U.S. Air Force officials have selected the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, for the Outstanding Unit award.

The award recognizes the 39th Wing for missions accomplished from Dec. 15, 2001, through July 14, 2003.

That period — during which there were eight Air and Space Expeditionary Force rotations — included Operation Northern Watch no-fly zone missions to protect Kurds in northern Iraq, the ongoing war in Afghanistan and an evacuation of nonessential personnel in 2003 just before Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Incirlik was a crucial fueling, logistics, medical treatment center and assembly point for the initial Operation Enduring Freedom offensives. It was, and is, a transit point for troops going to and returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the Turkish government, which opposed the Iraq war, declined to allow the United States to use the base for offensive operations.

Under its previous commander, Col. Marc Felman, the base evacuated 400 civilians to the States as the Iraq war started on March 20. Since then, civilians have returned.

Current wing commander Col. Michael Gardiner announced the award July 21, according to an Air Force news release.

U.S. Air Forces Europe “never lost sight of the importance of Incirlik’s strategic location and robust infrastructure,” Gardiner stated in the release. “This location puts Incirlik airmen in the hot seat of operations, providing an opportunity to demonstrate their professionalism and technical proficiency in cooperation with our Turkish hosts.”

Incirlik Air Base is located about 10 miles east of Adana, Turkey’s fourth-largest city.

The base — which is a Turkish air force tanker base — is about 2,000 miles west of Afghanistan, and about 600 miles from the Iraq border.

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