Turkey has restored electric power to a key base in the U.S. fight against ISIS, the Air Force said Friday, after the base had been kept unplugged for six sweltering days.
The Turkish government cut power to Incirlik Air Base base last week, following the coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Located in southeast Turkey near the historic city of Tarsus, Incirlik has been used since 2015 as a launch site for U.S. air strikes against ISIS. The base is home to about 3,000 American military and civilian personnel.
On July 16, after reasserting control over Turkey, Erdogan cut power to Incirlik.
As the hot days dragged on, Col. John Walker, the 39th Air Base Wing commander at Incirlik, took to Facebook to post status updates about conditions on base.
An initial post attributed to Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook seemed couched in terms both reassuring and grave.
"We continue our efforts to fully account for all Department of Defense personnel in Turkey," Cook said in the post. "All indications at this time are that everyone is safe and secure. We will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety and security of our service members, our civilians, their families and our facilities."
In subsequent posts, Walker conveyed an upbeat approach to adverse conditions: "Locations with air conditioning have been designated as cool spots to provide personnel an area to cool off, receive WiFi, charge devices and sleep," he wrote on July 21. "At this time base personnel are still receiving inbound mail."
Additionally, Walker expressed pride in how his people were navigating the challenge. "Tough situations and learning to adapt in a moment's notice is nothing new for us titans. The Airmen with the 39th Air Base Wing are cut from a superior cloth. I'm so impressed with their professionalism, compassion and dedication to the mission."
Base personnel's family members read the carefully couched posts, grew concerned, and reached out to their Incirlik-stationed loved ones - and to AMI Newswire. "We need your help," one family member wrote to AMI.
"I kept asking my husband if everything was okay," one woman said. "He told me he couldn't say anything."
"He told me he was fine," another woman said about reaching her son via FaceTime. "I asked him why he was soaking wet. He said it was 120 degrees and no air conditioning." The woman asked her son to show her the conditions of his room. The mother was horrified: "He had no water."
Concerned families sent one another the phone numbers to contact Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and members of Congress directly for information.
"I called Carter to ask about my cousin," said Anna Mendoza of Houston. "They wouldn't put me through to him, but they said my cousin is safe."
"I called the Pentagon about my nephew," said Alicia Collins of Tampa Bay, Florida. "They said, if he told you he is safe, you should believe him."
The reassurances echo what the Pentagon told Congressional staff members who asked on behalf of constituents.
"Members of our staff spoke with the Department of Defense and were told that U.S. personnel are safe," one staff member told AMI Newswire. "We have relayed that information to those inquiring about the safety of Americans serving at the base."
On Friday, the Air Force announced that power had been restored.
Incirlik Air Base announced on its Facebook page that the base previously had been operating on backup generator power. "We will retain this capability should the power be interrupted again," the base command posted. "Meanwhile there is a steady flow of hot food, water, and fuel to support our service members and civilians in Turkey."
AMI Newswire asked officials at Incirlik whether new personnel were being rotated into the base for duty. The officials responded to other questions by directing this reporter to information on the Facebook page, but did not respond to the question about new personnel coming onto Incirlik.