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Questions

Why is the process called a "dignified transfer"?

The process is a solemn and dignified transfer from the aircraft to a waiting transport vehicle that ensures dignity, honor and respect are afforded to the fallen.

Is the transfer a formal ceremony?

No, this is a solemn, dignified transfer to honor those who have given their lives in the service of our country. The term "ceremony" creates an impression that it is an event that family members need to participate in. However, we don't want to place any undue hardship on grieving families by making them feel obligated to attend. 

What is the sequence of events for a dignified transfer?

Once the aircraft lands at Dover Air Force Base, Del., customs officials will inspect and clear the aircraft. Following that process, an advance team will also board the aircraft to inspect and pre-position the transfer case(s). An honor guard composed of members of the same military service as the fallen will then remove the transfer case from the aircraft and transfer it in a respectful and reverent manner to a specialized vehicle that transports it to the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs. 

Why are they called transfer cases? What is the difference between a transfer case and a casket?

Transfer cases are used to transport our fallen to Dover AFB. After a fallen service member has been identified and prepared for return to their families, they are placed in a casket and transported to their final resting place. 

How are families notified of a military death?

Families are notified by a uniformed service member from the same branch of service as the fallen. Families are also assigned a liaison officer that personally assists them in every aspect concerning the return of their fallen family member. 

How are aircraft selected to transport remains from theater to Dover AFB?

Our goal is to return the fallen to their loved ones as quickly as possible. Consistent with this goal, our fallen have the highest priority and are placed on the first available aircraft to Dover AFB. 

How long does it take to for remains to get to Dover?

The time varies for each transfer case but consistent with our commitment to ensure the highest priority for our fallen and their families, we try to ensure arrival to Dover within 24-48 hours. 

If they are in a "believed to be" status, why have you informed the family if you haven't positively identified the service member?

Because we have an obligation to the care, service and support of the families of our fallen, we want to ensure they get news from a uniformed service member and receive all the support they need. Based on this commitment, we consider all returning servicemembers as "believed to be" until they can be confirmed officially.

Does the military pay for families to travel to Dover AFB to witness the transfer?

We are committed to the care, service and support of the families of our fallen. Because of this, the military service of the fallen service member will fund the travel of the primary next of kin, plus two additional family members, to witness the dignified transfer.

What happens to the personal effects of a fallen service member?

Personal effects of the fallen are shipped to the Joint Personal Effects Detachment located at Dover Air Force Base, Del., which inventories, processes and catalogues them, ensuring all items are accounted for and are personally delivered to the family.
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