Zeynep Alaybeyoğlu: Bridging languages, cultures at Incirlik

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Derek Seifert
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

At Incirlik Air Base, communication between the Turkish Air Force and United States Air Force can be hindered solely because of the difference in languages.

Many units across the base require a local national to bridge the gap as a translator and interpreter.

For the 39th Air Base Wing command team, Zeynep Alaybeyoğlu has served in that role since January 2021. 

Before working as a translator for the Air Force, Alaybeyoğlu was a high school teacher for 11 years.

“I was in my eighth year in teaching and the job was not fulfilling me anymore,” said Alaybeyoğlu. “The job was getting harder and harder and the pay lower and lower.

Alaybeyoğlu’s sister had been working on Incirlik Air Base and kept putting the idea of working on the base in her mind.

“When my sister started working at Incirlik for the Air Force, she would always tell me, ‘hey, it’s a great place and with the skills you have, you’d do great here,’” said Alaybeyoğlu. “Then in 2019, I decided I would no longer teach.”

After quitting her job as a teacher, she applied to be a translator with the 39th Security Forces Squadron and was accepted in June 2019.

“I was translating for the security forces commander when he had meetings with the TurAF security battalion,” recalled Alaybeyoğlu.  “It required me to sit in meetings [and] translate kindly submitted letters and gate passes. It helped me a lot; I would not be able to do this job this efficiently had I not worked for security forces. [From] the jargon, cop terms and translating KSL’s, I learned a lot about security and how the base operates. It also helped me a lot with my translating capabilities.”

Aside from translating, Alaybeyoğlu has grown to appreciate the work environment and people she helps.

“When I first started working with the Air Force, I was like, ‘what is wrong with these people? They are thanking me for everything that I do,’” explained Alaybeyoğlu. “The politeness was very interesting to me. They are paying me to do my job, and when I do it, they thank me. The first thing that made me happy, feel valued and welcomed was how people were so nice and polite.”

Alaybeyoğlu hopes to work at Incirlik for a long time and provide the necessary continuity for the 39th ABW and the service members stationed at Incirlik.

For the inbound service members to Turkey, Alaybeyoğlu provided a few recommendations to help transition and understand the culture before arriving.

“[Turkish people] are very hospitable and I think we make it very easy for U.S. personnel to feel welcomed,” said Alaybeyoğlu. “Other than that, we are a very traditional country; we have ancient customs and traditions. The Islamic religion has a huge effect on our culture, so maybe try to learn about those before coming here.”