Soldiers and employees of U.S. Army Europe have been forbidden to travel to Turkey unless given permission by high-ranking officials within the command, according to an order published Wednesday on the USAREUR Web site.
According to the posting, the order was issued due to a recent string of bombings and State Department warnings of further violence.
Soldiers would require permission from someone ranked lieutenant colonel or above, while civilians employed by USAREUR would require permission from someone ranked General Schedule-14 or higher.
“I wouldn’t say it’s unusual,” said Bruce Anderson, a spokesman for the Heidelberg, Germany-based command. “Our security people make constant evaluations of the situation in and around our theater and where our people are likely to go. We base that on a number of factors, and the State Department message plays a role in those.”
Anderson said he did not know when the order would be rescinded or how people within USAREUR would be informed if it is.
Turkey is a popular vacation destination that has many resorts along its Mediterranean and Aegean Sea coasts.
On Tuesday, a percussion bomb exploded next to the ruling AK Party’s offices in the western Turkish city of Izmir, but caused no injuries, the state news agency Anatolian reported. The bomb was left in a garbage container and shattered nearby windows in the major port city.
The U.S. Air Force has a base in Izmir.
Seven bombings occurred in the Turkish cities of Istanbul, Adana, Marmaris and Antalya between Aug. 25-28, injuring 60 or more people, including foreign tourists, and killing three Turkish nationals, according to the State Department.
The bombings were thought to have been carried out by allies or members of the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, which wants to create its own nation within southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq.
Air Force Gen. (Ret.) Joseph W. Ralston, the former commander of the U.S. European Command and supreme allied commander for NATO, was recently appointed by the State Department as a U.S. special envoy for countering the PKK.
Anderson said that soldiers and employees who travel to Turkey must know how to make contact with a U.S. Consulate in case of an emergency, as well as make contact with individual command. Supervisors are also required to be able to make contact with their subordinates who are traveling in Turkey, he said.
“Sometimes our soldiers and employees travel to other countries and don’t have their own force protection,” Anderson said. “Their security is the embassy. They need to know who can help them and know how to be able to contact those people and get help if they need it.”
Here are some security measures travelers can take:
¶ Travel in small groups and vary movements;
¶ Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return;
¶ Try to be inconspicuous; don’t draw attention to yourself;
¶ Be aware of your surroundings;
¶ Avoid spontaneous gatherings or demonstrations;
¶ If you happen to come upon a demonstration, remain calm and disengage from the situation;
¶ Stay away from high-risk places (Department of State consular information sheets for each country provide information on high risk places);
¶ Know emergency numbers and potential safe areas;
¶ Carry a cell phone if possible;
¶ Keep vehicle in good working order and fuel tank at least half full;
¶ If there is an incident at your destination or any location on your itinerary inform your unit of your status as soon as possible.
Source: U.S. Army Europe Web site