Families Ordered to Leave Turkey Begin Arriving in U.S.

April 1, 2016 | BY Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Gross , Air Force News Service
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Military dependents and their pets began arriving at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Maryland yesterday, following an ordered departure of Defense Department dependents due to security concerns in some areas of Turkey. 

Dependents arriving at BWI were flown on Air Mobility Command’s C-17 Globemaster III aircraft and various chartered flights from Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Once at BWI, the family members waited for connecting flights or made other travel arrangements. Airmen from Detachment 1, 305th Aerial Port Squadron, stationed at the airport, played a key role to ensure a smooth transition. 

Air Force Lt. Col. Bary Flack, the 305th ASP commander, said he was thrilled with how his team assisted families who came in on what the military calls special assignment airlift missions, noting that the Airmen coordinated with numerous agencies and commands at Ramstein and BWI. 

“The partnership with the BWI airport authorities has been outstanding,” Flack said. “They’ve been great partners.”

USO, Red Cross Pitch In

Other airport agencies, including the USO and the Red Cross, assisted passengers as they traveled through the airport. 

Red Cross staff members helped in a variety of ways as families left the terminals. Comfort kits, which included hygiene products, diapers, and dog and cat food for people with pets, were made available. The Red Cross even provided more than 20 hotel rooms for families who had to spend the night as they waited to resume traveling. 

Brittany Fowler, the spokeswoman for the American Red Cross of the Greater Chesapeake Region, said her team’s job was to make this time a little bit easier for those departing from Adana, Izmir and Mugla and from Incirlik Air Base. 

“We know they’ve had a long journey, and for them to come out and smile at us and just say ‘thank you’ is huge,” Fowler said. 

Fowler said her team also worked with the USO to offer a seamless transition from the terminal to the USO facility. Within the USO, families and individuals enjoyed amenities such as TV, computer access, Wi-Fi, gaming systems, free snacks, and more. Local restaurants also provided food over the past few days, giving away hundreds of meals. 

“This is what we do in terms of service to the armed forces,” Fowler said. “People know us mostly for emergency communications, but we try to make sure that we are as available as [much as] possible for our servicemen and women and their families.” 

Other commands participating in the care of the military families included U. S. Transportation Command, U. S. Northern Command and U. S. Army North. Each command coordinated actions to ensure people were treated with the best personal service possible, officials said. 

U.S. European Command officials announced March 29 that this move does not signify a permanent decision to end accompanied tours in Turkey.