Carter Visits Turkish Defense Leaders, U.S. Patriot Battery Troops
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
ANKARA, Turkey, Feb. 4, 2013 On his first official visit to this prosperous capital as deputy defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter spent the day with Turkish defense leaders, then traveled southeast to Gaziantep near the Syrian border to examine the first of two U.S. Patriot missile batteries to be located there.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter speaks to troops on arrival on a Turkish army base at Gaziantep, Turkey, Feb. 4, 2013. Carter was there to see Patriot missile batteries installed with the help of U.S. forces to help deter potential incursions by Syrian forces. DOD photo By Glenn Fawcett.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
But Carter’s first stop was the U.S. Embassy here on Atatürk Boulevard, where on Friday a suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint on the embassy’s perimeter, killing Mustafa Akarsu, a guard in his forties and the father of two teenagers.
At the embassy today, Ambassador Frank Ricciardone ordered the American flag flown at half-staff until sunset on Wednesday, and the embassy operated on a reduced-manning schedule.
Those who did come to work to support the deputy secretary’s planned visit observed a moment of silence at 1:13 p.m., exactly 72 hours after the bomb went off. The explosion blew out checkpoint windows, creating scattered debris, wounding several people and ending Akarsu’s own life as he attempted to save the lives of his colleagues and friends.
Carter met with the ambassador this morning and walked the blast site. He then met with Akarsu’s coworkers in the local guard force and with the embassy’s seven Marine Corps guards. He also met -- in person and by telephone and digital video conference -- with about 45 embassy staff members from Ankara, Istanbul and the consulate in Adana, as well as with U.S. staff members from Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base.
After the bombing, Carter told the embassy staff, “the ambassador called me and said, ‘Do you still want to come?’ And I said, ‘One blankety-blank isn’t going to stop us.’”
Carter said that later in the day he would visit the 80 or so Army troops manning and supporting the NATO-led U.S. deployment of two Patriot missile batteries at Gaziantep “because that … stands for the strength of our alliance and the willingness of America to stand with Turkey at this moment of danger, when so many unsettled things are happening in Syria [that] pose a threat to the people of Turkey.”
The deputy secretary added, “We stand with the people and the government of Turkey, and missile defense is just one way we are doing that.”
This afternoon Carter began meeting with Turkish defense leaders.
At the Ministry of National Defense, he and Undersecretary of Defense for Industries Murad Bayar met and discussed three major U.S.-Turkey defense acquisition efforts.
Later, at the Ministry of National Defense, Carter met with Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz, and both made statements ahead of their discussion.
“This unfortunate incident [involving the death of Mustafa Akarsu] has again shown us that the new [era] is one in which cooperation between countries has become more important than ever,” Yilmaz said, adding, “The fight against terrorism has great importance and calls for sustained cooperation.”
In his remarks, Carter said he planned his trip to Turkey to discuss with Yilmaz and other leaders the military-to-military cooperation long shared by the United States and Turkey in … counterterrorism, missile defense and every other area of cooperation.”
For decades, he added, the United States “has been pleased and honored to be your partners … [and] we thank the government of Turkey for everything it does to combat terrorism with us.”
Later in the day, Carter traveled to a military facility in Gaziantep, just over 60 miles from Aleppo, Syria, where one U.S. Patriot battery is operational and another will be moved from nearby Incirlik as soon as the grounds at the base are prepared for its massive components and the troops required to operate the systems.
The Patriot missile system uses ground-based radar to find, identify and track incoming missile targets. The system can lock onto an incoming missile that’s up to 50 miles away. The system can even be made to operate automatically.
Patriot missiles, each weighing nearly a ton, launch from ground-based batteries. A battery is made up of MIM-104 surface-to-air missiles; a launcher that holds, transports, aims and launches the missiles; an MPQ-53 or MPQ-65 radar antenna for detecting incoming missiles; an equipment van called an engagement control station that holds computers and consoles to control the battery; and a power-plant truck with two 150-kilowatt generators that power the radar antenna and van. Each Patriot missile battery can have up to 16 launchers.
At the missile launch site, Carter spoke with about 18 soldiers -- men and women -- who operate the site, and then spoke with 80 more in a small theater near the battery site. They’re assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, based on Fort Sill, Okla.
“I’m so pleased that two days ago you rolled all the way in from Incirlik with all this fantastic equipment,” Carter told the troops.
“Your country is watching and the world is watching and what they see is this magnificent performance,” he added. “The good people of Gaziantep see it and the good people of Turkey see it and the good people of the Middle East see it and your country sees it. And you know what? The bad guys see it too.”
Carter told the young men and women that they’re doing a significant thing.
“When you place your next call,” the deputy secretary said, “whether it’s to a spouse or your mom and dad, kids, if you have them, or good friends … tell them that you were thanked today by the leadership of your department, the leadership of your country, for what you’re doing here.”
Tonight, after leaving Turkey, Carter will travel to Amman, Jordan, to meet on Tuesday with U.S. Embassy personnel and government and defense leaders. He’ll also have lunch with troops to thank them for their service to the nation.