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From Sicily to CENTCOM

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Zachary Foster
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, Public Affairs

Born and raised in the picturesque village of Alia, Sicily, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Marco Guccione's journey from a small Mediterranean town to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility epitomizes the American Dream.

During his formative years in Alia, Guccione fully embraced his surroundings. Fluent in the local language and deeply connected to the vibrant culture, he laid the groundwork for his future endeavors. By age 25, he earned a degree in kinesiology and met the woman who would later become his wife.

Everything was going just as it should, but it was different from how Guccione pictured his future. Despite his accomplishments and deep roots in Sicily, Guccione found himself drawn to new horizons beyond his familiar Mediterranean surroundings.

"In 2015, my brother found a job for me in the States," Guccione said. "The job itself wasn't anything special but it was a chance for change."

Soon, Guccione worked in a warehouse alongside his brother, reconnecting with family members who had already made the move. The work wasn't exciting, but it was a start. He was in the Land of Opportunity and was determined not to let this chance slip through his fingers.

After working a few odd jobs, Guccione sat down with an old friend to redefine his goals. He had been in the U.S. for a few years but had not found the right fit.

"My friend was a recruiter for the [U.S.] Army at the time," Guccione said. "He recommended I take the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) just to see where I stand. It turns out I scored well with electronics, and before I knew it, I was off to basic training."

Guccione is no stranger to change. He knew basic training would be difficult. He knew he would face the same fundamental issues everyone else does; missing his family and friends is something every trainee has to overcome, but Guiccione had one more than everyone else.

"When I got to basic training I knew very little English," Guccione said. "That makes everything more difficult because all of the learning materials are in English, the instructors, the other trainees, everyone spoke this language that I didn't really understand."

Guccione had just a few short weeks to accomplish a task that many take years to do. He had no additional materials; he just had teammates willing to help.

"Practice. Practice. Practice,” Guiccione said. "Everything comes down to practice. I knew very little English when I first joined the Air Force, but the more I worked at it the quicker it came."

Before he knew it, Guccione not only knew the language but could leverage his bilingualism to advance his career.

After several assignments across different bases, Guccione finally found himself at Aviano Air Base in Italy, just a day's drive from his hometown. Here, his bilingual skills opened doors to new opportunities.

"My time in Aviano has been great," Guccione said. "It's been really incredible to talk with people in a more familiar language, and it's been helpful in facilitating communication between our Airmen and the local force."

Guccione's bilingual proficiency proved invaluable when a team of researchers from Washington D.C. arrived in Italy to search for WWII-era aircraft and evidence of POW/MIA casualties in the Pisa area. His ability to translate facilitated critical conversations with locals, making him a natural choice for the assignment recommended by his flight chief.

"Our first stop was to Pisa," Guccione said. "My role was to ask the old people if they remembered anything. They pointed us in every direction, and we went everywhere to see what we could find."

Guccione’s efforts laid the groundwork for a long-term project aimed at repatriating fallen veterans to their families.

Shortly after, Guccione was again called upon for this bilingual capabilities- this time at a deployed location.

Recently, the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing hosted a fleet of Italian Air Force assets on their way to Japan for Operation Indo-Pacific Jump 2024, which leverages the ITAF's global partnerships to advance the force's warfighting capabilities.

One stop on their journey to the Indo-Pacific region was an installation within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, where Guccione is deployed.

During the operation, Guccione used his familiar culture and language to advocate on behalf of the wing. His translations enabled ITAF personnel to carry out their mission better and the 379th AEW Airmen to facilitate.

"The pilots spoke English well, but everyone else had issues," Guccione said. "Small things like conversions to the imperial system for the quantity of fuel can have a significant impact if communicated incorrectly."

During Operation IPJ 2024, Guccione's role as the sole translator for ITAF planning and emergency procedures proved pivotal. His precision ensured seamless communication between international units, underscoring the mission's success.

Guccione continues to excel in bridging cultures and enhancing international cooperation, so he remains rooted in his Sicilian heritage. His journey from a small village to a pivotal translator in global missions is a testament to perseverance and the boundless opportunities within the U.S. Air Force.