Despite the outbreak of COVID-19, the Turkish military is more active than ever. It is currently fighting on two military fronts (Syria and Libya) while conducting operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq and taking part in multinational missions (such as in Afghanistan and Somalia). Its navy is active in the eastern Mediterranean, and recently took charge of the Joint Task Force to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden in the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile, its air force actively participates in many multinational exercises, including a recent one in which it demonstrated its aerial refueling capabilities. At a time when many countries are limiting their military activities due to the pandemic, the Turkish military has emerged as one of the most active in the region. The accompanying passages from Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Ajansi provide a detailed look at some of the steps that the Turkish military took to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on military operations.
The article starts out by claiming that the Turkish Armed Forces has one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 in the world, due to special measures taken by the Defense Ministry. The passage reports that the first thing the Defense Ministry did was to establish a “Center to Combat Coronavirus.” This center was formed as a unit encompassing the entire military chain starting from the General Staff, to include all military branches, field armies, and each of the navy and airbase commands. By establishing this unit, the Defense Ministry centralized the tracking of coronavirus cases within the military in one database, which it also used for contact-tracing.
The passage explains that the Turkish Armed Forces closed its schools, units, headquarters and bases to outside visitors. As of 21 March, the navy directed its warships to sail away from their homeports to outside ports, where they took isolation measures. Also in the other branches, special measures were taken to enable critical and specialized personnel, particularly pilots, to work in shifts. Combat weapons and equipment as well as surfaces were regularly disinfected. Soldiers who were supposed to be discharged saw their orders extended for a month, and were quarantined for 14 days before being discharged. Soldiers with new orders were tested before being deployed.
The passage also discusses measures taken in areas of ongoing operations. The units deployed to Syria and Iraq were ordered to minimize personnel movements, and those returning to Turkey were quarantined for 14 days prior to their return. For ongoing missions, the passage points out “operation methods were identified to minimize the risk of contagion.” Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) defense teams were used to disinfect all vehicles coming in from Syria using CBRN cleaning systems. As the article claims, “the planning and implementation of the measures…enabled the approximately 500,000 Turkish Armed Forces to have a very low incidence of coronavirus.”
The planning and implementation of the measures… enabled the approximately 500,000 Turkish Armed Forces to have a very low incidence of coronavirus.
Source: “TSK’dan koronavirüs ile mücadelede göz dolduran basari (The Turkish Armed Forces’ significant success in fighting coronavirus),” Anadolu Ajansi, 7 June 2020. https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/koronavirus/tskdan-koronavirus-ile-mucadelede-goz-dolduran-basari-/1868059
Thanks to the measures they took, the Turkish Armed Forces is among the militaries with the lowest cases of coronavirus.
In the fight against coronavirus, the Turkish Armed Forces has taken a unique place among world militaries. When looking at the ratio of case numbers to personnel numbers, the Turkish Armed Forces emerged with the lowest number, and with this success, exceeded important militaries such as those of the US, Russia, France and England.
According to information obtained by the AA [Anadolu Ajansi] correspondent, this success is due to the measures imposed across the country by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s, and those taken by the National Defense Ministry in accordance with that guidance.
The planning and implementation of the measures, which were taken in coordination with the Health Ministry, enabled the approximately 500,000 Turkish Armed Forces to have a very low incidence of coronavirus…
In this framework, the first thing that was done was to establish a Center to Counter COVID-19 (KOMMER). KOMMER was formed as a unit running across the chain from top to bottom, incorporating the General Staff, all military branches, field armies, all the way down to the navy and airbase commands.
KOMMER established contact-tracing teams, and managed the situation successfully starting from the bases at the lowest levels to the ships to the fleets; as well as tracked the cases over a Case Tracking Software.
Additional Measures in Operation Areas
In addition to fighting coronavirus, the Turkish Armed Forces has not skipped a beat in its fight against terror, and additional measures were taken to prevent the virus from spreading in operation areas.
In addition to additional measures to all units in areas of operations, the areas of operations in northern Syria were regulated to limit entries and exits… Unless absolutely necessary, personnel and unit movements were minimized.
In the areas of Operation Peace Shield, Operation Olive Branch and Operation Peace Spring [in Syria], trainings were conducted to increase awareness and information. Operation methods that would minimize the risk of contagion were identified for on-going missions.
Those personnel coming into Turkey from areas of operation were quarantined for 14 days before entering Turkey, and their health checks were conducted. Vehicles coming into the country from Syria were disinfected by CBRN teams using CBRN cleaning systems.
Protective health equipment (like thermometers) were sent to units in Syria…
The National Defense University schools were closed, and non-commissioned officers were not allowed to leave on the weekends. No visitors were allowed on bases.
Isolation on Ships, Pilots Worked in Shifts
Force Commands also took special measures to add to this success. Per the Naval Forces Command, as of 21 March, warships were directed to ports outside of their main bases, where they took effective isolation measures.
In the Force Commands, special measures were taken to enable critical personnel and specialized personnel, particularly pilots to work in shifts. Combat weapons and equipment as well as any surface that was used by personnel were regularly disinfected. …
The November 2019 class of soldiers saw their orders extended for a month…. and were quarantined for 14 days before being discharged….
Soldiers with new orders were tested before being deployed.