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Diyarbakir, Turkey, 1970 - 1971

Steve Slezak

2003-2011 by Author

During my days in Diyarbakir, with AFRTS, my radio shows were known for being "a little strange", I guess. Before my life in the military, I was a classical announcer, but knew as much, or more, about pop & rock music as the guys who came from rock-jock, I fit in just fine doing rock shows, but I may have over-compensated a bit.

I think people listened, not because of my magnificence, but to see what kind of weird stuff I'd come up with next.

Prior to one of my night shows, I'd gotten information that our new base commander was upgraded from lieutenant colonel to full colonel, or "full-bird", as it was known. This hadn't been made general knowledge, so I thought I'd give a little "scoop" on the fact. I mentioned this during my show and said " the next time you see Colonel....., give him a snappy salute, and make sure you ask him, 'How's your bird'?".

I got a call from the head of the Air Police a little later, to inform me that that was not a proper thing to do(the actual language has been deleted to protect the guilty). Perhaps he was right; I mulled this over in my head for a bit.



I found the names of some of the guys I was with while at AFRS, Diyarbakir. Perhaps they might stumble across themselves, if they're doing a bit of searching into their own pasts.

We began with TSGT Sault Fox & SSGT Nash Mares, as managers; the announcers were SGT Mike Gooley, SGT's. Charlie Davis, Mike Wolverton, and myself; A1C Dan Osburn. Later, we were joined by A1C's Dan Strizek and Len Ward, with TSGT Larry Malinowski & SSGT Donald King as station heads.

These were all great guys, a few of whom I have located. I have some air checks and spots from my time there, but the sound is not that good. I also have some complete concerts I taped of some of the wonderful British bands like The Kerrlees," who came 'way out of their way to help keep us sane. Then there was Bob Charles, the comedian who was with Trikkertree Fayre.

They will never be forgotten.

Steve Slezak

The next day, I was walking down toward the chow hall, and who would pop out from a building, right in front of me, but the base commander. Crossing the street would have been too obvious that I was trying to avoid him, so I just kept moving, as rapidly as possible. "Good morning, Sir", I said, giving him a snappy salute. "Good morning", he replied, as I kept truckin' along. I then heard his voice from behind me..."Sergeant Slezak, aren't you forgetting something?" My heart sank down into my left shoe about this time. "Sir?", I replied. "Aren't you going to ask me how my bird is?" Oh, God, I'm dead now. "Oh, he's looking very good up there", I said. "I think so too...carry on."

I lost no time travelin' along down that sidewalk.

It turned out that the commander listened to my shows pretty regularly, and enjoyed my pot-shots at the absurdities of the military, and my warped sense of humor. I lucked out on that one. I hope that I, and all the other guys who tried to bring you a bit of home, via our radio shows, had some success.

AN UPDATE 11/29/2005:

As I mentioned earlier, my stay in Diyarbakir was a mass of strange happenings, most of which I have never mentioned to more than a few people.

As you know, Diyarbakir could be a dangerous place, if you did the wrong thing, or were in the wrong place. While in the Air Force, I was stationed in Thailand, as well, which was a war zone. Getting mortared and shot at were not that big a deal there, however, I just about got done-in while in Diyarbakir.

I went to work at the radio station for my shift, as usual, which went into the night hours. Sirens going off, and a call from the Air Police informed me that the base was under attack from Kurdish bandits...the guys who looked like they were right out of a grade-B Arabian movie. They had come down in force, to steal copper out of the radar emplacements (from what I was told). The copper was sold downtown.

For some reason, I closed the sound-proofed studio door behind me that night, which I seldom did. Getting coordinates from the Air Police, I put out a few statements as to where the action was, etc. I heard firing; the AP's and Oscari shot or captured those involved.

My feeling that I should close the door that night was one I'm glad I acted on: the clinks I heard outside our building turned out to be three bullets, which had broken the window across from the door. We later found them embedded in the door...perfectly aligned with my position at the audio board. Had I not had the door closed, my head would have been severely air-conditioned that night.

I wound up being at work for 18 hours straight that day. I went back "home" very tired, but, considering the alternative, I was doing just fine.

My best to you all, who did so much more than we did during those days.
SSGT Steve Slezak
former AFRTS
Trabzon & Diyarbakir, Turkey(1970/71); & Ubon, Thailand

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