Faces of Aviano; ITAF Women Making History

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy– In 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act into law, allowing women to serve in all branches of the U.S. military. That has allowed the opportunity for women to serve with different nations– including women within the Italian air force.

When we recognize Women's History Month, it is an opportunity to highlight the accomplishments and contributions of women throughout history and contemporary society. The 31st Fighter Wing celebrates Women's History Month alongside the Italian air force throughout the month of March with events such as a ruck march, luncheon, all-women's panel and more.

Oct. 20, 1999, a law was passed that allowed Italian female citizens to serve active-duty and other ranks of voluntary service in the military. One individual stationed here now, at Aviano AB, was one of the first Italian women to join the military, and the first in her career field.

"Women's History month is important for me, because I feel like I'm part of history," said Italian air force Chief Master Sgt. Chiara Melchionno, Italian air force Base Operations Center operator. "I'm one of the first women in Italy to join the military. I was the first woman in the command and control career field."

She originally enlisted as a cadet in the Italian Navy prior to the air force. Then Melchionno followed in her grandfather's footsteps and joined the Italian air force as a noncommissioned officer Oct. 23, 2001. She is the first woman in her family to serve and has been serving for approximately 20 years.

She has been a controller for 14 years, but switched to the operations center once she arrived to Aviano in 2017. During her day-to-day at the BOC, she manages all the 31st FW and U.S. Army Garrison Italy flight activities. The BOC is the focal point for Aviano because they track operations that happen within the base.

Melchionno had lots of opportunities to work alongside the U.S. Air Force and emphasizes the importance of the chances she received to improve herself professionally.

"I absolutely love it," Melchionno said. "It's a great opportunity to see how someone else works and it's a great opportunity to improve yourself professionally in and outside of work."

Security Forces is one of many career fields at Aviano that integrates U.S. Air Force and Italian air force members. ITAF Senior Airman Monica Dell'Aquila and Master Sgt. Cristina Deligia, Italian air force Security Forces Squadron force protection operators, guarantee the security of the installation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Deligia said she saw her father in uniform as a child and that pride she felt gave her the spark of inspiration to serve. She joined the Italian air force June 2, 2018 and arrived to Aviano July 2021.

"My father and grandfather were in the Italian Air Force," said Deligia. "Day-by-day I had the opportunity to see my father return home every day with his uniform and that gave me the passion to serve. He's an example for me."

Dell'Aquila said she enlisted March 17, 2008, when there weren't many women in the military. She was first stationed in Rome and followed the example and leadership of Italian women officers she'd encountered. She arrived to Aviano Air Base in 2013.

"It was great because I knew the first Italian officers, and they always gave me a good impression and a good example to follow," said Dell'Aquila. "They were always checking up on us and were always trying to give their best performance. They really tried to help us see a bright side even if there was no bright side."

Dell'Aquila says she works alongside U.S. Air Force members every day which provides an opportunity to share experiences and traditions with one another.

"I build relationships every day with the same people and that is so important," said Dell'Aquila. "In this way I also know a lot of cultures, a lot of American experiences that I would've never known if I didn't work with the U.S. Air Force."

Female military service members, no matter the nation, work alongside one another to defend their home land and remember what previous service members have done in the past and is part of what Women's History Month is all about.

"I think that it should be 24/7," said Melchionno. "It's a great way to celebrate, to remember women that made history, but we should remember that every day. We should appreciate what they did for us."
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