explores ways to find a balance between meeting military training and maintaining environment stewardship.
Program workshops are sponsored by U.S. Armed Forces Europe, and are designed to focus on best practices by bringing together select group of civilian and military stakeholders. The stakeholders are American and Italian, and their task is to examine the various challenges from a broad and inclusive perspective.
Attending the two-day session were officials from the Friuli Venezia Giulia local and regional government, environmental experts, as well as senior leaders from U.S. and Italian armed forces based and operating in northeast Italy.
In his opening remarks to the 60-people audience attending the first-day event, Col. Jason C. Caldwell, director, Joint Multinational Simulation Center, 7th Army Training Command, said, "These workshops have been hugely successful for communication, collaboration and transparency. They have been useful outlets to share information and accomplish common goals. I read the reports from the 2015 and 2018 workshops, and it is amazing to see the progress that has been made in just four years, the partnerships that have been built, and the things that have been accomplished."
Caldwell added that, "Sometimes things don't move quicky when dealing with challenges involving the military and local or state governments." He noted, however, that the approach of FVG is, in fact, a model that the Army is trying to replicate with other nations and partners.
"It is really amazing to see here that things have been accomplished while maintaining the ecological integrity of the area, and still achieving the training objectives that we need to accomplish as U.S. and Italian partners."
Barbara Zilli, FVG region's Councilor for Finance, also delivered welcome remarks. Zilli emphasized that "collaboration and dialogue are useful for the civilian component to understand the importance of readiness for our armed forces. For the military, it helps them consider the required need for enviromental protection."
Zilli pointed out that previous workshops proved to be extremely useful to get to know each other and to foster a productive discussion in the approaches that regulate military exercises in environmentally protected sites.
"In the past, our region was interested in a strong military presence that resulted in significant military infrastructure, to include a multitude of barracks and training sites. Today, we have nine firing ranges, six of which belong to Natura 2000 protected sites," she said.
Zilli acknowledged that the presence of military activity prevented further transformation with urban or industrial development. As many FVG's training sites host protected habitat, constant dialogue and proactive collaboration are key to achieve common goals.
Zilli lauded the firm commitment of the U.S. officials to maintain ongoing best practices that are respectful of the environment and its citizens, and also enhance the value of the natural environment.
FVG is a region with a proud military heritage and boasts unique terrain and impressive landscapes, from the Dolomites to the northern Adriatic Sea. Military experts agree that the geographic diversity of FVG allows to train in mountain conditions, flat open areas, forests and riverbeds in all kinds of weather conditions. Certainly one of the favorite sites for the training requirements of the Vicenza-based 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) and U.S. Air Force units from Aviano.
Mayor of Udine Pietro Fontanini expressed appreciation for the valuable initiative that brings together civic and military leaders who are prepared to deal with issues related to military training in local communities.
"We understand the requirement for readiness because we still need well trained forces today. I am pleased to see the ongoing collaborative efforts between the FVG region and the military to ensure our sites are constantly monitored and safe, not only for our people but also for its natural habitat," Fontanini said.
Asked what makes the FVG region experience a model of civic-military collaboration, Nathaniel L. Whelan, chief, Training Support System Division, 7th ATC, said that open and transparent communication is key.
"The strong partnership between U.S. Army Europe and FVG region environmental managers ensures military training activities meet readiness objectives while maintaining the spectacular biodiversity of these sites" he said.
In attendance at the workshop was also John R. Crosby, Consul for Political and Economic Affairs at the Milan Consulate.
"While some people might want to believe that there's a conflict between the interests of pursuing military training and protecting the environment, we're all here today to gain a better understanding about how those two activities can in fact be complementary goals," Crosby said.