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William "Bill" Rodgers

Erzurum

TUSLOG Detachment 106

1965 - 1966

© 2014 by Author

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(My story may side track more than a little.  Looking at the stated goal of documenting the "Cold War" years, I would like to share my observations.)

I was born in 1946.  My father was "drafted" to his job during WW2.  He operated a "stiff leg crane" in a "Hadite (Haydite)/slag pit" near Orchard Park, N.Y.  (Hadite was a pre-cursor to asphalt and was used to pave early aircraft carriers.  He was severely ostracized by returning veterans and it left a great scar to his soul.  Had he left the job he would have been immediately drafted.  But it was deemed a war critical material and he stayed.  To further explain, there were a good number of G. I.'s that had been gone 2 years or more and returned to babies less than a year old.

My earliest memory from school was being totally upset that during an Elementary School pageant supporting "Get out the vote" my teacher placed me on Adlai Stevenson's "side of the fence" vs. Ike. My mother said, "Do what the teacher says, or stay home."  This was even though my parents were strong "Republican" supporters.  Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Truman were "dirty words" in our house.  Ike, deserving it or not, was a mythological beast/war hero.

In Orchard Park and Hamburg, N.Y., during the mid-50's there were Nike missile sites.  These were born out of the aftermath of the Berlin blockade and Korean War years.  It was thought Bethlehem Steel in Buffalo would be a "major target".  Local rumor even placed silos there. ?????  Such were the days ...

In Elementary School every Wednesday, at noon, the Air Raid sirens would go off.  At least once a month we would "duck and drop" under our desks for an "A-bomb drill".  "Better Dead than Red" was the popular chant of the time.  Nixon and McCarthy were in the news as they pursued "Red" sympathizers.

In 1960 my oldest brother joined the Marine Corp.  I think 2 things inspired him; the dress uniform and the fact we had a cousin in the Marine Corp that saw the tail end of the Korean War and participated in the 1958 Lebanon incursion. My brother wanted to "see" combat.  Long story short, he was "chained" to a desk at Camp Lejeune for 3 years as company clerk.  As close as he got to "combat" was a "mount out" during the Cuban missile crisis. My 2nd oldest brother joined the Marine Corp in hopes of duplicating his brother's effort.  He finished his enlistment transporting body bags back from Vietnam.

Two visits to Parris Island for their "graduations" convinced me the Corp was not for me.  My 2nd oldest brother's D.I. was a "maniac" even on graduation day.

My parents and the remaining 3 members of the family moved to Florida in 1961 while the older brothers were in the Corp.  We settled south of Sanford nearer to Longwood.  Our subdivision was a bedroom community near the Sanford NAS.  Our immediate neighbor was a Navy Chief who became a life long friend.

During the fall of 1962 there was a flurry of activity associated with the Cuban missile crisis.  None of the Navy guys were talking, but you could tell by the lack of smiles that things were serious.  We were between Sanford NAS and McCoy AFB which was mainly a B52 base.  (A U-2 would often take off right behind a 52 and people would never see it.)

As part of the "build-up", local Civil Defense started installing air raid sirens in the outlying areas around the bases.  About the same time a number of service men started moving their wives and babies back home to live with the in-laws, as they knew if war started it would be a long one.  Between the sirens and the families evacuating, a number of local people panicked.  "We were a target because of the bases".

It was on T.V.  A number of people ripped the trunk lids off their vehicles and piled the rear full of every thing they could as they fled.  Most, sheepishly, returned a few days later.  Our family saw the panic over the sirens as humorous as we had lived with it ever since WW2.

There are other comments here, on this web site, about the events of the day.  It was as close as you could get without going over the brink.  Ships and planes were being loaded.  Convoys were being assembled.  My brother said he had packed his duffel bag and had been put on notice to head to the port.

1964 was my graduation and the year my father died.  My family had sustained heavy financial debts associated with my father's hospital stay (open heart surgery).  College was never a consideration.  I had participated in an Electronic Technology Vocational Ed program at our school.  I knew that there weren't any great opportunities in manufacturing as that was where my mother was working for 25 cents above minimum wage.

Recruiters were visiting the school.  Vietnam was starting to heat up.  I had already eliminated the Marine Corp.  My Navy Chief neighbor kept pushing me, "Go Navy".  He kept making all kinds of promises about programs he could help me get into.

The Navy probably had the best training program with their A & B schools.  But I was totally claustrophobic about being stuck on a ship for 6 months at a time, with no escape from the environment.  I considered the Army as they had quite a missile program at the time.  But in the back corner of my mind I still equated the Army with the draft.  Plus what was common during that time was that judges often gave a young offender a choice, "Go to jail or join the Army."

I had talked with various former students who returned in uniform.  The general consensus was that the recruiter would tell you anything and there were no guarantees.  The Air Force Recruiter said we could enlist for guaranteed assignment locale or guaranteed vocation, with it in writing that we could pursue a discharge otherwise.  (The catch was:  Having passed the physical you were on a fast track to be drafted).

To get the guaranteed vocation we would have to take a battery of tests.  Five of us went down and tested.  Four of us did well enough to get our guarantee.  Three of us did extremely well in Electronics.  Three of us signed up with the stipulation that the only other consideration was passing the physical.  Two of us were departing the same day, 1 week after graduation.

We chuckled quite a bit about going to the Army Test Center at Jacksonville Naval Air Station to "join" the Air Force.  We stayed at a seedy hotel across from the Greyhound station.  The elevator operator wanted to know if we were looking for some girls.  Most of us, except for the former service members, declined.

We went thru the physical as a herd.  When they said, "Drop your drawers, bend over and spread your cheeks" everyone got a good laugh.  A number had to move their hands.  We had finished and were waiting for the officer to arrive to "swear us in".  An announcement came over the P.A., "If your name is called report to the front desk."  My name was called.  I went up to the desk and they gave me a voucher for a bus ticket and told me to go home.  "Why?" I asked.  "We are processing 500 people today, no time to answer questions, contact your recruiter" was the response.

All the way home I thought about the fact my father had just died from heart problems.  This had been the most complete physical I'd ever had.  They had to have spotted a "problem".  For 3 weeks I antagonized my recruiter to "find out why".  One day he called me laughing, "You need glasses."  A month later another trip to Jacksonville, a visit to an optometrist who issued me glasses, and a month later I was on my way.

I arrived at Lackland AFB during the night (3 a.m.) August 23, 1964 to begin Basic.  The T.I. had us fall out next to the bunks for assignment.  He told us to take 2 steps back.  Bang!  I knocked a water filled butt can off the post between the bunks.  (I'm sure this happened fairly frequently.)  "Gentlemen, we have our 1st volunteer for latrine detail."  I was devastated, sure that I had been marked as a screw-up.  I was assigned to wipe down the stainless steel walls of the showers after the morning routine.  While I was doing this, the rest of the detail was policing the area picking up cigarette butts.  (Which, as a non smoker I would have hated!)  Plus I got to "straggle" to the morning formation.  I decided that, "Hey, It's not so bad, everything is a matter of perspective."

In the 4th week we "retested" for our training vs available slots.  We then received "dream sheets" which gave us a choice of 4 different vocations.  Mine were:  Non Morse Intercept Operator, AC&W Operator, Air Force Motion Picture Services, and Radio Relay Equipment Repairman.  "Operator" told me it wasn't electronics.  Motion picture services could have been anything from processing film off of aircraft to running the base theater.  So Radio Relay Equipment Repairman it was.  I signed on the dotted line.  As it was almost a year long school, I was fast tracked to Tech school at Keesler AFB.  I would complete basic training at Keesler.

There were 2 areas to Keesler; the Triangle which was I type barracks and the old "refurbed" WW2 barracks.  I was assigned to the 3410th in the old area.  The Squadron was split, ½ Americans and ½ Iranian students.  Surprisingly, we had very little contact with the Iranians, language being the main barrier.  They did provide us with a few laughs as they tried to use the porcelain sinks for grills, etc.

For the 1st 12 weeks I was going to Tech school 6 hrs a day, Phase 2 Basic 4 hrs a day.  Factor in marching times and mess call and our days went by rather rapidly.  Weekends we could go into Biloxi.  I remember there was a pizza joint just outside our gate that got put off limits as they were putting cat food on pizzas.  The other big entertainment was watching 18-20 year old guys hitting on 52 year-old B girls.  This was the 1964-65 timeframe.  Upon completion of Basic I got my 1st stripe.  Upon completion of Tech school, the 2nd.

The 1st half of tech school was basic Electronics.  The remainder was TRC-24 Microwave, and TCC-3 & TCC-7 VFTG Multiplexers.  It was the best training I received on equipment I almost never had to work on.  In my time in the field I got to troubleshoot one problem.  With the routine maintenance cycle it just ran day in and day out.  I'm sure having reliable main base power was a factor also.

The next to the last week of Tech school we got our assignments.  I had asked for France or Germany.  The whole class of about 15 people, with the exception of a Major's son, got Turkey.  The Major's son got Embassy Duty, Belgium.  Don't you know he was a popular guy the last week of school?  I drew İnçirlik AFB.

Took my 1st leave home, to Central Florida, prior to deploying.  Funny, but true, I always had a hard time tracking my leave time.  I had a "standing" weekend pass the last 2 years I was in.  (I had 3 weeks on the books when discharged.)  As I recall, I then flew into LaGuardia for the overseas flight.  I met up with a group of Air Force enlisted men headed in the same direction.  One, was a Tech Sergeant, Crypto type, headed to İnçirlik.

So I had coat tails to cling to.  It was my 1st flight "across-the-pond" on a Pan Am 707.  About 800 miles out from Paris, I noticed the Tech Sergeant and his buddy clinging to the window.  I asked him, "What's going on?"  "Flames are shooting back from the inboard engine," was his response.  The engine was shut down and we limped into Paris.  Net result was we had missed all interconnecting flights.  Pan Am picked up all food and drinks until we were "rescheduled" much later in the day.

Can't remember the exact itinerary but we bounced around on interconnecting flights and at least 1 military flight and ended up in Adana.  If the Tech Sgt. hadn't been there I don't think I would have made it.  I just kept following the stripes.  We caught a "Blue Bus" driven by a Turk to the base.  We were dumped at a "transient Quonset hut" barracks at one end of the runway.  Sleep came very fast as we had been up for almost 2 days straight.

My Tech Sgt buddy was made NCOIC of the Quonset hut.  There were about 20 of us, mostly 2-and 3-stripers, and 1 or 2 4-stripers.  Make your bunk, clean up your mess in the latrine and we will all get along was the order of the day.  We were way out in right field and nobody bothered us.  I lived there for at least a month.  Being so close to the runway provided its own thrills.  The B-47s were being phased out at the time.  We used to watch them struggle to clear the fence without "blowing JATO bottles".  More than once, we saw one pop a drogue chute shortly after take off.  It may have been part of the phase out.  The Quonset hut was open bay, but we all seemed to get along.  Nobody, regardless of rank, gave any of the others any cause for concern.  Lights out and all was quiet.  A "home" environment and routine was established.

One of the 1st "in-processing" steps was the VD films.  The stories and pictures are still burned into my brain and were effective.  There have been mentions of the Pavyons, but none of the Kerhane ("Compound") in others' stories.  The Kerhane was basically a debtors' prison/brothel where a farmer could put his wife or daughter to work off his debt.  Word at that time was the girl got a dollar and the government got a dollar for operating it.  Every once in a while it was rumored that German girls had "checked in", working their way down to Beirut which was the oil men's Mecca in those days.  The films kept me from wanting to partake.  Still remember the elephantiasis scenes.

Settled in to the MUX shop.  We operated and maintained Microwave links to the Tropospheric Scatter Sites and a short haul circuit to Iskenderun.  Local voice comm circuits to Athens, Ankara, and Wiesbaden were maintained.  Voice frequency teletype circuits were the main activity.  I had a very good NCOIC and shift supervisor.  Only thing bad was we were operating a rotating shift pattern -- 3 swings, 3 mids, 3 days, & 2 ½ off.

Started on my "5" level training and concentrated on it.  Knocked out the correspondence course portion of it in 3 months.  All that remained was "hands on" and sign-off by my training NCOIC.  I was very happy with my shop & job; it was almost like a civilian job.

Because of the rotating shift and the fact that the base had to hire 1 Turk for every G.I., there were very few details.  C.Q. duty, being runner for the Officer of the day on weekends was most common.  The worst part of C.Q. duty was having to take a meal to an Airman that was serving a sentence in the local prison.  The rumor was he was drunk and hit a Turk pedestrian, and then deliberately tried to "finish him off", as it was said it was better to kill someone than injure someone.  If you crippled someone you had to support them for the rest of his or her life.  The Airman got stuck in a cotton field and later a Turkish prison.  The prison was not a pleasant experience.  You were driven there by a Turk driver.  Then you had to walk the courtyard full of low risk prisoners "begging" for food.  If imprisoned, you had to make arrangement with someone on the outside to get food.  Then, upon release, you were obligated to perform labor for your benefactor, plus you had obligations to the victim.  I couldn't get out of there fast enough.  The Airman was more or less "in a daze" and very little conversation was conducted.

That was when I received my 1st TDY out of my AFSC (career field).  Our Base supported an Air Force Comm Det at Erzurum.  It was supposed to be a "back-up" circuit, but in reality, for the most part, was "prime".  The Army always wanted our "copy" on the one circuit.  Short & sweet.  I could be sent on one 90 day TDY while in training for my "5" level, which was critical for my next promotion to occur.  So off to Erzurum it was.

A C130 hop to Ankara, a taxi ride to the train station, and a 2 day ride in a Wagon Lits compartment to the Erzurum train station.  Every time I dozed off while on the train ride 2 or 3 beggars or Turk soldiers would enter my compartment and huddle for warmth on the floor.  Their accommodations were unheated.  Every time the conductor saw I was awake he would clear them out of my compartment.  One Turk NCO asked me to inspect his pistol.  I pulled back the slide and saw he had a round chambered.  "Cok Guzel" I told him and handed it back.  He then asked me where my gun was.  I told him we didn't have guns, but had bombers to blow up trains with.  He smiled and nodded and left me alone till the conductor came by again.

I was met at the station by an Army NCO and 2 interpreters.  The joke (?) was that 2 interpreters were required to serve downtown Erzurum at that time.  One to speak English and one to speak Turkish.  The rumor was that an American mess Sgt had been knifed asking about peaches . . . "peach" roughly translates to "bastard" in Turkish.  There was no hint of any tourism in late 65- early 66.  Just the Turkish Army, beggars, and herdsmen everywhere.

I reported to Air Force Det. 106.  The staff was an NCOIC (Msgt), an E-4, and 3 E-3's.  One of the E-3's departed shortly after my arrival.  I trained for about a week, learning how to tune the Collins Radio KWM2A's and proper radio procedures for Voice Comm.  I was assigned a room in the NCO barracks.  This was the only point of grief that I ever experienced from the Army troops.  All E-4 and below were assigned to open bay barracks.  It was part of site agreement that established our detachment.  Any time anyone got too vocal about it we would tell them, "Fix your comm problems and you'll have 4 empty rooms."  For the most part we didn't interface with the Army enlisted that much.

It was mostly an issue with 2 NCO's and one Captain.  I wasn't impacted by it very much anyways, as I was assigned to Mid shift.  I was asleep while they were on duty.  The NCO barracks was heated by a Korean vintage "drip" fuel oil heater.  Whenever you woke up your nose was caked with soot and there was an oily smudge on the walls.  Some people tried to paint their rooms, but the latex paint just peeled off in patches later because of the oily residue.

The mess hall was the main central activity of the day.  Because of my late shift, my meals were typically off schedule leftovers with very few other people around.  The "cook", a guy from Brooklyn as I recall, failed out of motor pool I believe.  There was very low variety, a lot of stew, beans, and hot dogs.  Needless to say he didn't receive many compliments, but he was willing to try.  I convinced him to attempt to make pizza.  He said he didn't know how to assemble a pizza.  I told him, "You make the dough,  I'll help you with the rest."  I cut up some breakfast sausage, mixed 2 cans of tomato paste with a large bottle of ketchup, some thin-sliced Velveeta.  I looked over at him and saw he was "rolling out" the dough.  I asked him, "What's this?"  He looked at me and said, "Pie dough . . pizza's a pie . . right? "  I informed him biscuit dough would have been better.  We were too far along and so threw it together.  There weren't any compliments . . . but all was eaten.  Just shows you how desperate we were for variety.

Wild dog packs roamed the site at night.  The Comm Shack was next to the Mess Hall.  The food odors were the main attraction.  We had 2 Camp dogs that stayed close to the troops.  A sign that the dog packs were close by was I'd find the one, Charley Belle, close to the Comm Shack doorstep late at night.  If I had to start the back-up generator at night I carried a loaded 45 while doing it.  One night I saw about 20 sets of eyes in the distance under the flashlight.

The NCO Club was the main afterhours activity.  The base "Rec" funds were mainly utilized to subsidize the prices.  As I recall, it was 10 cent beers and quarter doubles of liquor.  There was a bigger variety of liquor than beer.  Main thing I remember is the Army NCO's trying to hustle the enlisted in poker games.  I think there was 1 pool table and 1 ping pong table.  ? ?

Other site recreational activities were hiking and snow skiing.  Funniest thing was I  was "taught" to snow ski by a fellow Floridian, Bob Knight, an Army Specialist from Kissimmee, Florida.  William Bayne was a fellow Airman.  We hiked all over the hills and mountains behind the site.  We always carried a 22 rifle for "show" as it was common to "run into" Kurdish tribesmen in the valley.  Luckily every time we saw them they were on the far side of the valley.  We'd both raised our rifle in the "I've got mine" salute and keep trekking on.

The TDY was completed uneventfully and I beat a fast path back to base.  The Army offered to arrange a 5 day R&R delay in Ankara near the Club Strip.  I passed on it as I was anxious to get back to base and get back in the groove working on my "5" level.

I was back at İnçirlik not quite a month when I was informed by my NCOIC that I specifically had been requested for another TDY to Erzurum.  I reminded him of the rule that I could only be sent on 1 90 day TDY while in training for my "5" level.  He said I should discuss that fact with the detachment Maintenance Officer, a 1st Lieutenant.  Upon explaining it to him, he became totally confrontational.  "Are you telling me you are refusing a direct order ?", he asked.  "No," I replied, "I'm just reminding you of the rules."  He then repeated the question, "Are you refusing a direct order?"  "No," I said.  I went back to the shop and discussed it with my training NCOIC.  He went over to see the 1st Lieutenant.  When he came back it was obvious that he had received the same stone wall.  He told me to take the TDY, but that it wasn't over yet, as the Det Commander, a Colonel, was "out of town", hence why the Lieutenant was feeling so powerful.

Arrived back in Erzurum, things had changed.  The Master Sgt had rotated back to the U.S. on emergency medical leave, I believe.  The E-4 was the site commander.  He had requested me as he knew I would "come up to speed" the fastest.

Settled back into the work routine again.  The E-4 warned me the Army Capt'n was "feeling his oats" now that an E-4 was in charge.  The following week the Capt'n told us that the Air Force Enlisted would stand "Open Ranks" inspections with the Army Personnel starting the following week.  The Thursday before the inspection we received an encrypted "Go To War" message for the Army.  Normally we hand copied it and walked it over to the Army CQ.  This time the E-4 patched it onto the Turkish Army phone lines going to the Army CQ, while we copied it.  A few minutes later the CQ came over shouting, "Did you copy it!  Did you copy it?"  "Yes," the E-4 said,"this time we did, but inform the Capt'n from now on all we are required to do per the site document is Phone patches".  "See you next week at the inspections."  Needless to say we didn't have to stand inspections and the Capt'n learned not all E-4's are dummies.

Not much else of consequence happened during my 2nd TDY except one event.  We went thru hourly site authentication call-outs.  We would be challenge to respond to encoded call-out.  Due to power failure or radio failures it was not unusual, though infrequent, for a site to be unreachable for an event.  It also helped us to keep from falling asleep.  One night, one of the more remote sites missed 2 of these call-outs.  When he came back on the air, the master station inquired as to his failure to respond.  The response was, "I fell asleep."  The master station responded, "Negative copy your last.  Say the nature of your failure."  Again his response, " Sir, I fell asleep."  It was pretty obvious to the rest of us . . . somebody wanted off a remote site.

Completed my 2nd 90 day TDY.  This time I took the Army up on the R&R stop in Ankara.  Stayed in 3-star Hotel near the strip.  There were "hot & cold" running house girls.  But the movies were still burnt into my memory.  There was a blonde who spoke good English, loved to play poker, but preferred her payoffs in Elvis Presley records.  Three Elvis Presley records from the Exchange kept me entertained for a week.

Finally caught a C-130 hop back to İnçirlik.  Flight was totally turbulent and the Crew Chief kept jumping up & down on the ramp in flight, as it wouldn't close.  Arrived back At İnçirlik green at the gills.  Reported back in Monday 8 a.m.  NCOIC said, "You're to report to the Colonel's office at 9 a.m."  I asked him, "What's going on ?"  "Not a clue," was his response.  My training NCOIC  came in . . . he was in dress blues for the 1st time I'd ever seen him.  He looked at me & smiled, "Not to worry," he said.

At 9 a.m. I reported to the Colonel's office.  In the lobby, there sat the 1st Lieutenant, looking very scared, and my training NCOIC smiling.  I was called in first and asked to explain to the Colonel what had transpired prior to my 2nd TDY.  Gave him the story verbatim from the "Get-go".  I was told to "forget about it and move on.  Went back to the shop.  The training NCOIC returned about 2 hours later.  He looked at me and smiled and said, " You will make E-4 before he makes Capt'n."

Looking back on it now, many years later . . . had it not been a "bully boy" situation and if it had been explained as the emergency situation that it was . . . I think things would have turned out differently. But it boiled down to, "I say "Jump", you 'will' jump".

The Lieutenant made one feeble attempt to harass me afterwards.  He about filled his drawers a week later when he saw me walking into the headquarters bldg.  I was reporting for CQ duty. Looking back on it, it probably had very little impact on me making E-4.  Two events were taking place.  Blacks were being fast tracked for promotion to right past wrongs and people serving in Viet Nam were being "fast tracked".  I made E-4 somewhere around Mar '67.  Three years almost in the Air Force, typical for AFCS at the time.

The one effect of my two TDY's to Erzurum that I regretted most was when it came time to depart Turkey, they wouldn't grant me another overseas assignment .... not even Vietnam, as I had spent more than 90 days on an "isolated remote" assignment. I had to return to the CONUS.

Click any photo for enlargement

Main Street of the Base/Site.  I was in the Air Force at a Comm. Det. at a US Army Weapons Depot on a Turkish Army Base.

 

Erzurum

March '66-Up the hill was the Army Weapons Depot/Bunkers.  Never could get the generator in the foreground to start.

 

Erzurum

March '66-Air Force Comm shack on right.  Army Comm van in background.


Right to Left:  Command Shack, Officers' Quarters, & NCO Quarters.

 

Erzurum

Charley-Belle, one of the camp dogs.

 

Erzurum

The Four Florida Boys on the site.  Bob Knight center left, me center right.


The terrain we hiked through to get to the gun sites behind the base.

 

Erzurum

Gun sites were staggered along the valley.

 

Erzurum

Turkish gun sites.  Sheep herders would corral lambs inside during summer grazing.


March '66-Me sitting on edge of gun site filled with melting snow. 

 

Erzurum

Me in a Turkish gun site.  Erzurum had not discovered tourism yet.  The gun sites were neglected.

 

Erzurum

Ottoman gun emplacement, circa early 1900's.


Airman Bayne and SP4 Robert Knight in front of Command Shack. 

 

Erzurum

Airman William Bayne, my hiking buddy.

 

Erzurum

Mess Hall/Dining Facility.

Just for "yucks", here is my W-2 Wages and Tax Statement for my 1966 E-3 income while in Turkey.