Close to many of the world's trouble spots, Incirlik is once again proving its importance as a responsive staging and operational air base ready to project integrated, forward-based air power.
As the first stop for C-130 crews coming from Afghanistan, Incirlik is an island of tranquility away from the taxing combat zones of Operation Enduring Freedom. The base also represents the calm before the storm for crews deploying to Afghanistan's treacherous terrain.
The 728th Air Mobility Squadron helps deploying and redeploying crews with everything from servicing and maintaining the aircraft to filing flight plans and coordinating transportation and lodging.
Although C-130 training is not required for 728th AMS airmen, the squadron has former C-130 troops who can still work on transiting aircraft.
While the number of aircraft on the Incirlik flightline varies, the most squadron members have recently seen on the ground at one time is eight.
The squadron handles about 50 to 60 missions per month, but is always prepared for surges.
"Normally, we have a couple C-130s that are doing an aircraft swapout pass through Incirlik destined for their downrange location or home station," said Maj. Jim Burton, 728th AMS operations officer.
"Unit rotations of this size usually occur approximately every 90 days, but the temporary lengthening of Air and Space Expeditionary Force rotations has increased the time between swapouts. These rotations and individual aircraft swapouts should continue passing through Incirlik as long as C-130s are needed in the forward operating locations supporting OEF."
With the increased workload, the squadron's maintenance operations began 24-hour operations and its command and control flight doubled their manning to two controllers per shift.
"Although we've been doing these C-130 swapouts since Sept. 11, our morale and sense of pride have improved due to the interaction with these troops," Maj. Burton said.
"We have enjoyed the increased traffic flow because it not only gives us a chance to do our job and get some valuable training, but it also provides an increased sense of mission accomplishment that supporting the channel airlift flow does not usually provide. We understand the importance of all the missions at Incirlik."
In addition to support from the 728th AMS, the crews also receive fuels and vehicle support from the 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron. To date, the squadron has provided more than 100,000 gallons of fuel to deploying and redeploying aircraft.
The 39th Services Squadron provides the crews with warm beds and hot meals.
During the swapout, the Sultan's Inn Dining Facility has served an extra 300 meals per day and Hodja Inn is at more than 125 percent capacity, consequentially many people are being asked to share rooms.
The squadron could put people in the contingency buildings at Hodja Village, but would prefer not to because they are less comfortable and don't have the same amenities such as private bathrooms, kitchenettes, televisions and VCRs.
"Our unit is often praised by transiting OEF participants for the quality of support we continue to give," said Maj. John Anderson, 39th LRS commander.
"Our troops are always excited to be able to participate in support of OEF operations in Afghanistan."