INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey — In November 2009, the 39th Air Base Wing officially emerged onto the social networking scene by launching its first-ever page on the Facebook Web site.
Members of Incirlik's Public Affairs Office update the wing's Facebook page regularly with upcoming events, news and photos from the base and around Turkey, ultimately attracting nearly 1,300 fans from all over the world in less than three months. Along with news and photos for Airmen and their families, the wing's page also serves as a social networking hub where fans can post discussion topics, leave comments and even post their own fan photos.
With Facebook having more than 200 million users worldwide, some may have believed that this social media tool would have negative effects, but it has been quite the opposite.
Recently, a concerned mother and Incirlik Facebook fan alike voiced her concern on the page's discussion section, prompting her son's first sergeant to rapidly respond. The quick response in conjunction with a long sincere conversation ultimately eased this mother's worries and possibly others, with just one phone call from that first sergeant.
Incirlik leadership believes discussion topics and comments like the example mentioned provide a way to share base experiences, a way for newcomers to ask for advice or a way for fans to catch up with each other and has proven to be very helpful for many.
"Social media tools provide useful venues to get the Air Force story out," said Col. Eric Beene, 39th ABW commander. "It's a way for us to connect with Airmen, their family and their friends. Social networking is also the way many of us communicate these days."
Senior Master Sgt. James Yarber, 39th Security Forces Squadron first sergeant, and the individual who responded to the concerned parent, echoed Beene by saying he thinks social networking tools like Facebook can be "very useful" but if only used properly.
"I would encourage Airmen to use whatever form of media available to them that keeps them connected to their loved ones," Yarber said. "I would also issue a few caveats. Be responsible; never post anything you wouldn't feel comfortable explaining to your commander and practice good operational security."
Incirlik's Facebook fan base continues to grow by the hundreds every week and the technology Airmen have at their fingertips continues to evolve.
"I believe technology like this will continue to evolve and continue to benefit Airmen and their families," Beene said. "As the Air Force and Department of Defense become comfortable with these social media tools, we'll find new, useful and innovative uses for them. In the same way that the Air Force came to embrace the value of news media, I also expect we'll have greater access to a broader range of tools. These tools will continue to allow us to further strengthen the Air Force family through communication."