Sunday, June 29, 2008

Movin On......Movin On

Hey everyone,

I've let most of you know this, but for the folks I haven't gotten to yet.....we're PCSing.

In December.....


For 2 years......


Ok, to be honest...I'm excited to be going, but I'm dreading the actual MOVING. Thank goodness we have some time to sort and store most of our things. I seriously doubt most of my antiques would survive another trip overseas. They were dinked enough the first time.

We're going to a very small northern base called Ghedi AB. (at least it has a library....)

Here's a little Airman Magazine article on it:

Nestled in northern Italy is a small air base that mixes culture, climate and career into a quaint but complete assignment option
by Capt. Carie A. Seydelphotos by Master Sgt. Keith Reed

When Tech. Sgt. Hector Rodriguez found out he was headed to an assignment in Italy, he decided to use technology to research his move from Kadena Air Base, Japan.

And despite the fact he scoured the Internet without much luck, both he and his wife, Celia, were pleasantly surprised when they arrived at the small Italian air base surrounded by farmland, known as Ghedi.

“Ghedi’s in the middle of nowhere, but it’s really in the middle of everything,” Celia said.

Within the first few months Hector, Celia and their three children, Ali, Micaela, and Jacob, decided to see just what the location had to offer. They ventured throughout Italy and into Switzerland, Austria, Germany, England and France.

“We’re forced to get out and learn more about the culture than our friends living in Aviano [Air Base, Italy],” Celia said. “It’s a great vacation spot. We feel like we’re taking a two-year vacation.”

Married military members aren’t the only people thrilled with living in this beautiful part of Italy.

“I love the atmosphere and the people. The Italians are so nice,” said Senior Airman Roxanne McKinney. “This is a relaxing place.”

As a single airman, she relaxes in the dormitories. Although McKinney said they’re smaller than those at her last assignment at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., the closet is bigger, and she has a shared kitchen area. Besides, she’s interested in spending time outside her room exploring Europe.

The information, tickets and tours office and being 10 minutes from the train station has made it easy to travel throughout Europe without owning a car. And a small local resort town, Desenzano, features a beach reserved for military recreation.

Before joining the Air Force, the most exotic place the Olympia, Wash., native had been was Mount Rainier.

“It’s interesting to see the places you learned about in high school,” McKinney said. “Who would have thought I would get to Rome?”

She misses some of the conveniences of the States and her parents, but the Internet helps her economically keep in touch. And she’s felt comfortable in the close-knit airman community since her arrival last year despite the fact that her last squadron was larger than the entire Ghedi unit.

“At Tyndall, I really only got to know people in my career field. But this feels like family,” McKinney said. “People are closer because this is a small place. They look out for each other, and that makes everything easier.”

That’s because this is a munitions squadron, so it’s a small support group on its own. Not only is it the only squadron of its kind south of the Alps, it’s at the most remote of the sites. At 75 miles away, Vicenza has the closest U.S. military support structure — and it’s Army.

“Vicenza runs” are arranged from time to time. For less than $3, people can take a shuttle to the post to run errands, pick up commissary items, visit the pharmacy and post exchange, head to finance or keep medical appointments.

And with 130 military and 150 family members, Lt. Col. Ed Ireland, the 831st Munitions Support Squadron commander, knows the importance of taking care of people.

“The mission is going to get done, but we need to take care of our family,” he said. “There is no base housing, so our people are living on the economy in about 12 communities within a 15-mile radius of the base. So the location isn’t as ‘Americanized’ as some overseas locations.”

But that aspect of living in Italy has expanded McKinney’s life in many ways.

“I’m a picky eater, and I’ve tried to experience new food,” she said. “I’ve even tried some of the seafood here — but I don’t like it looking back at me.”

However, she has found a few favorites.

“I never really ate ice cream before I got here. It’s creamier, richer and fresher than American ice cream. I could eat it all day, everyday, twice a day,” she said. “And after eating Italian pizza, I’m not sure I could eat one from an American chain.”

But Rodriguez’s daughter, 11-year-old Ali didn’t care for the local pizza.

“It’s too thin, has too much sauce and not enough cheese,” she said. “I thought it would be good because we’re in Italy.”

And that’s not all she noticed about the country.

“The castles would be really nice if they weren’t all old,” Ali said. “but they have a nice design.”
The entire culture has been an adjustment to the family.

“It’s really laid back,” Celia said. “And going out to dinner takes an entire evening. They take mealtime very seriously. It’s an important event.”

To give the airmen a taste of “home,” there’s a post office, Laundromat, small base exchange, gym, library, consolidated club and dining facility on the American side of Ghedi.

“When you’re here on the base, it’s like being in a mini-America,” said Elizabeth Mohr. She’s a college student from Oregon who works as a director for Camp Adventure, a program for military children. She knows first hand how everyday things affect military kids overseas.

“The kids live off base,” she said. “That means they have to learn how to say things like ‘pass me the ball’ so they can play with their Italian friends.”

Despite the language challenges, the program helps the kids learn about the culture. And Mohr has seen how “worldly” the kids become.

“They give us travel hints on the places they’ve visited,” she said. “They’re our little travel guides.”

On the Italian side of the base, Americans have access to a pool, a larger dining facility with authentic Italian food and an elaborate cappuccino bar.

Stopping at the “bar” is part of Hector’s afternoon routine. Even though he wasn’t a coffee drinker before he arrived, he knows he’ll miss the ritual when he leaves. And at less than 30 cents a cup, there’s no stateside coffee chain that can bridge the gap.

“When it’s so cheap, it’s hard to resist,” he said. “You can get coffee or wine cheaper than you can get water.”

His Italian neighbor Mario helps Hector appreciate the country even more. It’s not uncommon to share wine or coffee over the three-foot fence that separates their backyards. And because Rodriguez speaks Spanish he can decipher bits and pieces of the Italian language which has helped them communicate.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t misunderstandings. When Hector told him where he was from, the Italian man assumed he had a hat, gun and boots.

“I said, ‘I’m from Texas, but I’m not a cowboy. I don’t own a ranch or have cattle,’” Hector said.

“He looked at me and said, ‘Wow, I thought everyone in Texas had a hat and cowboy boots.’ ”

Although Ghedi’s airmen have to adjust to the culture, there is a list of pluses to living in the area, and many say the assignment is one of their best.

“How could you not like a country that takes naps in the middle of the day?” McKinney asked.

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