My long-time friend George Dooley has contributed another blog article for us. George and I both served in the US Air Force, and met through a mutual friend who I served with at March AFB, California back in the early 1970’s. George and his wife Diane currently live in North Western Washington state. They enjoy hiking, traveling …and good stories.
George’s current story is a humorous telling of his time while stationed in Turkey with the USAF. Outside of Vietnam, Turkey was probably the least desirable USAF duty there was, and those who served there often volunteered for duty in Vietnam, just to escape. Please enjoy George’s story.
Our Turkish Adventure
This was written while I was stationed at Detachment 184 in Balkishere,
Turkey from 1967-1968. It was a remote isolated tour and 12 of us
were the first to be stationed at this Turkish Air Force base.
I was the first to arrive in Istanbul and spent the night at a Turkish
hotel awaiting orders. In the early morning I was awakened to a noise
outside my window. It was a Turkish male yelling into a bull horn the
morning prayers. During the day more airmen and a few NCO’s arrived
at the hotel. We are told by a Sgt. who flew in from Germany that we
would depart for our new base in the morning. The 12 of us boarded
an old school bus driven by a Turkish civilian. We did not speak
Turkish and he did not speak English.
You could wash anything down with beer
The trip was supposed to last 6 hours over, thru, around and
down the worst roads you can imagine. About half through the trip
which is now going on 5 hours, we tried to tell our driver that we
were hungry. We made the universal sign with our fingers up to our
mouths. He understood and pulled into the next town consisting of
about 5 houses and a small restaurant. Still with no one to interpret
for us the driver told us bonfalay, bonefalay shiscabobby. Well, the
last word sounded like shiskabob to us so that’s what we all ordered.
As we left the tiny village the bus driver ran over a dog. He didn’t stop
and as we looked back, we saw the townspeople running out to help
the dog, so we thought. We found out later what we had eaten. 😉
Some 10 hours later we arrived tired, thirsty and with a two-inch coat
of dust on us. Someone suggested eating. At this point we
experienced your first Air Force Type benefit: There is no food and
there is no water.
This is where you reach into your pocket and pull out the letter telling
you about the many rewarding experiences and the wonderful time
you are going to have in turkey.
While you are reading, the order comes to unload the trucks from our
support base. They contain beds, desks, chairs, rifles and
ammunition, but no food.
Spot; he’s what’s for dinner!
After unloading the trucks word comes for us to go downtown to
eat. Looking like desert rats from the foreign legion we enter the resturant in Balkeshire. Almost immediately everyone from the town turns up to stare at these strangers. As we weekly utter the magic word
bonefalay, the stares turned to smiles. We were eventually told when
our Turkish interpreter arrived that bonefalay was actually dog on a
stick. We continued dining on this delicatesse for a week when
finally, a refer truck arrives. The truck we learned, as we unloaded it,
was full of hotdogs (yes, actual hotdogs) and ice cream. 🙁
At this point we receive our second Air force benefit: Regulations
state we can’t eat the food unless it is prepared by a cook.
Well, guess what no cook assigned and as someone cut their finger,
we don’t have a medic either. Needless to say, we again reach into our pockets to reread our welcome letter.
We then hear the hum of an airplane, in fact two Air Force planes came in. Now the great white fathers from Germany are arriving and things will get better now, we all hope. Some twenty American Generals, Colonels and Turkish Generals arrive. And at this point the water miraculously arrives with them.
As soon as they leave the water again disappears. 🙁
Now we reap another benefit, an Air Policeman (referred to as Security Police these days) states that he has some cooking experience and will fix the food if we can get permission to eat it. An urgent call is made and some Airman 3rd class at USAFE in Germany gives us the go ahead. It is June 31st when we get our first meal. Boy, who would have
thought that hot dogs (again….yes, actual hotdogs) and ice cream went together so well.
We are eating fairly well now but still no baths and most have given up
the idea of bathing completely: The water does come on at the
admin Building and everyone rushes into get a shower, however, the
water goes off before you can get undressed and then you are told it
is now on in the barracks. The temperature is only about ninety in the
shade and we wonder how our comrades are doing in Vietnam.
Days turn to weeks and then to months and things slowly get better.
It is now January 1968, some of us are given thirty days R&R to the
states or another country. I took mine and visited Rome and Greece with a layover at a Naval base in Naples. We are now getting a bath once a week, and roast beef twice a day instead of bonefaay and we are even now getting mail once a week.
Now for the next big Air force benefit: The temperature is now about
ten below and there is no heat, and again, we are without food and water. Gamely we carry on. We are told to go to the hotel in Balkeshire and stay there, and eat on the economy. (Boneflay here we come). The Air force will reimburse us later.
(Editor’s note) No one has seen a dime of what we spent.
When we arrive at the hotel it has no water or heat. (Help get me out
of here) finally the crisis passes and we all survive somehow.
Time moves on and it is now January 31st, 1968 and the first
inspection team arrives. They present us with another air force
benefit; they inform us that as far as they can see we have no
problems, and we have it made. At this point you scratch your head
and wonder where on earth these people are from.
The thought comes to mind that they are possibly from outer space
but you then learn they are from Germany (an AF resort).
It is now March, 10 1968 and we are getting short (a military term for
not much time left on the assignment).
Hot, cold….hot, cold……repeat
We now have had water for two straight weeks, mail three times a week
and we only eat roast beef once a week. However, it is time for yet
another Air Force benefit: The temperature is now 40 degrees again, no water but we do have washing machines. It becomes clear to some of us that we are about to complete the toughest survival course the Air Force has ever put together. Time moves on and it is now time for all who survived to depart for their next assignment.
At this time a replacement walks in and informs you that he is tired
and dirty from his long trip from Germany and needs to take a
shower. You gladly oblige when he asks for directions to the shower.
You tell him to go back out the door and turn right down the road,
when he reaches the bottom of the hill he is to turn right and go to
the Hanger and turn right. There he will wait for 3 days until the C-130
with the mail takes him to Cigli air Base in Izmir.
You are proud, however, knowing that you have survived this tough
course. You have learned many things: You will not die from eating
bonefalay or roast beef, you will not die if your drink chlorine instead
of water, you will not die because of a lack of a bath, sleep,
recreation, boredom or depression. In fact, you wonder if anything
can kill you at all.
George, as the recruiter promised
Before signing off we again want to congratulate you on your
selection for this test and we sincerely hope the telling of our
experiences will in some small way benefit you and that you too will
When you are cold, hungry, depressed, hot, thirsty or feeling sorry for
Yourself Just remember we made it and are now relaxing and drinking
beer, back in Germany.
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