Op-Ed: I Was Stationed In Turkey: Failed Turkish Military Coup Not Surprising
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By: Jon Britton
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The attempted military coup in Turkey has failed and I’m not surprised, based on my observations of the Turkish military during the year and a half I spent at Incirlik Air Base Turkey. Affectionately known as “The Lik.”
I was a young Airman in the United States Air Force. It was my first time out of the United States and I was sent to a place I had to look up on a globe at the time. I was a Fuels Specialist, ground based aircraft refueling. I had been in the military long enough to know my job well. I was first assigned to Dyess AFB in Abilene TX. However, serving in a foreign country, basically in no-man’s land between Europe, the Soviet Union and the Middle East, made service there anything but business as usual.
In my daily service, I routinely refueled Turkish military jets. Compared to what I was used to, American pilots, Turkish pilots were scary. Not the military badass kind of scary, but the reckless and incompetent kind of scary. Granted, this was nearly 30 years ago and I’m sure, I hope, their military discipline and flight line safety has improved since then. One particular recurring behavior of the Turkish pilots that especially troubled me involved the dumping of spent casings from the nose of the plane.
At the time the F-16 was the hot new thing in the USAF arsenal, as well as the B-1 Bomber which I worked with at Dyess AFB, so the US sold a lot of the old F-4s to foreign countries, like Turkey. When the F-4 does a gun run the spent casings are collected in the nose. Rather than have a crew chief bring out a cart and collect the spent casings the Turkish pilots would routinely pop the hatch and just let them dump on the deck. I know you’re probably thinking, “yeah, that’s not very disciplined or efficient, but so what?”
Well, the “so what”, is the fact that not all of those rounds were SPENT. Many of them were live rounds that misfired and ejected into the spent casings, still live. Of course, this made me especially nervous, because I would be parked right next to the plane with a truck load of jet fuel (JP-4) waiting to refuel. Standing between 5000 gallons of jet fuel and live rounds bouncing on the concrete tends to make your sphincter pucker just a little bit tighter.
Turkish politics has taken a more Islamic Extremist turn since I was at The Lik. Despite their “good intentions” of reinstating the secular, constitutional foundations of the government the military apparently wasn’t up to the task. Whether it was poor planning or execution, the result seems to be a bad turn towards further extremism. I wish all my brothers and sisters in arms, stationed at The Lik and elsewhere in Turkey, all the best and prayers to get you through what sounds like a tumultuous time in Turkey. Stay Frosty!