By Gary Hamm
© 2003-2011 by Author
My goal for this story is to give the highlights of my two tours at İncirlik, in a somewhat chronological order. Having looked at other contributors' memories, especially those with photographs from the past, I hope to be able to provide updated photos of the same places so everyone can see the changes that have taken place. In just the past 10 years there are now high rise apartments in the village, some over 10 stories tall. Adana has grown so large that there is no break between İncirlik and Adana anymore. A few of the businesses I saw in the old photos are still in operation, and though the gate has changed in appearance the same little shack is still right in the center, but now it is relegated to the American police and not the Turkish Air Force.
I have so many things that I want to share that I have asked to be able to contribute on the installment plan, with this being merely the first segment. As I tell my story I’ll provide photos to put faces and places that will hopefully help the story.
CLICK ANY PHOTO ON THIS PAGE TO VIEW ENLARGEMENT
On February 25th 1995 I landed at İncirlik AB, which was to my surprise green. I had expected it to be very arid and brown like Saudi Arabia had been but in the Adana area it is very green.
It was Saturday just about 12:30 in the afternoon when I got my “red stamp” orders finished and was able to leave the terminal. Meeting me there were two people who became very good friends over the course of my tour, Kevin and Lisa Cooke. Kevin, better known as “Cookie” was a Comm troop and Lisa worked in Supply with me. They took me to the Hodja Inn and got me settled in.
After a quick nap Cookie and Lisa were back to take me to the Alley. One of their friends, Emil (don’t remember his last name) was having a birthday party in a new club called Excalibur. This club was frequently on and off the off-limits list because of a running feud with Disco Nesim, (they faced each other across the street and liked to shoot at each other).
Anyone who’s been to İncirlik knows you can’t get on or off the base without a “gate pass”. So taking my red stamp orders and seemingly 45 other pieces of identification we proceeded to walk back and forth from the gate to Turkish Pass & ID until all was in order. Following a quick 30 second ride we were at the party. That was where I experienced my first Turkish food, and when I fell in love with it.
Tava, kebaps, and ekmek, who couldn’t live on them forever? I was so taken by the food here that I didn’t cook a meal in my house until November…of 1996! Why cook? For a couple of dollars I could get more food than I could eat and I didn’t have to wash dishes! My favorite restaurant was the Moonlight, its location right outside the gate made it a prime spot for me as I walked by it every day on the way home. But BP II and the Red Onion were also repeated recipients of my money.
In 1995 most people above the rank of E-4 lived off-base so that meant I had to find a place to live. I hate apartment hunting anyway and doing it in a foreign language was not something I was excited about. Fortunately for me I met Ernest Kelly , another recent arrival, who was looking for a roommate. We ended up renting the apartment his brother-in-law was living in on 5th Street (5 Sokak). Our landlord Ramazan Gecile worked, and still does, at the chow hall on base so he spoke English making life much easier for all of us. The 2 bedroom place was comfortable by Turkish standards and conveniently located, in fact I lived there my entire 27 months (through 2 roommates and a dog) without complaint. Not much of a view, unless you like modern Beirut for scenery.
Living in the Alley was a great experience and I would be living there during my current tour if they would let me. The sights and sounds of Turkey have to be experienced, it’s hard to explain to someone what a donkey cart with the “recyclers” (people who dig through your trash for plastic or aluminum) looks like. I wouldn’t trade living there for anything; it was a wonderful time (even though electricity seemed scarce at times).
I didn’t travel as much as I would have liked to but I did go to Konya to see the whirling Dervishes and spent some time at the beach. But mostly I hung out with my friends on and off base to make the time as enjoyable as possible.
When I left here on June 1st 1997 I was glad to be going but I knew I would miss the people I met here. Whether it was Turkish friends like Mustafa and Murat, brothers who still operate the Best Frame Shop just outside the gate, or American friends like Cookie, Lisa, Ernest, Buddy and Ed I would not have enjoyed my tour without them.
The biggest highlight of my first tour was meeting and marrying my wife Monica. Without her support and love my life would not be full, she is my soul mate and the joy of my life.
I’ve provided some photos of people and places I’ve mentioned throughout this story. There are too many people and too many pictures to list/show them all but each and every person I met during that tour I can remember and hopefully always will, they made İncirlik what it was, fun, and I miss them all.