Ugly Americans in Turkey

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Antwine
  • 39th Air Base Wing command chief
We often hear the term "Ugly American" used around military communities throughout overseas locations. We quickly become offended when we hear others speak of us this way. We are also quick to point out that we shouldn't be grouped together, labeled or stereotyped a certain way because of the poor conduct of a few Americans who are merely having a good time, enjoying the local bars and letting off steam. Should we be offended?

Yes! We should be offended and embarrassed not at the local's comments, but at our own behavior. We should be offended and embarrassed anytime our fellow Americans visit the local bars and drink to the point of not being able to function. We should be offended when the same individuals publicly disrespect their fellow Americans, as well as, local nationals (our hosts by the way) by making racial, sexual and/or disparaging comments. We should be embarrassed when these individuals stagger back toward the gate, yelling at the top of their lungs for no apparent reason; walking and riding with open containers and not hesitating to toss the empty bottles and cans in the street just yards away from trash containers. We should be offended when these individuals decide they must stop and urinate on building walls in the Alley or along side of the road despite the fact women and children may be present. This behavior is not acceptable and will not be tolerated!

The fact that only a small percentage of us fit into this "Ugly American" category does not change our local host's opinion, which is based on what they observe; their perception is their reality.

Let's turn those feelings of being offended and embarrassed into positive energy and work hard at being great Americans, great Wingmen and great Flight Leads. We all have a personal responsibility to be good neighbors and guests. We are America's ambassadors and it is our duty to project a positive image. Our hosts' perceptions of us should reflect upon us as great Americans, but more importantly, as great guests.

One of my fellow Chiefs, Chief Master Sgt. Brian Van Alstine, 39th Security Forces Squadron superintendent, said it best; "How would you feel if you were stationed at Base X in Texas, hosting a tenant unit of Turkish military members who behaved similar to what I just described?" I could see many of us eventually becoming pretty irate, calling for them to depart the country based on their disrespect for us, especially as their hosts.

I will bring it closer to home. We are guests in this country, carry yourself as you would when you're on vacation and visit your mother's home. I'm sure you respect the rules of her home; I only ask that you do the same for our Turkish hosts.