Anything but a normal day – Incirlik Air Base Airmen support earthquake response in Türkiye

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jonathan Lovelady
  • 39th Air Base Wing

In the aftermath of the earthquakes that struck central-southern Türkiye on Feb 6, 2023, Airmen assigned to the 728th Air Mobility Squadron sprang into action to store and transport supplies and equipment used to support the Turkish government’s recovery efforts with the support of 39th Air Base Wing.

The 728th AMS partnered with the 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron and the Turkish Air Force’s 10th Tanker Base Command to stage equipment in a facility on base that would become known as the “Ring of Fire” due to its circular shape, its primary purpose as a training area for the base fire department, and the rapid rate at which cargo is transported to and from the area.

To date, the 728th AMS has processed 423 aircraft, downloading 5,890 pallets with 13,374 tons of cargo, 4,234 passengers, and 36 rescue K9s. The 39th LRS provides readiness, transportation, supply and fuels capabilities at Incirlik Air Base and enabled vehicle support for the cargo area.

“The effort is an ongoing partnership with Turkish allies, with augmentation from the 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron forklift drivers to stage supplies,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Bryan, 728th AMS commander. “Ultimately, success has hinged on the support from volunteers to hand load the humanitarian supplies onto the trucks. Support from the Spanish, the Turkish, civilian and military, and many units from around the 39th ABW made everything possible.”

For Senior Airman Hailey Klchosky, a 728th AMS passenger service agent, February 5 was a day like most others.

“There’s not a large mission set,” she explained. “Everybody had plans to do this or that. I went to bed like a normal day.”

Early the next morning, she woke up to a shaking sensation and after a moment of confusion, she realized she was experiencing an earthquake. She had been through them before, so she realized it was a really long earthquake and a really strong earthquake.

“I went to work the next day and everybody’s talking about it,” she recalled.

Klchosky was informed that the airfield ramp needed additional manning for a mission that night and she would be helping them out by driving a 60K aircraft cargo loader.

“I ended up working like 14 hours that day,” she said. “I still didn’t know what this was going to turn into. That’s when the death toll started going up and we could see on the news all the devastation that was happening. The next day we’re on 12-hour days with no days off and we’re just going.”

Despite the long hours and extra shifts, Klchosky and her fellow Airmen were all in and ready to help out however they could.

“Everybody immediately just jumped in; I don’t think I heard a single person complain,” Klchosky said. “I think it’s because we see the impact the earthquake had on the locals here and how much help they need. It doesn’t bother us to do the work because we know that there are people who have lost so much. We’re here now to try to help give them their lives back.”

As a member of the 728th AMS, Klchosky works side-by-side with Turkish citizens, which she said has helped her stay motivated and on task. 

“A couple of Turkish nationals have told me about the impact on their families,” she said. “It makes me feel so sad because I can’t imagine feeling that kind of impact on my life and then coming into work – I wouldn’t be able to do it. They still do their jobs just as well. Seeing the people and knowing them prior, then hearing what happened is super impactful.

“We’re all tired mentally and physically, but everybody just keeps pushing the same as day one because we all know what it has done to not just the people we work with, but to the people we see on TV and people we don’t know,” she added.

Her commitment to the mission is evident by her new day-to-day routine, which prioritizes sleep over entertainment so that she can be ready to help when needed.

“I basically go home, I eat, I shower, I go to bed,” Klchosky explained. “I know if I’m tired, I’m not going to have a good attitude the next day and if I have a bad attitude, I could pass it on to someone else. That’s not the kind of environment we want here. I try to have a good attitude because I know there are people who have it worse.”

Klchosky recently marked the third anniversary of her enlistment date and despite being relatively new to military service, she has now provided humanitarian assistance during two real-world events. She was previously stationed in Japan where she supported people affected by the situation in Ukraine. Because of this, her family has mixed emotions.

“They’re really proud of me, but they’re also really scared,” she explained. “They’re having me check in every day to let them know I’m safe. They’re proud to know their daughter or granddaughter is a part of something big.”

Despite the difficult circumstances in Türkiye, Klchosky said she has been able to find some comfort in knowing her family is proud of her and the fact that she is able to work with people who have volunteered to assist the Turkish citizens in need. 

“Obviously there’s still destruction and you can’t ever take away what happened,” she said. “But to be able to show them that there are people who care and we are willing to work to help you means a lot. Even if they don’t know where it’s coming from, knowing they are getting this help is enough for me.” 

The 728th AMS is an en route squadron located at Incirlik Air Base, Türkiye, that reports to Air Mobility Command’s 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing. The squadron consists of more than 200 permanent party, Turkish Nationals and Air Expeditionary Force augmentees at Incirlik AB who ensure safe and effective en route support for missions transiting Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia. The squadron supports five combatant commanders with aerial port operations, aircraft maintenance, and command and control.