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Larry Farmer

AFSC 304X0, Wideband Radio Maintenance Technician

Malatya Tropo

TUSLOG Det 179

(Near Erhaç Air Base)

1985 - 1986

© 2014 by Author

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Hey, my fellow military friends who served in Turkey.  I was at Malatya Tropo Site in 1985 on a 12 month remote assignment.  I got there in February 1985 and DOS back to the states Feb 1986.  I was stationed at the 728 TCS at Eglin AFB, Florida, working on TRC-97's line-of-site microwave radios, prior coming to the site.  The Malatya Tropo site was about 7,800 feet up on a mountain, if I remember right.  We shot communications from Eastern Turkey to Central Turkey via Tropo Scatter Radio, and a line-of-site down to Erhaç Air base near Malatya City.

When I left Florida in February 1985, it was warm, but when I got to Malatya Tropo, there was a snow blizzard and white out.  What a change - I knew I was in a mess then.  On a mountain top in the middle of nowhere, having to use snow tunnels to get from one building to another.  You can see in the pictures of the snow around the big Tropo antennas.  Man, I was lost as a goose.  My poor body was suffering the change of a life time.  I stepped out of the door of a snow tunnel with my Parker bundled up and immediately got lost.  There were two 60-ft antennas pointed toward Karataş about 270 miles away, and two 60-ft antennas pointed toward Diyarbakir, about 150 miles, linking up for the radio relay shots.  There was a line of site relay to Erhaç Air Base down the hill.  You can see the power plant on the right and snow tunnels down to the radio shop from the living quarters, and you can see one of the guard towers out on the perimeter.  The guards were never warm out there in the winter.  (Click on photos below to enlarge them.)

Malatya Tropo Photos

The "Mountain", Me, the CO's, and the Bartender

All the guys received a "brass/copper metal plate" with their names and their radio nicknames and year of their duty.  You got a nickname for radio security on the hand held radio we used when traveling around the site and off site, but also you got a nickname as a fun thing.  My nickname was ZERO.  We were called the Malatya Hillbillies.  As you counted your months till you left, you moved higher on the mountain till you were the one with the shortest time left.  The short timers were place on top of the mountain.

The photos show My CO, Captain Williams, and me getting to the top before we left the Hill for good.  You're given a nickname on your initiation night.  (That is another story I will post soon).  Here are some photos of me at the Malatya site.  The first photo shows the short timers mountain.  The second shows my CO and me getting our plates moved up. The third shows me standing between my CO and the Turkish CO. The fourth shows me standing with the bar Manager in the Club Room.

The Radio Building

The Radio Building housed the radio shop, admin shop, and supply room.  The building was a warehouse-looking building.  The first picture was me answering a call on the Erhaç Air Base patch bay.  The picture of the big open bay was the radio shed.  The building was built around vans.  You can see the tool section on the right and the Tropo radio vans on the back wall.  The Monitoring Room and Radio Office space had the Erhaç link and the switch board was separate from the tropo radio bay.  The picture with the table recessed between radio panels was the Karata#351 radio van.  The picture of recessed room is the High power radio to Diabakır, there were two of these vans.  The picture of the guy holding the phone, with glasses on, is Bruce.  I knew him from Tech school.  He is checking out a problem on the Erhaç relay.  The picture of a patch facility, has a clock in the upper left.  The picture of the orange board is the work area for the main switch board.

USO Shows

Anyone remember the USO shows?  We would get them sometimes.  Here are some pictures of a few of them.  We enjoyed them, especially the girls.  You went to work on 12 hour night shift usually by yourself for 4 days then 1 day off, then 4 days again.  The site was about one mile around.  Not much to do.  So we looked forward to anything.  We had singers, bands, magicians, and dancers come up the HILL.  We took a few of the groups on hikes in the hills nearby.  In the first picture you can see me falling in LOVE with a girl in a show.

Off the Site, Terrain, Caves

When we got the chance we would leave the site.  Your one day off, usually meant you went on the mail run to Erhaç Air Base.  Sometimes we went into town.  Other times we went exploring.  The first two photos show the Malatya Tropo Site from afar.  Look at the top of the ridge on the horizon.  We even took some of the USO show people with us - the second picture shows a USO couple overlooking a valley.  Look behind them on the horizon.  You will see the Malatya Site.  In the third picture you can see me in a turkish hat, tank top, shorts, and hiking boots in the mouth of a small cave.  The caves had sea life fossils, if anyone is interested in proving there was a flood with Noah's Ark in the Bible.  The caves were used by the shepherds for their sheep in the winter.

Newcomers Initiation

When you get to the site on your first day, they walk you around showing you the barracks and your room.  During your initiation, they get you to fill out a survey about yourself and what you like to eat and the special question:  What do you like to drink?  During Initiation Night, you got a big pitcher of the things you said you liked to drink, all mixed together.  You had to drink it and most people vomited during drinking it.  Mine was:  Water, milk, coffee, orange juice, tea, and beer.  I am proud I drank most of mine and didn't throw up.  All was in fun.  You were usually dressed in a costume and walked around with a bag over your head.  The last thing was a big bonfire outside.  There you were welcomed to the MALATYA HILLBILLIES.  During the initiation you was introduced to the picture of:  MR. "T", the monkey.  [Look at the first photo.]  You were informed that you would get the "T's", or the Turkey Trots.  You did get a bad stomach and you did sit on the pot a lot and it was green when it came out.  I had it so bad that at times I would eat my dinner tray sitting on the pot, because it would come out quickly.  Look at the picture of the tall guy with brown coat and the little guy in a Too-Too.  I am in the back ground cheering them on.  Look at the picture of the 2 guys with white hats on.  In front of them are throw up cans.  The picture of the camp fire is the last stage.  Look at one of the guys with a bag on his head.  All was in fun and you remember it and got your turn to do it to others.  The initiations where in the Club Room.

Turkish Roads

The roads were very dangerous.  The biggest vehicles ruled the road.  You would be driving along and look up and see two to three lanes of traffic coming at you and you just pulled off the road.  (Notice that there were no painted lines denoting where you were supposed to drive on the road.  The biggest and fiercest drove wherever they wanted.)  We drove an open air cargo truck for supplies and Chevy Suburbans for getting places.  When we went to İnçirlik, we would jump in the back of the cargo truck and ride 8 hours.  It went usually right after a night shift.  I would bundle up in a sleeping bag when it was cold, and sleep till we got there.  Later, when I was the driver, I always tried to drive 70 to 80 miles an hour to out run the wrecks.  I saw many a car and truck ran off the road due the attitude that the fiercest wins.  One time I picked up some new guys from Erhaç Air Base where everyone flies into.  We were going down the road kind of fast.  They looked real worried.  We came upon a Turkish Military Convoy coming at us and a pile of slow traffic in front of us.  I didn't like it one bit, so I split the traffic down the middle doing about 90.  I wasn't going to stay in that mess and get in a wreck.  I blew through the bottle neck and got out of there.  When we got up to the site, the news guys thought I was plain crazy.  I smiled at them and knew they would get crazy to, just like I did.  Look at the pictures and see a couple of guys getting in the back of the cargo truck.  Look at the type of traffic we drove in.

Me and Atatürk, TV Room/Library, Movie/Games Room, and Club

We were a big family that took care of each other.  We had no medical technician at the site.  Look at the bottom photo, you see a guy with crutches.  He fractured his shin bone.  He took a bottle of whisky, got into a Suburban, and was taken all the way to İnçerlic Hospital.  One guy got battery acid in his eyes and they rushed him down to Erhaç Air Base where there was a medical technician.  I had a hernia operation, got back to the site, and went on duty the same night.  My incision sprung a leak and I bled fluid and just lay on top of a desk till morning when I was taken down to the medical technician.

They used to fly the Turkish F-4 fighter/bombers over the site a couple of times a week.  They would come in low and fast, then turn up and away.  I ask what they were doing, and was told they were practicing bombing us.  The premise was if we were taken over by the bad guys, then they would kill us all to protect secrets.  The picture of me and the bust of Atatürk was in front of the barracks.  Look at the drawing of the site.  I did the best I could remember - 23 years ago is a long time.

You came into the gate and the Turkish Guard area was to the right.  The barracks was to the left.  The barracks ended into a tunnel that led to the great common area building.  The big common area was for a movie theater and game room.  Two smaller rooms had the club and the TV Room/Library.  The kitchen and eating area were behind the movie theater.  The pictures show these rooms except the kitchen area.  There was also a tunnel that led out to the driveway area.  The photos shows a bunch of guys watching a movie with some of the Turks.  There is a group picture in the club.  I am in front with a green shirt on and cowboy hat.  Another one in the club shows the guy with his crutches.  He broke his leg jumping off a table.  There is another group picture of our costume party.  Just look at the variety of costumes.  One picture show the TV/Library room with a guy on the couch.  There are two pictures of me in a Turkish outfit.  I am in the club room and with a Turkish guard.  Near the bottom there are two photos of long buildings:  The greenish-black one is the barracks and the other one is the snow tunnel.

Turkish People

The Turkish people were a great bunch of folks.  If I can find one of my photo albums, I will post some city shots of how normal Turks lived.

In the first picture you can see a man walking down the road.  You can see the humble desert surroundings.

The second picture shows a house in the distance.  Normally you would see sheep dung/manure stacked up next to the houses.  It is a desert region with no trees for firewood, so they used the manure to heat their homes and cook with.

The third picture shows a Turkish driver.  We could use a driver or drive ourselves.  We always had an armed guard with us.  We were very close to Syria.

The fourth picture shows 3 of the cooks from our chow hall.  We ate fairly well.  Sometimes we had special meals like lobster.  I was a food inspector as an extra duty.  I always had to check for cleanliness and use of soap to wash hands.

The fifth picture was our head kitchen service manager.  He was great to work with.  Like all Turks, he was proud of being a good worker.

The sixth picture is our command staff.  My Captain and a Senior Master Sergeant and the Turkish Major and E9 Sergeant.  The Turkish men had to serve 2 years active duty in the military.  I saw a guard who came into the country on his Father's business at age 25.  He had not done his mandatory 2 years service.  They got him at the airport coming in from another country.  He went right into basic training.

The seventh picture is the Turkish Chief Master Sergeant.

The eighth is the Turkish Master Sergeant.  They were all great to work for.  They did their best to help us.

The ninth through twelfth pictures shows the Americans and Turks eating in the Chow Hall.  A lot of the Americans did have stomach problems.  Very little though was from the food.  I was an Inspector for Health and Safety also - another extra duty.  I found out that the main cause of stomach problems was the minerals in the water.  It took some people 2 years for their bodies to adjust to the different mineral content.