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USS Bataan Welcomes Aboard Italian Harrier

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS120117-01

From Bataan Amphibious Ready Group Public Affairs

USS BATAAN, At sea (NNS) -- A few hours after transiting the Strait of Messina, multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) welcomed an Italian AV-8B Harrier on board Jan. 13.

Bataan will assist in transporting the Italian Harrier, assigned to the Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati "Wolves" based in Grottaglia, Italy, to the depot repair facility at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, N.C., where the aircraft will receive scheduled maintenance.

"The Harrier is scheduled for a periodic maintenance interval (PMI)," said Italian Master Chief Roberto Avantaggiato, who is accompanying the aircraft with a team of four maintenance men.

The PMI is determined based on factors such as the number of flight hours and the age of the aircraft and helps ensure that the Harriers stay ready and in good condition, said Avantaggiato.

The coordination, team work, and logistics involved in getting the Italian Harrier to the depot repair facility reflects the close partnership between the U.S. and Italian militaries, said Marine Capt. Chris Kennedy, a U.S. Harrier pilot who flew the Harrier to Bataan and who is stationed with the Wolves as part of a two-year exchange program.

The only American in a squadron with 150 personnel, 20 pilots, and 16 Harriers, Kennedy said his past nine months with the Wolves have been rewarding.

"They are a fantastic group to work with and they have a great deal of experience as a result of there being only one Italian Harrier squadron," said Kennedy. "They made me, my wife, and our four-month-old son feel very welcomed."

The squadron recently completed amphibious exercise Mare Aperto ("Open Seas") with Italian amphibious ship ITS Cavour in November.

Due to the similarity between Italian and U.S. Harriers, no additional training was required for Kennedy to join the Wolves beyond six months of Italian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey.

Although Kennedy values the language training, he believes that it was most beneficial in helping his wife, Theresa - who attended classes with him - feel comfortable in the host country. Since their arrival, he and his family have enjoyed their first experience living abroad and the ease of exploring other countries in Europe.

"This has been an incredible opportunity," said Kennedy.

Kennedy will fly the Italian Harrier to MCAS Cherry Point after the Bataan's trans-Atlantic crossing before returning to Italy to rejoin the Wolves.

The Bataan is the command ship of the Bataan Amphibious Ready group (ARG) and deployed from her homeport of Norfolk, Va., March 23. The Bataan has spent the past nine and a half months supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.

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