United States and Italian Air Force Security Forces Strengthen Readiness

2/11/2013 – AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — The amount of information security professionals share over short intervals of time emphasizes how communication, accuracy, and teamwork are vital when it comes to public safety and security.

The men and women of the 31st Security Forces Squadron and the Italian air force security forces at Aviano Air Base, Italy, actively work to overcome lingual and organizational differences through weekly meetings, visits, joint exercises, and day to day operations.

“Overcoming the language barrier and disseminating pertinent information across the base proves to be a challenging task,” said Senior Airman Jonathan Dotzler, 31st SFS security response team leader.

“Through patience and understanding we are overcoming this barrier.”

One way the diverse group of defenders has bridged the challenges that come with working alongside host nations was the establishment of the Consolidated Operations Desk last year. The COD acts as a unified control center between the two security units and allows for quick and precise sharing of critical information.

“While we maintain different procedures, the response, especially in an emergency, is always the same,” said Lt. Col. Piero Micoli, ITAF SF commander. “Our operations may be different, but our goal is one and communication is very important.”

In his second tour in Aviano, Chief Master Sgt. Brian Gates, 31st SFS manager, has seen firsthand how the enforcement of laws and communication have improved, but understands there is always room for improvement.

“Having an Air Force security forces member posted at the Consolidated Operations Desk we’re hopeful communication and sharing information will continue to improve,” said Gates. “Maintaining a joint response capability and resolving issues at the lowest level are vitally important.”

The two units also utilize every opportunity to train together, which allows them to iron out technical conflicts and enhance their overall efforts.

“Every training exercise we have always includes them and vice versa,” said Staff Sgt. Marreese Blunt, 31st SFS NCO in charge of police services and confinement. “I strongly believe working together makes us stronger by bringing our military experiences and tactics together as one.”

Chief Master Sgt. Vito Lorusso, ITAF SF defense chief at Aviano, has spent a large part of his career working next to allied forces, and he believes everyone has something they can learn from one another.

“Everyone has their own professional skills that you can learn from, and we are always learning from each other, making things better and achieving more,” said Lorusso. “I can say that in my experience, and even now, the American security forces are always willing to learn more and improve things.”

More than learning a basic knowledge of the Italian language, both Dotzler and Blunt agree that learning the Italian culture has helped them understand their host nation.

“ITAF personnel have always displayed a very welcoming attitude and will go out of their way to teach me both their culture as well as their military culture,” said Blunt. “They treat our mission just as important as theirs and they make it their responsibility to ensure the installation populace and resources are well protected.”

Micoli found it challenging at first to manage the procedural and cultural differences between the two units but quickly realized the vast potential of working together.

“I found great support from the 31st security forces,” said Micoli. “Through their resources, organization, procedures and the many ways they support us we have learned a lot from each other.”

Between communication, procedures and operations, both units agree that their joint effort has greatly increased the defensive capabilities of Aviano and that through continued cooperation, they will continue to learn from each other.

“I hope that the ITAF force protection personnel see that we pride ourselves on being professional and always being aware that we are grateful for the opportunity to serve in the capacity we do alongside our NATO Allies,” said Gates. “I try to keep an awareness of the cultural differences and the need to communicate effectively. Miscommunication or poor translation can result in poor perceptions. We all need to be aware of this as guests of our Italian host.”

by Senior Airman Jessica Hines
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

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Jose J. Sanchez, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Defender Magazine, USAF Honor Guard, Bolling AFB, Washington DC, 416th SFS, Griffiss AFB, NY, 89th SFS, Andrews AFB, MD