Lights Out: Incirlik Fitness Center continues operations

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --

(This feature is part of the "Lights Out" series. These stories focus on the operations Airmen conducted at Incirlik Air Base during the eight day commercial power outage in July 2016.)

The 39th Force Support Squadron worked tirelessly to keep the Incirlik Fitness Center open during the Turkish military’s coup attempt in July. The center closed down July 16, 2016, remained closed for a day and a half.

During normal operating times, it was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. At which, they would see anywhere between 1,000 to 2,000 customers a day.

“I went from working a day shift to going into work at 3 a.m.,” said Airman 1st Class Khalifah Lowery, 39th FSS fitness center sports director. “They closed down the gym later that day.”

When the base went into lockdown, employees living off-base could not make it to work. Airmen were augmented into those positions from across the installation.

“Nationals from all the partner nations cooperated when the power went out,” said Staff Sgt. Aaron Webb, 39th FSS Fitness Assessment Cell NCO in-charge.

All FSS Airmen working at the fitness center were augmented to work at the Sultan’s Inn Dining Facility.

During the week following the coup, the gym operated from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with almost 200 people daily unbothered by the fading existence of electricity.

“Seeing people work out showed our resiliency,” said Webb. “Even when things weren’t going exactly as planned, Airmen found a way to make it better.”

Once the fitness center re-opened, Webb, along with two augmented Airmen, manned the center while the others continued assisting the dining facility staff.

“I would walk around cleaning the fitness center,” said Webb. “We had an Airman checking ID’s at the entrance while the other Airman was there as an emergency runner just in case we needed him.”

After conducting operations on limited commercial power, electricity was restored.

“The hardest part of the week was the suspense of when the power was coming back on,” said Webb. “I was worried we weren’t going to have electricity again, and that we would have meals, ready to eat, all the time.”

After the effects of the coup had worn off, the center started seeing at least 1,500 customers a day.

“The day we had electricity again, it was like new year’s day,” said Webb. “We had a lot more people come in than we did before the coup and it is still going strong even now.”