© 2003-2011 by Author
In November, 1976, I was assigned to Karamursel Common Defense Installation (we also called it Mainsite, KARAMURSEL Air Station (though it had Navy, Army, and Marine Corps contingents as well). On the day I arrived at my first permanent duty station, I was greeted by my supervisor, Sgt. Cheryl Adams. I must admit, I was pretty abrasive after having to leave my family behind and taking a 17 hour, 4 stop airplane flight from JFK in New York. At the time, I thought that this was going to be the incarnation of hell on earth, but I was soon to find out otherwise!
My wife, Carol was still in New York and pregnant with our second child. Our oldest was only 18 months and there was no way they could join me at that time as accompanied tours for Airmen Basic were not authorized, but this, too, changed over time.
After getting settled in to the dormitory, I reported for duty at TUSLOG Det 48-6, 7025th Air Postal Squadron, and met all my co-workers. TSgt Norman Reese was the NCOIC, Sgt. Adams was in charge of administration, SrA Robert “Bama” Simpson worked the incoming mail, SSgt David Presser worked mail also, A1C Mike “Radar” Peterson also worked mail. I had a lot to learn about the embargo, postal policies, procedures, and of course, local customs.
As time went on, I began to completely enjoy myself at Karamursel. Some of the people I had gotten to know took me west of the base into the city of Yalova, and some of the other neighboring towns. I grew to love the food! The kabob, the Turkish bread, called ekmek, Efes Bira (beer), and even the Raki licorice-flavored knockout drops in a bottle! I guess the last two aren’t really food, but what the heck. I found the locals to be extremely friendly, outgoing, and tolerant of my foreign ways. That was almost the hardest adjustment to make, that I was now the foreigner. I took Turkish lessons and tried to fit in as best I could. Along the way, I met some very influential people who had a great impact on my life and my time at KCDI.
Despite the fact the base was set for closing, with the end of the cold war approaching, all the military and civilians assigned were positive, upbeat, and concerned for everyone else. It was a great experience for my first assignment. I met several people with whom I put together a Top-40 band in 1977: Sgt. Don Willing, Sgt. Cheryl Adams, SSgt Dave Ladrach, and some others whom - so many years later - I have to admit I can’t easily recall. We called ourselves Moonshadow and the Air Force was generous enough to provide us with transportation to remote hilltop sites around northwestern Turkey where we played gigs just like a Department of Defense or USO show.
For most of 1977, we packed up our Glue Goose with our instruments and other necessities and took off for such glamorous resorts as Eskisehir, Diyarbakir, Balikesehir, Izmir, and Cakmakli. We would get into a site and set up and then we would do a 90 minute gig. What a blast. I couldn’t believe the reception we got at every location, not to mention the bus rides through the winding mountain trails. Those drives were almost better than roller coasters! Turkish roads in the hill country were not built for an Air Force bus. Especially when there was two-way traffic.
My job at the Air Force Postal Office (APO) was to work the stamp window. At some point in time during my 18 months there, I must have seen everyone on that base! My most memorable moment came during the lifting of the package embargo in the winter of 1977. For 4 weeks, we took in more boxes and packages than I have ever seen in my life! For those who were there, you knew this was the only time you were going to get things out. I spent 72 hours working on getting all the packages sorted by destination, size, weight, and making sure the postage was affixed properly to try and meet this demand. I wasn’t assigned as a loadmaster, but boy could I build a pallet after that. Everybody helped out to make sure we got all our boxes out before the embargo was reinstated. It was creepy to see the Quonset hut we called our office filled to the ceiling with boxes waiting to be palletized and shipped out to Yalova and to be put on the C-130 to freedom.
Yalova air strip was another oddity. When the C-130’s would come in bringing the mail and supplies, they had to be pretty careful on the landing point or they would have problems with the runways sharp right to avoid the Marmara Sea. They always seemed to manage it, though.
We had a football team, fast pitch softball, an “L”-shaped bowling alley (that'll give you something to think about!), and so many other functions and activities that one could never be bored. I used to go to the Recreation Center (TSgt Les Simmons was NCOIC) and watch the movies on Friday nights, and after my wife and children had arrived, we played Bingo. I can’t remember an assignment since then where everybody really knew and supported each other. The community we shared there was truly special. From what began as a frightening and lonely experience, it became an assignment I will never forget.
I got to visit the Black Sea, Istanbul’s famous - and endless - Bazaar, the Seven Churches, visiting all the remote mountain sites, İnçirlik AB, Ankara, Adana, and too many others to name. There are a lot of places where I could have been stationed for my first assignment of my 20-year career, but this was the best!
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