Make the most out of your assignment
By Maj. Matthew Sanford , 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander
/ Published June 07, 2007
Aviano Air Base, Italy -- Enjoying the Italian experience?
What's that? How do you make one? I'll try to explain.
First of all, it's a by-product of an assignment here at Aviano. Let's face it, not only do we live and work in the World's Finest Fighter Wing at one of the most beautiful bases in our Air Force, but we are afforded the blessing of serving our nation while stationed in one of the nicest places in Europe! The scenery, travel, food and hospitality are simply outstanding, and that's only the beginning.
Second, you simply have to get out there and enjoy it! Please do not make the mistake of looking back on this assignment with regret for not taking advantage of what the surrounding area has to offer.
The 31st Fighter Wing can be a very busy place, but we owe it to ourselves to take time away from the work center to recharge, refocus and return refreshed. What better way to do that than getting out to see the sights while interacting with our Italian neighbors?
Finally, and this is key, when we do get out there to enjoy what Italy has to offer we must never forget we are representing both our Air Force and our country as ambassadors to the local community. As U.S. Air Forces in Europe Airmen, we have a professional responsibility to foster friendship, promote community relations and ultimately strengthen the bonds between our two countries.
To that end, always be aware of the possible consequences of your actions. From the clothes we wear off base to the volume of our car stereos, we need to be sensitive to how our conduct is being perceived.
What may have been a natural expression of individuality in the United States may offend our Italian neighbors in more ways than one! Unfortunately it only takes one "Ugly American" to propagate the perception that all Americans behave that same way.
Now, having said all that, what is "The Italian Experience?" Well, it's up to you! I contend it's that moment when you realize you're in the process of making a one-of-a-kind, uniquely Italian memory you will probably never forget.
It could be in formal, such as a café on a sidewalk on any piazza, or a little more formal such as a trip to Florence to see Michelangelo's "David." It could also be the frustration of finding the gas gauge needle hovering on "E" and rolling in to the local gas station during riposo, or maybe even the unadulterated joy of a cup of gelato just about any day of the week!
For me, it has to be riding my bicycle with a group of Italians. If you're not a bicycle enthusiast, you may not completely understand, but trust me on this: Italians have a passion for bicycling, and to ride with them is a wonderful way to generate some mutual respect and understanding while fostering international goodwill.
Not a bicyclist? Then how about checking out the Italian cuisine and libation? I recently enjoyed a home-grown tour of wineries in the Verona area set up by one of our own maintainers. We met some of the most interesting people, learned how varied, complex and traditional wine making is, and sampled some great food and wine along the way - an experience I'm certain none of my friends back home will ever realize. The best part is we found it all in areas well off the beaten path and without a professional tour guide.
Not yet ready to venture out on your own? Need a tour guide? Then stop by Information, Tickets and Travel! They have trips big and small, for the young and the young at heart, to great destinations throughout Italy and Europe.
Get the picture? If you don't, then you really must make an effort to get out and truly experience the magic only a tour at Aviano can provide.