ANKARA, Turkey —The U.S. Air Force's top uniformed officer started a multi-day trip to Turkey by participating in welcome events in Ankara, Turkey July 19.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz began his visit with a wreath-laying ceremony honoring the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, at Anitkabir, Ataturk's memorial and mausoleum.
There, airmen from local U.S. Air Force units greeted General Schwartz, his wife Suzie, and other local U.S. and Turkish leaders, and joined the general on a traditional march through the memorial grounds.
The general thanked the airmen for their participation in both the ceremony and the important missions at their installations in Turkey.
"I want you all to understand how much I appreciate you and the work you are doing here in Turkey," Schwartz said to the airmen in attendance. "You are key to the missions we have here. Turkey is a very important ally of the United States, so thank you for making the bond we share strong."
The general submitted a written message to Ataturk in a visitor's log, expressing his admiration and appreciation for the leader and Turkey. All messages are logged into a vast electronic log that includes submissions from past visitors, including President Obama and other U.S. distinguished guests.
A guided tour of the memorial followed the wreath-laying ceremony, as well as a welcome ceremony at the Turkish air force headquarters where a military band played the U.S. and Turkish national anthems.
Turkish air force Gen. Hasan Aksay, commander of the Turkish air force, met Schwartz at the headquarters. The generals exchanged views and participated in various events throughout the visit.
After the meeting, Aksay presented Schwartz with the Legion of Merit of the Turkish Armed Forces for his contributions to improving relations between the U.S. and Turkish air forces.