April 24-25, 1991: From Khobar to Incirlik

Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay

Wed April 24, 1991: Saddle Up

I was up at 0030 for vehicle guard. I passed the time star-gazing. It was a little too late to spot Alpha and Beta Centauri, if they were visible at all because of horizon dust and lights. I spotted Scorpius and Libra, and thought with some amusement about the long names of the stars in Libra; then I realized with a start that I knew what the names meant in Arabic! There were also several takeoffs by F-15's. The afterburner flame is a light purple, crossed by a dozen or more light orange bands from shock waves in the exhaust. The whole effect is very beautiful.

The rest of the flight was supposed to get up at 0300 to report for our 0800 flight. I was supposed to be relieved at 0330 but didn't leave until two hours later; fortunately, somebody saw to it that my stuff came with the unit. We all went to the Pentagon for a real breakfast (with bacon!), then returned to the airport to find that our flight was rescheduled for 1615! Rather than return to Khobar (by now most of us regarded that as a fate worse than death) we crashed on benches in a Quonset hut in the departure area. Most of us slept until 0900 or so, when the building began to get hot.

After lunch, again at the Pentagon, our departure is still on. Those of us designated to drive went out and waited by the vehicles. It was sunny, hot (around 100) and extremely dry. CPT Bill Bartleme told me the high temperature on the 22nd (a day I slept most of the time because of the bug) was 112. It doesn't feel quite that hot, but the dryness is beyond belief. I can hardly utter a sentence without needing a sip of water.

We sat by the vehicles until 1500, then, incredibly, moved to the flight line to load up. To say a C-5 is a huge plane is like calling a dinosaur a big lizard; it just doesn't do justice to the subject. The vehicle bay is about 15 feet high and big enough for two vehicles abreast. To me the most impressive indicator of its size is the passenger compartment; it seats 65 people facing aft, and is tucked away behind the wing over the vehicle bay. It's as if they had a little leftover space and decided to build a passenger compartment as large as on some airliners in it. Civilian aviation experts have been trying for decades to have passenger seats facing aft for better crash safety, but without success.

We took off about 1630. It feels incredibly good to be out of Saudi Arabia! Unfortunately, the flight line service area was empty, so we travelled without box lunches or drinks. We landed in Incirlik at 2130, convoyed over to an inprocessing center and cleared customs. We were warned about insulting Ataturk or anything Turkish, for that matter, and were told of two military people who went to jail; one for insulting a flag, the other for throwing Turkish money on the ground and stepping on it. (From my tour in Turkey in 1971-72, this was all very familiar. You just don't screw with Turkish national pride.)

After clearing customs, some went over to the hamburger bar and got a bite to eat. I just went to bed about 0030.

Gulf War Image In case you're wondering why there are no pictures for several days, the answer is simple. I was sick as a dog. We waited in this quonset hut, except that by midmorning it was a furnace inside.
Gulf War Image We finally loaded up in the late afternoon.

For some reason these pictures were badly over-exposed. Baking in 115-degree heat all day probably didn't help the film one bit.

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Gulf War Image The passenger compartment on a C-5A is overhead behind the wing. It's as if they had some leftover space on the huge bird and had to use it somehow. "Whaddya wanna do with this extra space up here? I dunno, let's seat 65 people there."
The crew on a C-5A actually have small compartments. I got this photo because I went up the wrong stair by mistake.

Thu April 25, 1991: Incirlik

Today is sunny, pleasant (in the 60's) and humid. I'm still a bit light-headed from the flu bug. Incirlik is an attractive post. In some directions it looks like Germany; the military architecture and pine trees mostly. In other directions the palm trees look like California. I finally decided the mix of conifers and palms reminded me of northern California. We're billeted in the post grammar school for a day or so. The facilities here are very nice, and we had the morning free to sleep, do laundry, and run errands.

We met the first flight here. It turned out the "poor guys stuck on the plane in Germany" were actually over at an apartment doing some serious catching up on their back beer consumption. They had quite a nice time after all.

In the afternoon we were briefed on the Kurdish situation and got team assignments. Then we went to draw casual pay, and I went to the gym for the nicest shower I've had in quite a while. I went to bed early, but most of the unit partied.

Gulf War Image Three weeks ago, we were still in Kuwait. This is the gym at Incirlik, where the showers were luxurious
Gulf War Image We were billeted in the base elementary school for the two nights we spent here.

The Sultan's Inn, the mess hall (below), was a delight.

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Created January 10, 2000; Last Update 11 June 2020

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