Safe and Sound at Incirlik

With recent events in the news, I guess it’s normal for friends and family to be concerned about us here at Incirlik:

Incirlik is close to Syria

Through the lens of the news, this rectangle view looks scary.

Then, as I scroll through the Incirlik spouse Facebook groups, I see more and more often the questions pop up, “Should I bring my family to Incirlik?  Do you feel safe?  Do you feel trapped?  Are you worried?”  It’s understandable that people are asking these questions, I asked the same ones.

When my husband came home and said we were going to Turkey, I’ll admit I had to go get the globe.  I will also admit that when I saw where on the globe Turkey is located…  I might have  questioned my husband’s judgment.  “RYAN!!!!!  LOOK AT THIS!”  I yelled.  “Are you sure it’s safe to go to Turkey?”

Map of Turkey in the World

Look at those countries surrounding Turkey!

“Honey,” he replied in his most I’m trying not to be patronizing voice, “If it was unsafe for you to be there, the American government would not let you go.  Period.”   And, SNAP!  My worries disappeared and I started planning our Turkish adventure. Looking back, I might have gotten a little ambitious:

ME:  “I want to go to Israel!  Can we go to Israel?”

RYAN:  “Certain parts, probably, I don’t know if I could go with you, but maybe we should go somewhere else first.  Like in Turkey.”

ME:  “I want to go to Mt. Ararat!  Can we go to Mt. Ararat?”

RYAN:  (After looking at the map)  “Probably not.”

ME:  “Why not?” 

RYAN:  (Jamming his finger down on the globe)  “Because THAT’S Iran.”

ME:  “Okay, how about Sanlifura?  Supposed home of Abraham? Oh, or the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.  We have to see those!”

RYAN:  (Again, after consulting the map, shaking his head, and sighing).  “Maybe you should look at travelling on the Eastern side of the country.” 

ME:  “Where’s your sense of adventure?”

So, after a few bumps in the planning process, I made a list of several sites I wanted to see, and joyously excited, awaited our Big Turkish Adventure to begin.  In the middle of June, we landed at Incirlik.

My first impression was ‘Turkey is not the United States’.  Turkish is the language of the country and not knowing the language made me feel ignorant, helpless, and even fearful at times.  The Turks have extreme pride in their country – the flag flies everywhere; mocking it or the government is an offense punishable with prison- yet, the roadsides are piled with litter.  Shopkeepers empty their trash into the street and stand watching as the wind kicks it down the sidewalks.  In the United States, when you stop at a stop light, the car behind you stops, and the vehicle behind them stops as well.  In Turkey, when you stop at a stop light, the person behind you pulls up beside you (there is not a marked lane there).  While you’re waiting for the light to turn, a moped squeezes between you and the bus on your other side, and as you’re driving down the highway, pedestrians filter out into the street without even a glance.  There are no rules.  Just as Turkey is not the United States, Incirlik is not a base on American soil.  While stationed at Dyess, Ryan could call me at the end of his flying day (4am), and say, “Let’s go to IHOP”.   When we were in Little Rock and we felt we needed to get away for the weekend, we could throw everything in the van and go; as long as we stayed within 300 miles, we didn’t even have to tell anyone.   Making last minute plans is not as easy here at Incirlik.  Because of where we are in the world, there are more precautions taken, and that was another aspect of this new adventure that I had to adjust to.  I can’t “just go” anymore.  I have to check the travel restrictions, and attend a briefing.  Someone has to know if we are gone.  If we’re just going for the day we have to make sure we can make it back before curfew. No more middle of the night trips to town.   This can feel a little freedom squashing until I step back and ponder the “why”.  Why are there restrictions, curfews, and processes?  Why does someone need to know when I’m gone?  Why can’t I post on Facebook when our next off-base trip is planned?  Of course, the answer is simple:  Because the chain of command is keeping us safe.  Precautions mean we are allowed to travel.  We are allowed to go off base.  We are accounted for.  Yes, we are encouraged to be vigilant, be aware of our surroundings, and be smart.  But, we are also encouraged to “get out” and venture around this amazing country.

The base commander has started holding regular town halls to address any concerns we have with current world happenings.   Repeatedly, he assures us he’ll take care of us.  If things started “heating up” and our safety was in doubt, they would get us out of here.  I feel that verbal communication is authentic , but in addition, I see the commander’s wife and kids carrying on as usual under the same circumstances I’m in; reassuring me further still that we are safe and sound here at Incirlik.  That’s the message I want to send both to the Facebook questioners, and to my family and friends.

For straight up answers to the Facebook group questions:  Honestly, after being here for two months without a vehicle, I started to feel trapped, but since then our van has arrived and we’ve been making short trips when we can.  Unfortunately, Ryan is a Very Valuable Cog (VVC) in the Air Force and his work schedule hasn’t allowed many longer quests yet, but I know we’ll get there.   My safety at Incirlik has never been a concern, and you want to see one of the reasons, Google “Incirlik Patriot Missles”.  Personally, I am not worried.  Sure, I pray when I navigate traffic, I shake my head at the trash, and I’m trying to muddle through learning Turkish.  I want my kids to see other cultures, so I take them out.  Extremely friendly and nice, the Turkish hospitality requires me to break down my American defenses and interact; that’s how I want my kids to see me.    Being together as a family is the best part about Turkey.   Ryan could have come alone and left us in the U.S.  for 15 months, but we were given the option of coming with him, and I can overcome many inconveniences for that opportunity.  This is an assignment we’ll remember forever, one that will shape my children’s lives.   Yes!  You should bring your family to Incirlik!

To my friends and family, I’d like to ask that the next time you see the news flash the Syria map with Turkey to the north and you think of me, think of all the adventures I’m planning, and watch for the photos.  Know that I woke up this morning, made breakfast, schooled my kids, watched the rain, then blogged.  Pretty much the same as my days were in Little Rock.  Only with a bit more middle eastern flair!

My Happy Family at Cappadocia

The fairy chimneys and caves of Cappadocia

The Roman Bridge in Misis

Snake Castle just down the street from Incirlik

Ruins are everywhere in Turkey. There are no barriers to the history of this place.


One thought on “Safe and Sound at Incirlik

  • September 20, 2013 at 1:12 am

    I love your blog! Keep going out and taking pictures. 😀

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