Patriot Village ready to help Americans displaced from Lebanon

  • Published
  • By Lori Burling Alves
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Incirlik Air Base has proved to be up to the challenge of building a temporary home for hundreds of displaced American citizens fleeing a bombed Lebanon. 

“It’s been a 48-hour around the clock process of preparing this area for the (American Citizen’s leaving Lebanon),” said Christopher Skully, 39th Services Squadron community support flight chief. “It’s been a team effort from nearly every squadron or group on base.” 

More than two dozen American citizens displaced from Lebanon arrived here July 21, and more than 3,000 are expected throughout the week. They are being housed in Patriot Village, an area on base where thousands of Airmen were housed before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The area had been vacant until word was received that these civilians would be arriving in Turkey. Since then, the village has been cleaned and equipped with all the essentials the visitors will need, including security. 

“Once they arrived they were given a badge and assigned an Air Force sponsor,” said Airman James Shaffer, 39th Security Forces Squadron patrolman. “Everyone has to have a reason for coming in because we have to ensure the both the safety of the American citizens displaced from Lebanon and the safety of citizens on the base.” 

The Patriot Village Community Center acts as a command hub in the center of the village, equipped with nearly two dozen direct-dial telephones to the United States, eight computers with wireless Internet access, a television and a first aid station. The center is adjacent to a temporary outdoor recreation office, a travel agency and a base exchange. A temporary dining facility has been constructed and sleeping units with bathrooms surround the community center. The new Patriot Village residents are staying eight-to-a-room and are separated by gender, said Mr. Skully. 

“The most important thing is to ensure that once people get here, they have the means to contact their families in the States and make arrangements for their departure,” he said. “We’re providing an open line of communication for them.” 

The length of the visitors’ stay is expected to be short. Onward movement options range from contract air from Incirlik, to travel arranged by the base Information, Tickets and Tours office. 

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service’s temporary field exchange – called a mini-BX – provides essentials for the American citizens such as hygiene products, snacks, drinks, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, undergarments, socks, baby items and phone cards. The exchange will be open 24-hours a day. 

“This is similar to what we set up downrange,” said Stephen Shaw, Incirlik Air Base BX store manager. “It includes basic stock from the main BX on base and consumables from the base shopette. It’s been a team effort to pull items from all of our facilities to create a one-stop shopping area. The most important item right now is the phone cards.” 

The BX also provides personal shoppers in case a special item is needed, such as clothing or shoes. 

“This is what we’re here for, to help not only military families but families in need. We’re going to do anything we can to help,” said Mr. Shaw. 

Services is also providing a temporary recreation station that allows the displaced citizens a place to check out books, magazines, board games and sports items.
Spirituality has not been forgotten either. Incirlik’s team of chaplains are working to provide the appropriate materials, counselors and services for worship. 

“We’re going to provide worship facilities or materials for all of the American citizens regardless of faith,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Martin King. “We’re arranging worship services, and have the base Muslim lay leader assisting us by providing prayer rugs for people of the Islamic faith.” 

Chaplain King said reading and worship material are available for Jewish, Christians, Mormons and Muslims. The chaplains also are available for personal consultations.
“We’re available to help with any religious accommodations,” he said. 

Civilian residents are also helping in the effort. Many military spouses have helped clean the village, make beds and are manning the recreation station. 

“Patriot Village can hold up to 1,800 people. That’s a lot of beds and a lot of linen. The spouses have been great in helping with that,” said Mr. Skully. 

As for the Americans displaced from Lebanon, most were working to contact family in the States and others were resting after many hours of travel by car, boat and bus. 

“They all seem very grateful for the care they are receiving,” said Mr. Skully. “Most of them have been traveling for days and are just tired and trying to get some rest.”