Incirlik AB, born and raised

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Matthew Angulo
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In addition to their emergency response functions, ambulatory service Airmen of the 39th Health Care Operations Squadron also transport 39th Air Base Wing patients for specialized medical care.

Due to the language barrier an ambassador is needed to serve as a translator. But one Airman with the 39th HCOS has the ability to provide both medical and language services.

Airman 1st Class Strohm Southwell, an ambulatory services technician assigned to the 39th HCOS, has the unique opportunity to work at the same base on which he was born, Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

“I’ve used my knowledge of Turkish to help people quite a bit,” he said. “You can get a translator which will help you to a certain extent, but it helps to have someone on the inside who knows how we operate and who can talk to the Turkish to let them know what we need.”

Strohm is half-American and half-Turkish. In fact, the first half of his life was spent at Incirlik AB, where his parents met and currently live.

His father, Michael Southwell, was first stationed here from 1996 to 2000. During that time, he met Strohm’s mother, Yasemin Biber, and had Strohm in December of 1997. According to Michael, Strohm is one of only three people born at the 39th Medical Group, the same facility where he and his father currently work down the hall from each other.

Due to his father’s military and Department of Defense service and his mother’s cultural background as a Turkish national, Strohm lived on Incirlik AB from 1997 to 2000, 2001 to 2005, and 2010 to 2019 before joining the Air Force. Like many service members, he joined the service to travel. Little did he know, the Air Force had other plans.

Right after graduating from the Medical Education and Training Campus at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Strohm received orders to Incirlik AB as his first duty station.

“I retired from the Air Force, so for him to enlist was special,” said Michael, 39th MDG network administrator. “He’d grown up here, spent almost his entire life here on this base. When he called and let us know he was going to be headed this way, it was a gift.” 

Both Strohm’s mother and father are very proud of their son’s sacrifice and more than happy to have him around.

“When my dad was in, my mom didn’t like the Air Force as much as she does now,” recalled Strohm. “At the time, it was the cause for stress and struggle for my family. But now she has ‘Air Force mom’ shirts and Air Force stickers all over her car.”

During his time at Incirlik AB, Strohm said he’s been praised by Turkish Air Force members and local nationals for representing their culture in the U.S. Air Force.

“He’s had the experience of both cultures,” said Michael. “I believe it broadened his perspective and gave him a better view of things. You’ll see some folks who join the Air Force who are a bit close-minded and you’ll see the difference between those individuals and those that are culturally expanded. Those individuals are able to support the Air Force much better.”

Despite not knowing Spanish, Strohm was able to facilitate permission from Turkish Air Force Security Forces for a Spanish Army member who required off-base medical attention. His actions and knowledge of the host nation language saved the life of a patient during a medical emergency.

“Of course we never want anything to happen to our patients,” said Strohm. “But there’s always a possibility of an off-base transfer to the hospital. 

“If we do have one, I hope I’m on shift because it just makes things easier to translate to get what we need to do,” he added. “There’s always going to be a slight language barrier.”

Many are proud of their service at Incirlik AB, but not many people have the unique opportunity to call this place home.

The day Strohm left to join the Air Force, he knew he might return to Incirlik AB at some point during his service. Now less than a month away from moving to his next assignment, he acknowledges this will probably be his last time here.

“This is where I grew up for the most part. I was born in this hospital. I have tons of important memories, memories that build people. A lot of firsts here. This is probably it. I’m looking forward to new things but it’s definitely sad to say goodbye for real this time.”