Airmen broaden horizons, experience Turkish culture

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee
  • Anatolian Falcon 2012
Airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, participating in Anatolian Falcon 2012 took part in a cultural immersion trip March 10 to Cappadocia, Turkey.

Cappadocia is an ancient region in Turkey known for its unique landscape of free-standing rock formations; rolling hills of tufa, a type of porous rock; and cave dwellings carved into mountain sides. The landscape formed from nearby volcanic eruptions, thousands of years of natural erosion and survival efforts of early Turkish inhabitants.

The Airmen ate a traditional Turkish lunch, viewed demonstrations by a local potter and onyx craftsman, and browsed marketplaces. They also toured the inside of the cave dwellings and underground cities, some as deep as eight levels into the earth.

The canyons and underground cities stood out the most to Tech. Sgt. Torrey Hardey, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and tour participant.

"It's interesting to think about how long it took to carve cities and homes into a mountain," he said. "It's amazing to see the people's determination over the course of hundreds of years."

The Cappadocia region contains 36 cave cities and countless single-room cave dwellings. The Airmen toured Derinkuyu underground city, which has nearly 600 entrance locations and is deeper than 250 feet. Movable rock doors and defensive postures exist, as well as ventilation and communication shafts.

This is Hardey's second time to Turkey but his first cultural immersion trip.

"I really didn't know what to expect," Hardy said, "and I definitely got more than I expected. My eyes have been opened, and I have a greater appreciation for the Turkish people in general."

He said seeing the countryside of Turkey and learning about the history allows him to truly get a feel of the host nation's sensitivities.

"Being in the military gives all of us an opportunity to travel and see those different cultures first hand," Hardey said. "It's an eye-opening experience."

Traveling around some of the villages here puts everything in perspective, said Airman 1st Class Ryan Charpentier, 52nd AMXS.

"Every culture has its own views and beliefs," he said. "It doesn't matter if you're in America, Germany or Turkey. No one viewpoint is right or wrong; none are better or worse."

This is Charpentier's first time to Turkey, and he said he didn't really know what to expect. Some of Charpentier's coworkers had been here before and tried to prepare him by describing the hotel and nearby Western-style mall.

"You have to see more of Turkey than just the hotel and the mall," he said. "There's so much to see and do - you can't just sit around at a hotel."

People may think Turkey doesn't have a lot to offer if they don't make an attempt at exploring their surroundings to learn all they can about their host nation, said Airman 1st Class Wayland Asbury, 52nd AMXS.

"You have to go out and see the real area," he said. "You have to see and taste the real traditions, food and culture."

Hardey said cultural immersion trips help an Airman grow as a person. It's a whole-person concept. People tend to focus on what they do day to day, and during exercises, Airmen may become too focused at work to take advantage of these types of trips.

"We work closely with the Turks during the exercise," he continued. "We've built good relations during this trip, and learning more about their culture helps build trust and companionship during work hours."