UDINE, Italy – Members of the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF), Italian Army, NATO military personnel from Italy and Slovenia, the Friuli Venezia Giulia regional command and other key environmental stakeholders discuss managing military operational training demands while protecting the environment, 20-23 September, at the annual Sustainable Training Area Management workshop. The Sustainable Training Area Management workshop is sponsored by the U.S. European Command Environmental Security Engagement Program. The STAM workshop is in its seventh year of collaboration and has been held in Udine for the past four years. This three-day event focuses on bringing regional governments together with military and civilian representatives to present information, foster ongoing partnerships and together find a balance between meeting the demands of military training requirements while safeguarding and protecting the environment. Some military training sites also play host to habitats for protected species and grasslands, making it important that all stakeholders—military and civilian—take a proactive approach to protecting the environment while maintaining military readiness standards.
Some of the many topics for discussion include regional and local governmental updates, climate change, defensive tactics and future range development programs.
Also in attendance for the STAM workshop were U.S. Consulate Milan Political-Economic Chief, Ms. Zoja Bazarnic, and, as a direct result of last year’s STAM workshop, organizers invited the U.S. Forest Service, International Programs to participate and educate staff on erosion control and other land protection measures.
“Along with our Joint Task Force responsibilities in Africa and Europe, SETAF-AF is also responsible for the oversight of all U.S. Army activities and personnel in Italy,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Brian Cashman, Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa. “Participating in these types of events allows us to gauge how we are doing as guests, allies and friends, and we use the dialogue with our partners here in Italy to inform and guide our military activities.”
The workshop raises awareness and understanding of military training requirements and the impacts those demands have on the environment.
In Friuli, the U.S. Army regularly uses firing ranges, executes airborne operations and trains on small-unit tactics. These tactics range from orienteering to urban combat.
Cashman discussed how this region is the primary location where Soldiers train, specifically in crews, teams and units up to company level. Training events typically involve anywhere from 40 to 120 Soldiers. “Today is a day about finding a balance to effectively sustain critical training that takes place in this beautiful and important part of Italy,” said Italian Army Col. Francesco Maffei, Comando Militare Esercito. “I want to take a moment to focus on the new reality for Europe and NATO that makes it abundantly clear why we need capable militaries as stated by Brig. Gen. Cashman and our Italian friends here.”
Maffei reiterated that having credible and trained forces are the first line of defense. He asserted this requires partners to conduct ongoing military operations and training together. However, once training is complete, there is inevitable leftover waste that needs to be cleared from the land.
“Because of the proactive efforts of this workshop, we have been able to coordinate efforts between regional and local authorities and non-governmental organizations to ensure land clearing efforts continue, and is regulated,” added Maffei. Cashman’s speech touched on the U.S. Army’s commitment to sustainability and adhering to environmental regulations. Around 70% of the U.S. military funding invested in the Friuli region over the past 20 years has been dedicated to range improvement and construction, primarily linked to environmental improvement or mitigation.
Specific examples include unexploded ordnance clearance, road improvement, erosion control, and noise abatement.
Cashman highlighted, “Italy has been a strong and dependable partner in addressing global security challenges. From global peacekeeping missions to combat operations, Italy has played a leading role alongside the U.S. and the broader NATO Alliance.”
The workshop emphasized the necessity to understand host nation laws and environmental regulations. The approach to sustainability is guided by the sovereignty of Italy and the specific regions where training is conducted.
At workshops like STAM, attendees seek a better understanding of Italy’s requirements, whether those are national, regional or local laws and regulations. If requirements change, the relationships forged from these types of workshops help keep all partners informed. The experts gathered at STAM continually refine the approach, incorporate necessary changes and identify areas for improvement.
“The workshop that brings all of us here today is a prime example of how we can come together to invest in our relationship and tackle shared challenges together,” said Zoja Bazarnic, U.S. Consulate Milan Political-Economic Chief. “I understand that the experts and authorities gathered here today will examine the needs of military training together with environmental stewardship, both of which are intrinsically important to our safety, security and the future of this beautiful landscape.”
The overall theme of the three-day workshop is that having a trained and ready military force is not free—it comes at a cost. It is important to stay proactive and collaborate together to preserve natural resources while continuing to build stronger civilian and military partnerships.
Bazarnic added she is proud to partner with the U.S. and European allies, including workshop participant Slovenia. She asserted the alliance is stronger today with new and long-standing partners, ready to face current and future threats across all domains—air, land, sea, cyber and space.
“The U.S. has enhanced and continues to enhance its force posture in Europe and we appreciate our allies’ increased commitment to strengthen our combined force posture in Europe,” continued Bazarnic. “That brings us here today and the importance of our militaries training together to maintain and build readiness while strengthening these relationships.”
“None of us go to war alone,” he said. “Our success hinges on alliances and partnerships. A cornerstone of the U.S. National Defense Strategy is Integrated Deterrence, which means we won’t rely on U.S. military strength alone to deter our adversaries.”