Airmen Lend Helping Hand to Americans Fleeing Lebanon
By Senior Airman Patrice Clarke, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey, July 22, 2006 The scene inside the processing center here at 3:15 a.m. yesterday looked like a deployment processing line, except these weren't military members waiting to go downrange. They were the first American citizens who arrived here after departing Lebanon.
Twenty-nine tired men, women and children processed through the base after a long boat ride followed by a bus ride. "We traveled for eight hours by taxi out of Beirut and then came here," said Riman Kang, who left Lebanon with her husband and two children, ages 5 and 2. "I'm so thankful to be here and safe. Everything was bombed in Lebanon, even the mosques. I've never seen it that way. It's not safe anymore. I saw Americans in the mountains because the roads were destroyed."
"We have been preparing for this since we were informed (early July 19)," said Air Force Col. Tip Stinnette, 39th Air Base Wing commander. "The preparation for their arrival has been a basewide effort."
The 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron transformed its deployment processing center into a civilian processing center. "We set up areas for medical, the chaplain, a play area for the young children and the processing line," said Air Force Capt. Cassandra Antwine, 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels flight commander.
"The initial processing went quite smoothly," said Air Force Maj. Susan Airola-Skully, 39th Mission Support Squadron commander. "We didn't have any major hiccups, and we were able to get the 29 people processed and then off to Patriot Village so that they could get some sleep."
After the American citizens processed into the base, they were taken to Patriot Village, a deployed housing area on base equipped with a medical first aid station, convenience store, community center with phones and Internet, and a sponsor station. "I was able to call my family in New York to let them know we are safe," Kang said.
"The Air Force has the resources to help, so that's what we are doing," said Air Force Lt. Col. Dale Bruner, 39th Services Squadron commander.
One of the main resources Team Incirlik has is its people. The sponsor station at Patriot Village is available for the new arrivals if they have any questions or need assistance. They have a person to turn to for answers. "The idea with the sponsors is to make this process a little more personable for them," said Janet Morrison, 39th Mission Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness Center coordinator. "We understand that this can be a hard process, and we want it to go as easy and be as simple as it can."
The air base will continue to lend a hand, working with the U.S. Mission in Turkey and the State Department throughout the weekend, when as many as 1,400 American citizens are scheduled to arrive. "This is a Team Incirlik community effort to help those in need. ... We are a small village with a big heart," Stinnette said.
(Senior Airman Patrice Clarke is assigned to the 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs.)