US State Department, Air Force speakers participate in NATO-funded natural disaster resiliency workshop Published Nov. 9, 2023 By Staff Sgt. Peter Reft 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkiye -- In response to the earthquakes that struck southern Türkiye in February 2023, an international panel of academic experts conducted an “Emerging and Disruptive Technologies to Enhance Disaster Resilience” advanced research workshop, featuring keynote speakers from the U.S. Air Force and U.S. State Department at Çukurova University, Adana, Türkiye, Oct. 23 and 24 Oct. According to the workshop director, Dr. Tugce Baser, the objective of the event, which was funded by the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme, was to identify research and application opportunities to effectively reduce the potential negative impacts of natural hazards. “The workshop emerged after the February 6th Kahramamaras earthquake sequence that struck southern Türkiye, but researchers acknowledge that the problems are beyond earthquakes,” said Dr. Baser, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering assistant professor. “Ever-increasing frequency and severity of hazards, extreme weather events that exacerbate the negative consequences of hazards causing cascading hazards, are a growing concern across the globe.” Keynote speakers from the U.S. Embassy Ankara and the 39th Air Base Wing spoke about earthquake relief operations, including Turkish government coordination with U.S. agencies, managing the flow of crisis response information, transporting rescue teams to disaster sites, building field hospitals, supporting multi-national airlift operations, and NATO member and partner operations conducted through Incirlik Air Base. The advanced workshop organizing committee, consisting of professors and experts from the U.S., Australia and Türkiye, aims to enhance information sharing and interactions among all involved disciplines and organizations. Approximately 35 professors, researchers and field experts from the U.S., South Korea, Italy and France attended. “This was a melting pot of experts who come from different backgrounds and disciplines,” said Dr. Baser. “I expect the participants will successfully delegate improved situational awareness, public-private partnerships, research, innovation, training and education.” Among the experts, Dr. Baser’s workshop featured individuals who played organizational roles in supporting the Turkish government during humanitarian and disaster relief operations in the weeks immediately following the earthquakes. “At the time of the earthquake, our cross-agency information sharing was critical for all aspects of the U.S. response, especially for transporting USAID [United States Agency for International Development] emergency response personnel and physical aid packages,” said Maria Blees, U.S. Embassy Ankara acting mission disaster relief officer. “I know we also worked together on operational details for deploying DOD-originated aid as well, such as the hospitals, and information-sharing. Our DOD colleagues were careful to keep in close communication with the Embassy and Consulate regarding interactions with the Turkish government to keep consistent messaging, and we were variously facilitating operations for each other,” Blees added. As one of the players in the NATO-wide humanitarian relief effort at Incirlik AB, U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Corey McGlynn, 39th Operations Support Squadron executive officer, shared his unique airfield operations knowledge to workshop participants. McGlynn and other 39th ABW members managed routine flightline operations, airfield safety inspections, cargo coordination, personnel transport, and more, all while Incirlik AB, home of the Turkish air force 10th Tanker Base Command, supported the surge of more than 5,000 flights by 27 nations. “In early February and through March, I was working with the Consulate and I was asked, as being someone here at Incirlik, if I was willing to talk to a professor of disaster preparedness and earthquakes,” said McGlynn. “Of course, we were more than willing to share our information and experiences on the ground to give these professors a new perspective and information to add to their toolbox when writing or researching this.” In addition to Blees and McGlynn sharing information to subject matter experts about government and field disaster relief operations, the workshop also gave them the opportunity to learn from each other. “As a State Department officer who was working on information management from Ankara during the earthquake response, I appreciated learning more specifics about what our DoD colleagues were doing on the ground at the time,” said Blees. “Including their keynote presentations was tremendously important because they both presented their unique perspectives that researchers are usually not aware of, or they skip in their studies,” Dr. Baser added. “Maria and 1st Lt. McGlynn’s keynote presentation included information and facts that resonated with many researchers in the workshop and were echoed by other speakers in the room.” Researchers and field experts like Dr. Baser throughout the international research community aim to maximize benefits of inter-agency information sharing. “Disaster resilience is a comprehensive concept that encompasses various disciplines, and it cannot be advanced by one single discipline,” said Dr. Baser. “The exchange of information and research findings during this workshop provided valuable insights into the latest developments in EDTs and their roles in disaster relief.” Building partnerships and sharing information are cornerstone tenets of U.S. Air Forces in Europe doctrine in support of NATO operations and international cooperation to promote peace and trust. More information about the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme is available at https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_85373.htm.