Team Dover honors sacrifices of service members
Story by Mauricio Campino on 09/24/2019
Members of the 436th Airlift Wing, the 512th Airlift Wing, the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System came together during a retreat ceremony commemorating National POW/MIA Recognition Day 2019. Established by an act of Congress in 1998 and commemorated on the third Friday of September, National POW/MIA Recognition Day is a day of remembrance of the sacrifices and service of prisoners of war, as well as of those who are still missing in action.
The ceremony featured Col. Dawn Lancaster, AFMAO commander, as the guest speaker. In attendance were representatives from the offices of Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, local civic leaders and Team Dover Airmen and civilians. A troop formation included a flight made up solely of POW/MIA flags planted in the grass, representing more than 82,000 U.S. military service members still missing in action. During the ceremony, members of the Dover AFB Honor Guard played taps, fired a volley salute and performed a flag folding.
Also among the participants of the ceremony were nine members of the AFMES DNA Operations Department. They read off the names of 141 service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The department had a direct role in identifying the remains of these service members and, eventually, their repatriation. The lab moved from Rockville, Maryland, to Dover AFB in April of 2012 and is the Department of Defense’s only human remains DNA testing lab.
“DNA testing is not a fast process, but we move to do over 3,000 analyses per year,” said Dr. Tim McMahon, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System director of DNA operations.
The staff at the AFMES DNA Operations Department has contributed to more than 200 identifications this fiscal year alone. It typically takes 55 days from the time a DNA sample is obtained from human remains to the time a report is provided. That’s down from about 90 days in 2013. As technology evolves, the staff continuously strive to improve their methods without sacrificing accuracy.
“This mission is a reaffirmation to all service members that we, the United States, will always work to bring you home,” said McMahon.