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Holiday Delivery: The Time We Delivered The Christmas Turkey To Turkey

Troops don’t magically get food delivered to their bases.  It was done by crew dogs like us!

One of the missions my unit was regularly assigned to was to provide ration supply operations for United Air Forces Europe’s bases.  Families and service members stationed overseas depend on the base commissary system to provide the traditional comfort food we rely on to celebrate our national holidays. Amazing as it may sound, canned pumpkin, cranberry sauce, and frozen turkeys aren’t casually stocked in the local towns and villages near our overseas bases. They have to get there somehow!  We were that somehow.

The Turkey Trot

The Turkey Trot was one of the most desirable missions in the 37th Airlift Squadron. The trip was usually 2-3 days, included interesting stops on the Mediterranean Sea and access to “the alley” a much-storied strip of Turkish shops near the base. The Turkey Trot was a practically a squadron institution. Crew members would bring their leather jackets to a vendor that would offer new liners, pocket designs and sew flags into their coats. Another offered hundreds of morale patches or even custom designed patches that could be picked up by the next crew coming through. Many of us had custom suits tailor-made and then eagerly awaited the next mission to bring them home. The variety of offerings made us feel like Aladdin flying into an Arabian bazaar.

We departed Ramstein with our load for Aviano Air Base in Italy. After refueling, we continued our trek over the Adriatic and landed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. We off loaded our cargo at lightning speed, coordinated our departure time for the next morning, and then rallied to go off base to shop.ltag

The Fresh Meat Flights

mudjatsBefore our flight home, we hit up the commissary for some lunch. There was a notice was posted conspicuously in the freezer section:

THE LAST FRESH MEAT FLIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS IS SCHEDULED TO ARRIVE DECEMBER 8TH.

At that moment I realized the significance of the eight pallets of rations we had flown from Ramstein Germany to Incirlik Turkey. The documents authorizing the shipment indicated that we were flying a C-130J packed full of fresh fruits, vegetables & meat packaged in 600lb of dry-ice.

Our flight that day was the last ration supply mission before Christmas. And from the back of our C-130J we delivered the fruits, vegetables and the Christmas Turkey to Turkey through the ‘magic’ of airlift! It was one of those rare days when we got to see the direct impact of our airlift operation.

When I got home I shared my pictures with my kids and joked with them about it being a photo from inside Santa’s sleigh. Unfortunately, my kids became worried because they thought that all they were getting for Christmas was turkey.  They remained on their best behavior for the rest of the holiday season. Ho Ho Ho!

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Written by Joe Vaeth

Joe Vaeth

Joe Vaeth is a life-long fan of all things aviation. Currently an airline pilot, his background includes over 10 years of flying C-130s for the U.S. Air Force and glider flying along the front range of the Colorado Rockies. He resides in Southern California with his wife and three children and has recently taken up cider brewing. He also enjoys, bike riding, kite flying & aerial photography.

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