VICENZA, Italy (August 2, 2019) - A desire to make a life-long difference with their summer adventures brought a group of inquisitive Italian children and teens to Caserma Ederle, July 31.
U.S. Army Garrison Italy opened the doors of the installation to forty-five students and their chaperones from a local summer camp in nearby Fara Vicentino to learn more about the Army's mission in Vicenza.
For most of the participating students, who are between six and 14 years-old, it was the first opportunity to visit the base and meet U.S. Soldiers face-to-face.
"We were glad to accommodate the request and offer them an opportunity to explore what's behind the fence," said Italian Army Maj. Marco Specchia, executive officer for Caserma Ederle who coordinated the visit on behalf of the Italian base commander. "We were happy to help Fara Vicentino Mayor Maria Teresa Sperotto, who asked if something could be arranged.
To welcome the special guests were Italian Command Sgt. Major Ennio Zavagno, senior enlisted advisor to Italian base commander; USAG Italy Headquarters' Company Commander Capt. Jacob Forrey and 1st Sgt. Riccardo Ard. Together, the combined military team worked together to provide the young visitors a day of fun and learning activities.
"Providing this opportunity for local children to visit our base and demonstrate our operations is one of the most fulfilling aspects of working for here at USAG Italy. Our civilians and Soldiers are the best in the Army, and we are proud to show off their hard work and the great services they provide to the Vicenza Military Community," said Forrey.
The first stop on the itinerary was at the base's Fire Station, to meet with U.S. and Italian firemen and learn about the different fire trucks and firefighting equipment. The highlight of the experience was a chance to see exactly how far the fire truck's hose could spray.
"Allowing the local youth to see what we can do as a fire department here builds their confidence in firefighters all over Italy. Seeing the equipment and skills we utilize I hope instills curiosity for some of them to explore the profession of firefighters when they become adults. I also feel that our Italian firemen felt rewarded demonstrating the equipment and skills to the local youth," said Brian Good, fire station captain here.
Next, the group visited the Tactical Equipment Maintenance facility where they got to climb inside a Tactical Gator, Humvee, and Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, and see the how these vehicles and their tools are used in real world operations.
Alexander G. Menzies, director, Logistics Readiness Center-Italy, 405th Army Field Support Brigade said these field trips are a great way for Italian children to experience American culture without traveling too far from home.
"Not only are these engagements great for the kids but they provide a great opportunity for our Italian employees to tell their individual stories about who they are, what they do on the Caserma, and how they are a part of the Italian and American partnership in Vicenza. We can't do our mission without our host nation partners and these kids may choose to do the same when they're older."
Eager to discover the rest of the post, visitors walked to Hoekstra Field, where they learned more about the history of the South European Task Force Headquarters and the mission of U.S. Army Africa.
The children especially appreciated the history of the winged statue of the Lion of St. Mark which is the symbol of the Veneto region, as well as of the emblem of Vicenza-based Soldiers, proudly worn on the shoulder patch of every Soldier here.
Military Police Sgt. Vanessa Updegraff explained their role on base and how they are very similar to the Italian Carabinieri. She shared her stories on the strong partnership of Italians and Americans working together to ensure the security of the military community, both on and off post.
A visit to the garrison's headquarters building afforded the kids and opportunity to peek inside the Installation Operation Center.
"Just to see the excitement when we showed some of our capabilities was very rewarding. It always good when we can engage with our Italian community members," said Jeremy K. Baggett, operations chief, S-3-5-7 directorate.
After lunch at the base's Italian Mensa, the group explored the training area and the jump tower, where they learned more about the mission of the Sky Soldiers from the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne). Forrey and Ard shared the basics of paratrooper training and the day ended with loud cheers and of course, camouflage face paint.
"It's always a pleasure to have visitors, especially younger generations, to come visit and be able to explain to them how much hard work and time goes into being a Soldier. It was also great and a pleasant surprise to see how enthusiastic they were when given the opportunity to "cammo up," said Ard.
Summer camp organizers and chaperons Sonia and Lucia Sperotto said the tour was an amazing outing for a special day the group will always remember.