Charleston air base crew helps get U.S. families out of Turkey

The aircrew, consisting of members from the 14th and 16th Airlift Squadron and the 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, stand in front of a C-17 Globemaster III on Friday at Joint Base Charleston. The airmen were one of the first crews involved with flying an ordered departure mission of military families out of Turkey.

A Joint Base Charleston Air Force crew was one of the first involved in airlifting military dependents from Turkey last week when family members were ordered to leave the area because of security concerns in the region.

The aircrew — members from the 14th and 15th Airlift squadrons and the 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron — returned to base Friday after airlifting more than 60 people to Baltimore, according to a news release.

While in Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, the aircrew was put on alert that they would participate in the ordered departure.

“I’ve never had to fly this many children and pets before,” said Capt. Randy Semrau, a pilot with the 14th squadron. “Most of our missions involve moving cargo and service members. We had to take on different roles to ensure we were catering to the needs of the families.”

The first flight out of Turkey was to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where the airmen flew more than 130 spouses, children and pets aboard a C-17 Globemaster III. According to Semrau, some of the families stayed in Germany but others chose to return to the United States.

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Akers, a 16th AS loadmaster, added that although the families were upset they were leaving their homes and spouses behind, they felt they were in good hands.

“Missions like this really show how much weight military families bear,” Akers said.

Aboard the C-17, Akers was in charge of all passenger safety. “It’s very humbling to be a part of a mission where there were many moving parts and everyone came together to make the mission a success,” Akers said.