© 2003-2011 by Author
I was stationed at Stead AFB, Reno, NV. prior to be sent to İncirlik and was assigned to a Helicopter Training Squadron, a small outfit and good duty. My notice of impending transfer to İncirlik came in late 1959 and I asked around, but nobody had ever heard of the place. I finally found it on the map and wondered what I was getting into.
The journey to Turkey began when I was sent to McGuire AFB, NJ to be shipped out. I should remind you, up front, that the only airplane I had ever seen - much less flown in - was a Piper Cub! So when I saw that C-121 sitting on the ramp I didn"t know what to think.
We took off for Lajes Field on Terceira Island in the Azores, and I spent the whole flight looking out the window thinking "thats a long way to swim." (Note: in 1970 I had been stationed in Korat, Thailand and we flew Ec-121R Connies, albeit highly modified. Go BATCATS!)
After Lajes we flew on to Rhein Main, Germany, then to Orly Field, in France and finally, to Istanbul, a beautiful city, but I didn't get to see it as I was quickly put on a THY F-27 for the flight to Adana in southeastern Turkey. (all THY pilots apparently thought they were fighter pilots...an interesting flight.) Once we landed and taxied to the terminal, I got off the airplane and the first thing I noticed was the smell. It wasn't a bad smell, but one I'll always remember. Thats when the line from the Wizard of Oz came to me, "we are not in Kansas anymore." Since I didn't speak Turkish, it took me a while to get to the base! Over time I did learn to speak Turkish very well, but, of course, after 50 some years now, I've now forgotten it.)
Upon signing in at the base, I was assigned quarters (a tent) my odyssey with İncirlik and Turkey began.
I was stationed at LTAG İncirlik (Further Info) from the latter part of 1959 to the middle part of 1961. What a tour!
When I first arrived on what everyone called Fly-and-Die airlines(THY) my senses were overwhelmed. Talk about a culture shock. I had read that there were places like Turkey in the world but to actually witness it first hand was an eye opener.
I arrived on base and was assigned to a tent. Later on I was moved to a quonset hut near the Base Exchange, and still later I was assigned a new barracks across from the chow hall. Speaking of which, the food there was pretty good, all except the milk, it had to be really cold to drink it.
I worked in Base Ops and really enjoyed it. Everyone went out of their way to help get me settled in. There were times when no aircraft were due, so I would tell the tower I was going to "check the runway" and would just drive around the field. At other times I worked my butt off; and sometimes I would go to TA, Transient Alert - the guys who go out on the runway in the "follow me" trucks to meet an aircraft and guide them to the parking pads. TAs arrange for refueling and any maintenance required, operating 24 hours a day - or I'd visit the tower and have any Ops calls transfered to their office while I was there. (no dial phones).
I have never known why, but I was picked to be on an Offensive Strategic Attack/Alert Team (OSAT). We were issued 30-calibre carbines and 30 rounds of ammunition. We kept these in the barracks (I had shot expert level with the same weapons in Basic). We were never really told what we were going to be doing. About once a month they would call an alert and we'd scurry to load up our weapons. We would then be taken to the foxholes which were spaced around the runways. Rumor had it we would prevent sabotage in case of hostilities, or, another rumor went there was an F-100 - rumored to have nukes onboard - on the end of the runway on an alert pad, and should an enemy attack we'd be on hand to create diversion, buying time to get the F-100 up and off the runway. We were lucky it never came to that. I don't think we could have held! Fortunately, none of those involved were shot during these rehearsal fiascos.
I would be remiss if I didn't say something about off-duty time: There was an Airmans Club, a bowling alley, theater, barbershop, library, and snack bar. I went to all of them. I will say this: with the amount of booze consumed, strangely, there were never any fights! The guys were pretty laid back, and, like them, I did my share to keep the breweries open.
I really enjoyed finding the Merhaba-USMilitary.com web site and will keep checking it! I'll send more as the cobwebs clear from my memory.