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An Italian homecoming: Airman returns to roots

DECIMOMANNU AIR BASE, Italy -- Staff Sgt. David Flick, 48th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, trains Italian military firefighters on F-15E Strike Eagle emergency procedures at Decimomannu Air Base, Italy, Feb. 3. Originally from Italy, Sergeant Flick deployed to the Italian island of Sardinia with the 494th Fighter Squadron to help train firefighters for a week. Due to his Italian language expertise, he stayed for the entire training exercise to work as an interpreter. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Megan P. Lyon)

DECIMOMANNU AIR BASE, Italy -- Staff Sgt. David Flick, 48th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, trains Italian military firefighters on F-15E Strike Eagle emergency procedures at Decimomannu Air Base, Italy, Feb. 3. Originally from Italy, Sergeant Flick deployed to the Italian island of Sardinia with the 494th Fighter Squadron to help train firefighters for a week. Due to his Italian language expertise, he stayed for the entire training exercise to work as an interpreter. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Megan P. Lyon)

DECIMOMANNU AIR BASE, Italy -- Staff Sgt. David Flick, 48th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, trains Italian military firefighters on F-15E Strike Eagle emergency procedures at Decimomannu Air Base, Italy, Feb. 3. Originally from Italy, Sergeant Flick deployed to the Italian island of Sardinia with the 494th Fighter Squadron to help train firefighters for a week. Due to his Italian language expertise, he stayed for the entire training exercise to work as an interpreter. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Megan P. Lyon)

DECIMOMANNU AIR BASE, Italy -- Staff Sgt. David Flick, 48th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, trains Italian military firefighters on F-15E Strike Eagle emergency procedures at Decimomannu Air Base, Italy, Feb. 3. Originally from Italy, Sergeant Flick deployed to the Italian island of Sardinia with the 494th Fighter Squadron to help train firefighters for a week. Due to his Italian language expertise, he stayed for the entire training exercise to work as an interpreter. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Megan P. Lyon)

DECIMOMANNU AIR BASE, Sardinia -- When Staff Sgt. Daniel Flick traveled to Decimomannu Air Base on the Italian island of Sardinia to train local firefighters, a hidden talent soon made him invaluable to local leadership.

He spoke Italian like a local, because he is one.

"I was born in Milan and raised in Aviano," said Sergeant Flick, a firefighter with the 48th Civil Engineer Squadron. "My father served for four years in the military. His last duty station was at Aviano (AB)."

His father left the military but never left Italy. After marrying an Italian woman, he and his new wife settled down in the area outside the air base to raise their family.

"I went to Italian schools," said Sergeant Flick. "Italian is my first language."

Though he grew up near the base, he didn't interact much with the American personnel stationed there. It wasn't until later in his life that he began to think about joining the American military.

"In Italy if you were born before 1986, you have to serve in the military," said Sergeant Flick. "I had a choice between the Italian military and the American military."

After talking to a recruiter on Aviano AB, Sergeant Flick decided to join the U.S. Air Force as a firefighter.

Even with an American father, traveling to America for basic training was a culture shock.
"It was a complete change in culture," he added.

After completing training, he was stationed at numerous bases before arriving at the 48th Fighter Wing, RAF Lakenheath, England. It was there he had the opportunity to travel back to Italy on a training mission. Though he was originally scheduled to be on Sardinia for a week, Sergeant Flick stayed longer to act as a liaison and interpreter.

Though many of the Italian base personnel were surprised to find an American speaking fluent Italian, they quickly found Sergeant Flick indispensable.

"They don't expect that, but they like it," he said. "They know things won't get lost in translation."

In the end, it was the day-to-day operations Sergeant Flick impacted the most.
"From day one Sergeant Flick was the key to success for every logistical aspect of this unit training deployment," said Capt. Michelle Ostrander, 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron director of operations. "In one way or another, he aided every functional unit from the 48th FW on this deployment with his translation expertise."

During his time in Sardinia, Sergeant Flick coordinated with Sardinian and Italian customs officials, base security and force support personnel. He also worked hand-in-hand with commercial carriers and their drivers as well as local merchants to obtain needed supplies and services, she added.

Additionally, he continued training Italian military firefighters on aircraft emergency procedures.

"Without his (ability) we couldn't have got the job done," added Captain Ostrander. "Personally, I would not have been able to support the mission without his daily assistance."