Volunteers strengthen community

INCIRLIK, Turkey — Ramazan Celebi (local citizen), and U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Adanzy Hart, 39th Civil Engineering Squadron, replace swings at an Incirlik Village park, Nov. 15. The project to renovate the park began Nov. 15 and is expected to be completed by Dec. 20. Hart and Celebi were among the estimated 75 volunteers present who helped the Incirlik Air Base Chapel renovate the park in an effort to strengthen community relations. (Department of Defense photo by Air Force Senior Airman Benjamin Wilson)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey — The Incirlik Village park project began Nov. 15 as a way for the base community to reach-out and help the citizens of Incirlik by renovating a village park with fresh paint, landscaping and equipment.

"It all started when Master Sgt. Edward Gunter (39th Operations Squadron) and his wife Darcy, approached me three months ago and suggested this project," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James Tims, 39th Air Base Wing chapel. "We started research in the spring."

Once Chaplain Tims and the Gunters researched the different aspects of the project, they compiled a team consisting of several volunteers and key players.

Master Sgts. Kevin Barstow and David Gurley, 39th Civil Engineer Squadron, are in charge of the planning committee and gathered the proper tools, equipment and personnel needed for each step of the process.

"I also reached out to Lt. Col. Michelle Raven (39th Air Base Wing staff judge advocate and project volunteer) because I wanted legal counsel and oversight," said Tims.

One obstacle to overcome was the legal parameters of who would be responsible for the park once it is finished.

"The main issue from a legal aspect was to ensure that the U.S. position regarding the park was covered," said Raven. "The paperwork is basically to say it is still a Turkish park. After we do the initial clean-up, it will be their responsibility to maintain it."

The Turkish community is involved.

"Our building custodian, Ayhan, is Turkish, so I asked him what we're getting into," said Tims. "Also, I met with the mayor of Incirlik and discussed how to successfully orchestrate this project."

Not everything in need of repair is handled by the base community.

"The mayor has called the city civil engineer department to test the electrical capability," said Tims. "We [volunteers] are buying new fixtures to go over the lights because all the lights are broken. The electrical work will be done by the mayor's office."

Due to its popularity, this park is at the top of the local renovation list.

"This park is without a doubt the biggest need," said Tims. "More kids use it than any other local park.

"Funding for the project comes completely from donated chapel general funds specifically given for this project," said Tims.

"This project will be a success if we visit in January and see children playing in a clean, safe area," said Raven.

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