DOGANBEY, Turkey -- Even though they liked to talk about it, LCpls. Nazim Arda and Aleister Avila never thought it would happen.
When the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) landed ashore here for the second and final phase of NATO Exercise Destined Glory, happen it did.
Arda and Avila found themselves in Turkey, the country where Arda was born and raised until he was 18 years old.
"Last year, before we ever knew we were coming here, we talked about how great it would be if we could end up in Turkey together," said Avila, Miami, Fla. native and personnel clerk with Battalion Landing Team 2/2. "I said, "If we go to Turkey together you can show me around and introduce me to all your friends."
"I just can't believe we're actually here."
The two Marines' wishes came partially true. Avila is stationed aboard USS Saipan while Arda is stationed aboard USS Ashland. The field exercise was their only opportunity to spend time together in the country they had talked about visiting.
"It's cool anyway," said Arda, who had not been back to Turkey since he left two years ago. "This is a chance for me to come back to my home. It's nice to be here, even if it is in the field."
That they were located in an unpopulated area of Turkey did not stop Arda from teaching Avila and other Marines a little about the country.
"The people here are a lot like the people in the United States," said the BLT 2/2 administration clerk, whose family now lives in Hubert, N.C. ?Some of the smaller towns are more traditional, but the larger cities are very Americanized. I grew up watching 'Melrose Place' and 'Saved by the Bell.'"
Turkey's history was also something Arda said his fellow Marines and Sailors should appreciate about the country.
"Turkey has been around for hundreds and hundreds of years," he said. "And in that time we have had several different governments. Compared to Turkey, the U.S. is just a baby."
Arda said he was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to translate during the first phase of Destined Glory, where he worked with BLT 2/2's Echo Company is Sarosbey, Turkey.
"It was fun talking to the Turkish officers," said Arda, who has taken the Department of Defense's language test and is being paid for his bilingual ability. "Somebody in a U.S. Marine uniform who jumps up and starts speaking [fluent] Turkish is not a common site. They are like, "Where are you from" Are you from Turkey?" It really surprises them to know I am a Turkish citizen who is a Unites States Marine."
Arda said he will likely stay in the Marine Corps and finish his college degree, though he hopes Turkey will be his next duty station.
"They have billets here for Marines who speak Turkish," he said. "I'd like to get one of those."
Arda said if that does happen, he'll be sure to give his friend Avila a call.
"I still want to see all the places and people he's told me about," said Avila.