VICENZA, Italy – If being a military spouse is more than a walk in the park than being a military spouse who also serves as a supervisory Army civilian employee is a walk in the park, a hike over mountains and a swim across open seas.
Hilary Cunningham knows this all too well. Her husband works global force management at U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa. Before coming back to Italy on their second tour, the military couple were also stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Belvoir, Virginia; and Stuttgart, Germany.
The supervisory traffic management specialist with Logistics Readiness Center Italy has been a military spouse for 22 years, but for the past 3.5 years Cunningham has also been an Army civilian. And recently she was selected as LRC Italy’s employee of the year.
Cunningham, who worked for a private-sector moving company in the U.S. before moving back to Italy, is in charge of a 6-person quality assurance and quality control team at LRC Italy’s transportation office. She and her team are responsible for ensuring U.S. Army Garrison Italy’s community members successfully receive their inbound household goods in Italy and successfully ship those same items from Italy without any problems or major concerns.
“Because we are stationed in Europe, my team’s responsibilities are multi-faceted. There is an agricultural customs program that we follow to ensure no one ships any prohibited items either into or out of Italy back to the U.S. or other destinations around the world,” said Cunningham, who calls northern Georgia home.
“We do agricultural inspections on all shipments going back to the U.S. to make sure we are not introducing any invasive species, plants and pests into the U.S. that aren’t already there,” said Cunningham, “particularly items used outdoors like lawn furniture, grills, bicycles or things like that.”
Cunningham said all her quality control and quality assurance employees are also trained and certified customs and border control clearance agents. Part of the training they receive is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and another part by U.S. European Command.
The four Italian local national employees on Cunningham’s team are senior customs and border control clearance agents, and the two Army civilians on her team are customs and border control clearance agents, she said.
“They are an excellent team. My local nationals have an absolute wealth of knowledge. They’ve been doing this job here in Italy for a very long time, all four of them, so they do share their knowledge with the rest of team. And we work very well together. My entire team is very professional,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said her team’s area of responsibility is extensive. In addition to the thousands of U.S. military and civilian personnel in the Vicenza area, they also support Ghedi Air Base, the U.S. embassy in Milan and a NATO base about an hour southeast of their location.
“Anybody who has shipped a household goods or unaccompanied baggage shipment either to Italy or out of Italy to another location – we visit absolutely every customer, civilian or service member,” said Cunningham.
“I enjoy what I do,” said the mother of three adult sons and the grandmother of three granddaughters. “I can understand and relate to our customers and the stress they’re going through with PCSing. Particularly PCSing internationally – it’s a very big challenge, especially for our younger families and service members who haven’t done it before.”
“Coming to a foreign country – it’s nice to be able to connect with them, assist them through the process and try to reduce as much stress as possible. It’s not always easy – moving is always a big stressor for any family or service member,” she said.
Cunningham said she also enjoys working with the contracted moving companies that support USAG Italy’s area of responsibility.
“We have some very good people who we work with from these moving companies,” Cunningham said. “The crews take excellent care of our customers. They are very patient and very particular when they are packing and unpacking our service members’ and civilians’ personal property.
“They treat the property like it’s their own,” said Cunningham. “I really can’t say enough good things about them.”
“Keeping our community happy and well supported – that’s what I enjoy most,” she added.
LRC Italy is one of seven LRCs under the command and control of the 405th Army Field Support Brigade. LRCs execute installation logistics support and services to include supply, maintenance, and transportation as well as clothing issue facility operations, hazardous material management, personal property and household goods, passenger travel, non-tactical vehicle and garrison equipment management, and property book operations. When it comes to providing day-to-day installation services, LRC Italy directs, manages and coordinates a variety of operations and activities in support of USAG Italy.
LRC Italy reports to the 405th AFSB, which is assigned to U.S. Army Sustainment Command and under the operational control of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Europe and Africa. The brigade is headquartered in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and provides materiel enterprise support to U.S. Forces throughout Europe and Africa – providing theater sustainment logistics; synchronizing acquisition, logistics and technology; and leveraging U.S. Army Materiel Command’s materiel enterprise to support joint forces. For more information on the 405th AFSB, visit the official website at www.afsbeurope.army.mil and the official Facebook site at www.facebook.com/405thAFSB.