VICENZA, Italy -- The sound of horns filled the air at Caserma Renato Del Din in Vicenza, Italy, as a ceremony took place July 2, officially opening the newest military installation in Europe. Numerous dignitaries, both American and Italian, were at the ceremony to see history unfold.
Caserma Del Din, built on the former Dal Molin site that was vacated by the Italian Air Force in 2008, supports transformation with the consolidation of most of the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) in Vicenza in line with the reorganization of the U.S. Army force structure in Europe. Today Del Din houses the headquarters and three battalions of the 173rd IBCT(A), U.S. Army Africa and the 509th Signal Battalion.
The new base is named after Renato Del Din, an Italian infantry officer and partisan, who was killed during a raid in World War II and posthumously was awarded the Italian Gold Medal for Valor. Del Din's sister Paola fought as a partisan earning a Gold Medal for Valor and was the guest of honor at the ceremony.
Speakers at the event include United States host U.S. Army Europe Commanding General Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell, Italian host Chief of Staff of the Italian Army Lt. Gen. Claudio Graziano, U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez of California, senior Italian federal representative Vicenza Prefect Melchiorre Fallica and U.S. Ambassador to Italy David Thorne.
U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza Commander Col. David Buckingham opened the ceremony by explaining that the day's events were meant to "recognize, honor and celebrate" the fusion between U.S. and Italy.
"(Del Din) is an investment in peace through strength," Buckingham said. "The U.S. requested a beautiful installation and the Italian engineers delivered."
Buckingham introduced each of the commands that call this newest USAREUR installation their new home: three 173rd IBCT (A) battalions including 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Special Troops Battalion and 173rd Brigade Support Battalion. Both the 173rd STB and 173rd BSB are transitioning to the new post from Bamberg, Germany. Other units that will occupy Del Din include U.S. Army Africa, represented in the ceremony by Headquarters, Headquarters Battalion USARAF, and the 509th Signal Battalion.
Campbell served as the United States host for the ceremony and highlighted that the construction of Caserma Del Din is another indicator of the strategic importance of Italy and the strong military-to-military cooperation between the two nations.
"Building a new installation overseas is more than placing concrete and erecting steel to meet our Army's mission. It is about continuing partnership and fostering relationships with our host nation.
"Caserma Del Din is now a truly remarkable installation," Campbell said. "The finished product is certainly a tribute to the designers, managers and laborers, and honors the immense sacrifice of Renato and Paola Del Din."
Italian host Graziano spoke of the importance of Italians and American working "shoulder-to-shoulder" in peacekeeping and stability operations.
"I am especially proud to be here today to demonstrate how, through the realization of this project which will offer Soldiers of the 173rd the best conditions to live and work, it will be possible to further strengthen the relationships between the U.S. and the Italian armies, and ultimately the bonds between the U.S. and Italy," Graziano said. "A deep and longstanding friendship, based on the fundamental and shared values of freedom, justice and democracy, which translates in being both members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and of other various organizations within which our two countries operate together."
Citing the Italy-United States relationship's deep roots based on historical, social and cultural factors, as the senior Italian government representative Prefect Fallica spoke of the importance of the relationship between the Italian and American communities.
"Today we inaugurate this base, the result of the work of Italian laborers. It is an incredibly modern infrastructure, built in line with cutting edge technology. Despite some inevitable opposition, I believe this achievement is a demonstration of the great cooperation between the two administrations, the Italian and the American, who have always worked together in a spirit of fairness and mutual support.
"I am certain that the presence of U.S. Soldiers and their Families here in Vicenza will continue to exist in a peaceful climate of trust and cooperation which will allow us to deal with any challenge that may present itself in the future with mutual respect."
Sanchez, who serves on the House Armed Services committee and subcommittees for Strategic Forces and Tactical Air and Land Forces, has made several trips to Vicenza to "keep this space moving forward" as she championed for the military construction program in the halls of Congress. She spoke about how Americans view Italy as picturesque while viewing Italians as our friends.
"This is the most beautiful base of any army in the world," Sanchez said. "We are here to work together, understand each other. It's not just about this space, but providing a safe future for our children."
Thorne called the day a new chapter in history.
"This is a compelling demonstration of our commitment to the bi-lateral security partnership between (the United States and Italy)," the ambassador said. "Today we celebrate another milestone in our presence in Vicenza."
After the remarks, dignitaries came forward and a ceremonial ribbon was cut, with Paola Del Din receiving a standing ovation. A commemorative street sign unveiling followed to honor Italian aviation pioneer Tommaso Dal Molin, for whom the former Italian Air Force base was named.
Caserma Del Din is the first Department of Defense installation to achieve, at a minimum, a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver Certification for an On-Campus project. In an On-Campus Project every building must meet the LEED requirements to be certified; the same prerequisites are also mandated for shared utilities, amenities, site landscape, efficiencies and infrastructures.
To support Army's modularity transformation, the Del Din complex features 27 new standardized buildings master-planned into command, residential and operational zones over 145 acres of Italian Military property. The land use concept creates a "Soldiers' Campus" that focuses on operational requirements including barracks, company operations, vehicle maintenance, organizational parking as well as training, dining and limited community support.
The construction program for USAREUR's newest installation was managed by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Europe Africa Southwest Asia and the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza Transformation Construction Management Office. The $310 million Design/Build Military Construction contract was awarded March 28, 2008 and completed in time to support troop movement from Germany during summer 2013.