The base at Hellenikon was often under siege and sometimes physically so; before, during and after I was stationed there in the early 1980s; regularly once a year when the local national employees went on strike, and blockaded the front gate, and now and again by anti-US and anti-NATO protesters. Although there was a Greek Air Force installation right next to the American base, there was no passage between the two, unlike the base at Zaragoza, where Spanish and American personnel had pretty much free passage between their respective halves of the facility. In the case of striking workers, or hostile protestors at the main – and only entrance – those of us inside the base were stuck there, while those outside were also cut off. Only one year did it become a problem lasting more than a single day – but it was an inconvenience for us all, and particularly frightening for family members.
And I was remembering all of that, this weekend, reading about how Incirlik Air Base – which also used to be called Adana Air Base – was cut off for about a day this weekend, after having commercial power cut off for nearly a week by Turkish civil authorities, in the wake of an attempted coup against a president who strong-armed himself into office by side-stepping the established rules. Because of the deteriorating situation in Turkey, all family members were ordered out at the end of March, 2016; a NEO evacuation, as it used to be and still is termed, for Non-combatant Evacuation Operation. (I used to have to keep current paperwork for an escort for my daughter, in the case of one of these; she would travel with various friends who would deposit her eventually with my parents, while I would stay behind.) Months before, the military quietly stopped facilitating accompanied tours to Incirlik. Currently, according to the bases’ own website, there are about 1,400 American military personnel serving there, with another 400 civilian employees. The dependent schools, teen center, child care center – all are closed; presumably the various employees of same are either evacuated themselves, or enjoying a nice vacation.
Incirlik’s mission and that of the 39th Air Base Wing is, according to the bases’ website, “to help protect U.S. and NATO interests in the Southern Region by providing a responsive staging and operational air base ready to project integrated, forward-based air power.” Part of this mission also includes a store of nuclear weapons. The base website is naturally, non-committal about this aspect of their mission. Even if there aren’t any such weapons in the bomb dump at Incirlik, likely there are all kinds of interesting munitions and weapons. Which is all very good and well – but Turkey’s President Erdogan has been loudly accusing the US – and the former USAF commander of Incirlik – of plotting and assisting with the failed coup. The commander of the Turkish Air Force assets at Incirlik is reported to have asked the US for asylum, which was refused; the man is now under arrest, as part of the purge of Erdogan’s political enemies. I have read here and there that those American military assigned to the base are confined to the base itself; considering Erdogan’s incendiary accusations, probably a wise move.
As for what now – like Will Rogers of blessed memory, all I know is what I read in the newspaper, or on-line at various sites. But the nightmare visioning that woke me up several times this weekend was of a full-on mob attack on Incirlik’s American sector, on the order of the Benghazi consulate writ large, and with even more weapons and determination … and with the tacit encouragement of Erdogan’s government and Islamist allies.
So much for being a NATO ally. And since our State Department did very little in the case of the Benghazi attack, save for blaming it all afterwards on a mysterious video that hardly anyone had heard of … can one count on the DoD being all that proactive in the event of a serious attack on Incirlik AB? Discuss.