Incirlik conducts ordered departure operations

A C-17 Globemaster III takes off from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, March 30, 2016. On March 29, 2016, the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, ordered the departure of all Department of Defense dependents assigned to Incirlik Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Nieves Camacho/Released)

A C-17 Globemaster III takes off from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, March 30, 2016. On March 29, 2016, the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, ordered the departure of all Department of Defense dependents assigned to Incirlik Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Nieves Camacho/Released)

Families of U.S. Airmen and Department of Defense civilians board a C-17 Globemaster III during an ordered departure, March 30, 2016, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. On March 29, 2016, the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, ordered the departure of all DOD dependents assigned to Incirlik Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Nieves Camacho/Released)

Families of U.S. Airmen and Department of Defense civilians board a C-17 Globemaster III during an ordered departure, March 30, 2016, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. On March 29, 2016, the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, ordered the departure of all DOD dependents assigned to Incirlik Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Nieves Camacho/Released)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- On March 29, 2016, the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Department of State, approved the ordered departure of families of service members and of Department of Defense civilian personnel currently stationed in Adana, Izmir and Mugla, Turkey, to include those stationed at Incirlik Air Base.

Incirlik has become a hub of activity in the fight against ISIS since August 2015, when it shifted its focus to supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. 

"The decision to move our families and civilians was made in consultation with the Government of Turkey, our State Department and our Secretary of Defense," said Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, U.S. European Command commander. "We understand that this is disruptive to our military families, but we must keep them safe and ensure the combat effectiveness of our forces to support our strong ally Turkey in the key fight against terrorism."

Once notified of the ordered departure, members of the 39th Air Base Wing worked around the clock to enable the departure of dependents from Incirlik in an orderly and timely fashion. Many personnel worked days on end to ensure that medical, financial, emotional and logistical needs were met. The majority of this took place during a 72-hour period as families were moved first to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and then on to a safe haven location within the United States and other authorized locations, using a combination of military and chartered aircraft.

"There has been a phenomenal effort from everyone ensuring the safety, security and comfort of those leaving," said Lt. Col. Derrick Weyand, 39th Mission Support Group deputy commander. "We have asked our Airmen to step up and work harder and longer than their normal operational tempo, and they have done so knowing that their efforts are not only taking care of their own family members but also their fellow Airmen. That is definitely something for them and their leadership to be proud of."

Since the issue of a stop movement of all concurrent dependent travel in September 2015, members wishing to relocate families were given voluntary options such as authorized voluntary departure and early return of dependents.  Though some families took these options, many did not, leaving nearly 670 dependents that recently departed after the authorization for ordered departure was given.

"Overall, everyone was courteous," said LaShea Anderson, spouse of Capt. Ian Anderson, 39th Medical Operations Squadron public health officer in-charge. "Everyone was attentive, you know, they wanted to make sure that they answered all of your questions that you had. They made sure that as you are going on to your next location, you're feeling confident in what you're leaving behind."

Families in transition were given support to ease the stress of this movement. During each part of their journey they were greeted by teams prepared to address the concerns and questions of the families, and to ensure the educational needs of those still enrolled in school were being met.

"We recognize that being uprooted like this in such a hastily fashion is troublesome," said Col. John Walker, 39th ABW commander. "Our families are important to us, as are those who must stay behind on Incirlik to continue the fight. We are doing and will continue to do everything that we can to make this transition as painless as possible."

Though the movement of family members has been the main focus of the ordered departure, the members who will remain at Incirlik, now without the close support of those family members, has not been overlooked.  A disaster mental health services team was assembled to help manage the stress and emotion in the current situation. 

"We are here to provide an outlet for members experiencing stress from the current situation," said Capt. Ryan Ogilvy, 39th Medical Operations Support Squadron disaster mental health team chief. "Whether that stress is from the sudden separation of families or the sudden increase in occupational stresses, we are here to provide education on how to deal with these stressors so that they can shift their focus back to the mission at hand."

While many may be under the stress of their families departing, the military and civilians are continuing in their current assignment at Incirlik until further guidance is given on a timeline to expect them to be away.

"As our mission here at Incirlik evolves, we will continue to assess the threat and take appropriate actions," said Walker. "The families that made this move are part of the Incirlik family. We are Titans, and we will overcome this hardship and through our strength and resiliency we will continue to carry on the mission of the 39th Air Base Wing."