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San Vito dei Normanni Air Station

San Vito dei Normanni Air Station, Italy opened in 1960 and closed in 1993, employing 700 Air Force and fewer Navy intelligence personnel listening to the same areas as Field Station Augsberg along with additional listing in the Middle East.

Though the base supposedly closed in October 1994, as part of the US military drawdown, the Bosnian mission kept San Vito's gates open. Most of the buildings are sealed, except for needed housing and a few workshops and recreational areas that are still maintained. Surrounded by artichoke fields and vineyards, San Vito's 318-acre site is too small for a runway and flightline, so Pave Lows and fixed-wing aircraft operate from a nearby Italian air force base.

For 34 years during the Cold War, the place hosted various intelligence people that intercepted and analyzed transmissions from former Warsaw Pact countries. You can still see the big Flare-9 antenna - nicknamed the elephant cage - they used.

In 1993, the two Air Force units initially deployed people and hardware to San Vito while supporting Operation Provide Promise, a humanitarian airlift that sustained thousands of sick and starving civilians trapped by Bosnia's civil war. Eventually, as Balkan peacekeeping efforts began in earnest, that tasking switched to Operation Deny Flight, with 352nd SOG and 16th SOW resources staying put.

By late 1997 a 1,300-member coalition force, spearheaded by Joint Special Operations Task Force 2, operated 10 miles outside of Brindisi at San Vito Air Station. Its role: supporting NATO troops deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina and aircrews monitoring a no-fly zone above that volatile country, where swarming Serbian mobs attacked Army patrols in September 1997. Bolstered by commandos from France's Armee de l'Air (air force) and a sprinkling of US soldiers and sailors, the 352nd Special Operations Group, RAF Mildenhall, England, and the 16th Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field, Fla., comprise most of the joint task force.

Throughout 1998 AFSOC maintained a constant CSAR alert posture as part of Operation JOINT GUARD, with aircraft and personnel rotating from the 16 SOW and 352 SOG to San Vito, Italy on a routine basis. This role increased significantly in March 1999 during the crisis in Kosovo and Operation ALLIED FORCE. During the NATO air campaign to force Serbian forces from Kosovo, special operators conducted two successful CSAR operations to rescue downed American pilots.

The Air Force's new Theater Deployable Communications system made its first operational deployment during Operation Allied Force when it was used in an auxiliary role to extend communication assets in San Vito, Italy.

A defense contractor runs the San Vito Solar Observatory at San Vito dei Normanni Air Station, a former intelligence base that remains partly open for Balkan contingencies. Located 300 miles southeast of Rome, on Italy's boot heel, the observatory is one of six global sites in the Air Force's Solar Electro-Optical Network, which is strategically located worldwide to ensure 24-hour sun monitoring.

Organizationally under the 55th Space Weather Support Squadron, Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., the observatory operates seven days a week, 365 days a year. Its mission: reporting real-time solar events to the 55th, the Department of Defense's sole centralized space environmental forecast and warning unit, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Operation Center at Boulder, Colo. They, in turn, analyze information to predict solar and space environmental phenomena for nearly 500 organizations, including NASA, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Space Command and Air Force Space Command.

In December 2001 the United States Air Force Europe, 31st Contracting Squadron published a solicitation for the removal of antennae array at S. Vito dei Normanni Air station, Brindisi, Italy. The Contractor shall furnish all qualified manpower, services, materials, transportation, equipment and tools necessary for the removal/demolition of the antennas and related structures. The antennae array consists of an A and B band outer ring composed of tower emitters, a middle ring composed of A/B reflecting screens and an inner C/B ring composed of emitters and reflecting screens. Removal includes all hardware and materials that compose the antennae array. Furthermore the copper cables in the underground duct shall be removed and its two extremities shall be sealed by sturdy steel gates that will prevent unsupervised entry. Work below ground level are not required nor is work required on the round facility inside the antennae array. All materials resulting from demolition/removals shall become the property of the Contractor who shall sell or dispose these materials at his own expense and in strict observation of all host nation laws and regulations in force. At completion of work the site shall result totally clean and restored at ground level, with all materials and anything else of Contractor pertinence removed from S. Vito dei Normanni Air Station.

More than 2,000 years ago, the Roman empire converted Brindisi, Italy, from a sleepy fishing village into a major seaport and strategic military gateway. It was from there, on the boot-shaped country's coastal heel, that legionnaires roamed Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas to explore - and more often, to claim - much of northern Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans.

To reach Brindisi, sandal-clad foot soldiers marched in column style from Rome, traveling 350 miles along Via Appia (the Appian Way), one of Italy's original seven highways. Afterwards, they set sail for what is modern-day Greece, Macedonia, Egypt, Hungary and Bulgaria, maintaining Roman rule for centuries until expansion eventually crumbled the empire.

Today, other nomad warriors have gathered at this ancient road's end. Camped near rocky shorelines, they, too, stand ready to cross blue Adriatic waters. But unlike Roman soldiers of yore, they do so not to conquer but rather to ensure peace.



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