Teachers at Incirlik get letter on evacuation plans
U.S. military and State Department officials are reviewing evacuation plans for American civilians at Incirlik Air Base, including about 50 teachers and 900 students as the United States builds up military forces in the region for a possible attack on Iraq.
A number of teachers at Incirlik High School, who asked not to be identified, told Stars and Stripes that Diane Ohman, director of Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe, sent a letter dated Dec. 19 addressing the possibility of evacuating Incirlik teachers and students.
At about 450 miles from the Iraq border, the Americans at Incirlik are well in range of Iraqi Scud surface-to-surface missiles. Those missiles — refined since the Persian Gulf War — may be able to deliver small warheads as far as about 625 miles, according to Jane’s Information Group, the London-base publisher that catalogs the world’s weaponry.
There are about 5,000 U.S. military personnel, family members and civilian workers at Incirlik, the main base for U.S. Air Force operations in Turkey.
Incirlik is the base for the 11-year-old Operation Northern Watch mission over northern Iraq’s no-fly zone. About 45 American and five British aircraft attached to Northern Watch operate out of Incirlik.
Though it doesn’t mention specifics, the letter — sent only to Incirlik teachers — assures the faculty that DODDS officials are working with the military and the State Department on evacuation plans in case of fighting.
“We know the military and the State Department will do whatever it requires to take care of everyone, and we want them to have complete confidence in the local command,” said Frank O’Gara, spokesman at DODDS’ headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany. “We just wanted them to know that we’ll be there to support them whatever decisions are made.”
If an attack on Iraq comes, teachers, students and other nonessential personnel could be evacuated by two different groups, said 1st Lt. Bryan Edmonson, spokesman for the 39th Wing, the main Air Force support operation at Incirlik.
The Air Force could evacuate teachers and students under a dependent relocation order given through U.S. Air Forces in Europe at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Or, the order to leave could come as a noncombatant evacuation order, or NEO, through the State Department.
Edmonson emphasized that there has been no decision regarding any evacuations.
The State Department can order the evacuation of private citizens in case of natural disaster, war or civil war, according to a State Department official in Washington, D.C. The military also has the authority to unilaterally withdraw Department of Defense employees and family members, he said.
If fighting starts, students and teachers would be sent to a safe haven, most likely their home of record in the United States, O’Gara said. Students would be instructed to enroll in their local schools as promptly as possible, and DODDS officials would send transcripts, records and course studies with students.
After fighting stops, students would return to Incirlik and their grades would be incorporated into DODDS’ records, O’Gara said.
USAFE officials are responsible for all Air Force personnel and their families stationed in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility.
“As one would expect, whenever contingency planning occurs, we must consider all possible situations,” Col. Jack Ivy, director of USAFE Public Affairs wrote in an e-mail.
“It’s the kind of planning we do all the time and clearly have continued to update these plans as part of our normal crisis and contingency planning efforts. It is prudent; it is what you would expect of the U.S. military — there is no news here,” Ivy wrote.
All military bases have evacuation plans, but in 2001, Air Force officials told Stars and Stripes that it is difficult keeping those plans current because of personnel rotations. One of the biggest concerns is finding escorts for the children of single airmen or for families where both parents are active duty, officials said then.
Civilians who worked at Incirlik prior to the 1991 Gulf War told Stars and Stripes at the time that they were evacuated on very short notice.