Incirlik Air Base sees threefold jump in flights as US military services rush quake aid to Turkey
Stars and Stripes February 13, 2023
The U.S. military has facilitated nearly 2,000 air missions to deliver aid and personnel to Turkey in response to last week’s devastating earthquake, a surge that has boosted Incirlik Air Base’s daily air operations tempo by 340%, the Air Force said this week.
Those deliveries include nearly 6,000 tons of food, supplies and equipment, such as a 52-bed military field hospital tent, the Air Force’s 39th Air Base Wing said in a statement Sunday. The wing is assigned to the base in south-central Turkey.
In addition, more than eight Army and Navy helicopters were on their way to Incirlik on Saturday to join four other helicopters already flying aid missions, U.S. Naval Forces Europe/U.S. 6th Fleet said in a statement the same day.
That U.S. response includes a Defense Department command and control center designed to meet the needs of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Navy said.
The center is commanded by Marine Brig. Gen. Andrew Priddy and under the operations of NAVEUR/6th Fleet.
Marines and sailors from Task Force 61/2, commanded by Priddy, were overseeing the arrival of two UH-60 Black Hawks, three HH-60 Pave Hawks and three CH-47 Chinooks to Incirlik over the weekend.
A few MH-60S and MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters from the USS George H.W. Bush, on patrol in the Mediterranean Sea, also were expected, the service said.
The aircraft would support transportation and logistics for the Disaster Assistance Response Team and two U.S. urban search and rescue teams, according to the Navy.
More than 35,000 people have died as a result of the 7.8 magnitude quake, which struck Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6, leveling buildings and leaving hundreds of thousands of people without shelter in freezing weather, The New York Times reported Monday.
In addition to cold and aftershocks, rescue operations have been hampered by other dangers. For example, an Israeli group announced Sunday that it was leaving Turkey because of significant security concerns, and German rescue operations were halted Saturday for the same reason, CNN reported Sunday.
An ongoing, nearly 12-year-long civil war in Syria has left a patchwork of areas in the north controlled by disparate groups.
Turkish-backed rebels have blocked aid convoys sent by rival U.S.-backed Kurdish groups, The Associated Press reported Sunday.
U.S. airmen based at Incirlik, working with Turkish military forces, have unloaded 5,764 tons of food, supplies and equipment since relief efforts began last week, the Air Force said Sunday in a statement.
The Turkish air base, about 8 miles east of Adana and 124 miles from the epicenter of the quake, is serving as a hub for humanitarian assistance flowing into the affected region. It was not significantly damaged in the earthquake.
The 728th Air Mobility Squadron at Incirlik has unloaded 210 aircraft since relief operations began Feb. 6, 1st Lt. Joseph Flemming, the squadron’s flight commander of resource and readiness, said in the Sunday statement.
Meanwhile, the 39th Operational Support Squadron, also based at Incirlik, has supported 1,877 aircraft missions bringing international aid and personnel to Turkey.
Turkish air force personnel are working with U.S. forces to get cargo out to the affected areas as quickly as possible, Flemming said.
“It’s been painful for us to see the news of the devastation around the country, and our hearts are grieving with our Turkish allies,” he said.