Departure efforts through Incirlik continue

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Patrice Clarke
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
More than 1,600 American citizens displaced from Lebanon continued to process through Incirlik Air Base today.

The Americans boarded the USS Trenton in Beirut Sunday at 5:10 p.m., and headed for the port city of Mersin in Turkey. After arriving in Turkey, they traveled by bus to Incirlik.

"Many of the people processing have gone through an ordeal just to get here," said Lt. Col. Michael Platt, 39th Mission Support Group deputy commander. "We just want to get them through here and where they need to go with as little commotion as possible."

After arriving at Incirlik, the Americans were taken to the processing center and then to Patriot Village where they will stay until flights out can be scheduled.

According to Maj. Susan Airola-Skully, 39th Mission Support Squadron commander, the process is much more streamlined than when the first 29 evacuees came through the base July 21.

"We have streamlined our practices to make this process as stress-free as possible," said Major Airola-Skully. "We have learned so much in the past few days that we are able to quickly get the Lebanese-Americans in and out of the processing center."

With 53 busloads of people going through the processing line, streamlined and stress-free are words that are welcomed.

"The buses came in waves starting around 2:45 p.m. and have been coming steadily every hour," said Colonel Platt, as the time at Incirlik approached 10 p.m.

Processing into the base takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Afterwards the people are taken to Patriot Village.

"The area was used for troops and has a capacity for more than 1,800," Colonel Platt said.

Along with telephones, Internet and a library area where the evacuees can check out games, books and toys, there is also a dining facility.

"When they arrive here we give them MREs to hold them over until they can make it to Patriot Village," Colonel Platt said. "There they are given a hot meal. As long as there are people processing through and heading to Patriot Village, the cooks will be ensuring they receive a hot meal."

According to Maj. Bryan Gillespie, 39th Security Forces Squadron commander, security hasn't been an issue here.

"It has been going better than expected," Major Gillespie said. "Our security forces team has been working close to 15 hours a day and many times we have to tell them to go home. Everyone is really motivated to be out here and to be working on helping these people get to where they need to go."

Lending a hand is what many Airmen at Incirlik want to do.

"What is really amazing is how the base has come together," said Janet Morrison, 39th Mission Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness coordinator. "I have volunteers out here right now who have been out here helping out since 2 a.m. this morning, more than 16 hours. I had one young lady who was separating from the Air Force in one day, yet she was here today lending a helping hand, passing out water and just trying to make this process as smooth as possible."

The base's effort has not gone unnoticed by the people they are helping and is being done with in cooperation with the U.S. mission in Turkey. Two young American citizens displaced from Lebanon were getting the autographs of the Airmen and volunteers in the processing center.

"I just wanted everyone's autograph that helped us today," said Sharon Lody, one of the American citizens who left Lebanon. "I plan on framing it and showing my classmates in the states."