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Lt. Col. Charlie Brown

Ankara

TUSLOG Headquarters

1986 - 1988

© 2014 by Author

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I was a Captain at TUSLOG Headquarters in Ankara, 1986-1988, Chief of Transportation.  We were at Balgat, (the tiny town none of the cab drivers were able to find).  [Balgat was in Çankaya, the central metropolitan district of Ankara.]

I was the Jewish Lay Leader at Ankara. As such it was my responsibility to organize the community Seder.  I went to see the head of the Israeli Legation in Ankara so that we could do a joint program.  When I pulled up outside the compound in an Air Force uniform, the Turkish askeriye (private) took one look at me and told me the American Embassy was five blocks, that way (and he pointed).  We stood arguing, he in Turkish, and me in English, until someone looked out of an upstairs window and called out to let me in.  He did and I went upstairs to meet with my contact.  It took less than 30 min, which for a Turk is not even enough time for a polite cup of tea, and so when I went back out the guard said, "I said you were in the wrong place; the American Embassy is over there."

When I arrived in Ankara, I found out that getting a phone was virtually impossible.  So what we would do when we wanted to get a group together to go shopping or sightseeing was to pick a time and a place to meet and wait 30 min.  If you were not there within 30 min we assumed something else had come up and you could not make it.  Often someone came racing up just as we were getting into cabs to go downtown, having missed "breakfast" of tea or coffee and baked goods but no one worried because as soon as you set foot into someone's shop you would be offered chai or soda and perhaps bread and cheese or Turkish pizza if it was close to lunchtime.

Because the electricity was so unpredictable, we were all issued Coleman stoves and lanterns and warned to keep flashlights and candles on hand at all times.  I had never been much of a camper and so the thought of cooking something on a Coleman stove wasn't very appealing.  We lived in an apartment so barbecuing wasn't really an option.  I found a better solution.  When the power went out in the evening before dinner was cooked I would go out on the terrace and look out at the city and see where the lights were on.  Then we would all get our things and go out to dinner in the section of the city that still had electricity.  We got to visit all sections of the city that way.

My son was five years old and he rode the school bus to the DoD school at Ankara.  Our wonderful maid would put him on the bus each morning and take him off each afternoon upon his return and give him his afternoon snacks.  One afternoon, she was waiting but he did not get off the bus.  We didn't have a phone, so she went to the landlady and called from her apartment.  I got the call that Matt (our son) had gone missing.  I went to the Transportation compound but was told the bus had not yet returned.  Two hours later, the bus that he was supposed to be on was still not back.  The military police were notified as were the Turkish police.  Everyone was out searching but no one knew if he was on the missing bus or if he had ever gotten on it at all.  Another hour went by and then a call; they located the bus (at the bus driver's home) and my son, who was having dinner with the children of the driver after playing soccer with them.  He'd fallen asleep on the bus, the driver took him home and was going to bring him back to school in the morning.  He was returned safely to us and we gave the driver a gift after reminding him that all children who were still on the bus at the end of the route were to be returned to the military compound.