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TDY escorts make Hodja Village, base, safer for all

By Senior Airman C. Todd Lopez

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey (Nov. 30, 2001) -- Security here is paramount to the mission; even more so now in light of recent events. Maintaining that security falls into the hands of multiple organizations, the most prominent of which are the joint security forces stationed here.

Security also falls into the hands of a less likely group; these individuals are assigned to the 39th Air and Space Expeditionary Wing as escorts.

Airman 1st class Clifford Stump, munitions technician, 90th Maintenance Squadron, F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Ariz. is on a 45 day temporary duty to Incirlik Air Base. He is assigned to the 39th Air and Space Expeditionary Wing as a vehicle escort. His job is to escort construction contractor vehicles onto base, ensuring they don't stray from their path. His addition to the overall force protection initiative keeps missions such as Operation Northern Watch safe. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Diane Thomas.

According to Master Sgt. Gil Olay, escort program coordinator, 39th Civil Engineer Squadron, there are nearly 30 such escorts on base. Their rank is generally staff sergeant or below, and their jobs include providing security patrols in the Hodja Village area and providing door guard and ID checking services to Hodja Village service facilities and the Combined Task Force headquarters building. The majority of escorts assigned here, however, pull vehicle escort duty.

One such escort is Senior Airman Michael Shipman, avionics specialist, 494th Fighter Squadron, RAF Lakenheath, England.

"I escort vehicles -- whether it be cement trucks or dump-trucks around base and make sure they go where they are supposed to be going and then come right back," said Shipman. "Also, I escort anybody who needs to go out to the flightline. For the most part this keeps me busy. I haven't had too many dull periods."

According to Olay, escorts such as Shipman come from career fields and air bases all over the world. The 39th ASEW puts out ads across the Air Force asking for volunteers, and local base Personal Readiness Units forward the message to local units. Those responding to the ads, those who volunteer, do so for various reasons.

"First, many come to reenlist," said Olay. Those choosing to reenlist at Incirlik Air Base are eligible for the tax free benefits on reenlistment bonuses. Besides the bonus, there is also the travel to a foreign location which makes this temporary assignment a plus.

According to Olay, a great majority of the escorts have never been TDY or have never been overseas. The 45 day escort TDY is a great first chance to see the world.

"That's one of the main reasons I volunteered to come to this assignment was to get overseas," said Airman 1st Class Angel Duke, dental technician, 355th Dental Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. "Dental technicians don't really get that many of these opportunities. I wanted a change of pace, and I love being overseas. This is so different."

Money and travel are not the only reasons airmen choose to take volunteer escort duty here.

"There are also those that just say they love to serve their country," said Olay. "They say this is what we are here for."