Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations is a Field Operating Agency under the Deputy Chief of Staff, Manpower, Personnel and Services, Headquarters Air Force. AFMAO is comprised of several sections: Mortuary Affairs, Operations Support, Resources, Readiness and Plans, and the Leadership and Staff Agencies.
Leadership and Staff Agencies
The Leadership and Staff Agencies support a variety of tasks for both internal and external customers. The leadership staff consists of the Commander, Deputy Commander and the Chief Enlisted Manager. Leader biographies are available here.
The Executive Officer and Commander’s Support Staff support the leadership and division staff members with a variety of tasks. The Executive Officer administers and directs AFMAOs executive support functions and ensures day-to-day operations comply with the commander’s policies. Additionally, they manage group resources for executive support, services and activities. The CSS supervises and performs personnel activities and functions, including personnel action requests, source documents, personnel records, evaluation and awards programs and other tasks required by leadership.
The AFMAO Chaplain Corps, which is comprised of chaplains and religious affairs Airmen, serve the families of our fallen and the staff who support the mortuary mission. The Chaplain Corps has an embedded ministry of presence, routinely offering events to assist with maintaining a balanced lifestyle. The team offers counseling, spiritual mentoring, stress management, evaluation of emotional and spiritual resiliency, in-person education and fitness classes, meditation and other events that focus on mitigating daily stressors while promoting healthy lifestyles. In addition to providing diverse spiritual care for the AFMAO staff, the Chaplain Corps provides continuum of care for the families of the fallen when they arrive to witness a dignified transfer. They also advise leadership on matters related to the religious, spiritual, ethical, moral and morale of the organization.
The resiliency team, which consists of chaplains, religious affairs and mental health Airmen, a Military and Family Life Counselor, and physical training leaders, provides a robust and diverse resiliency support outreach program that incorporates the Comprehensive Airman Fitness Program (Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual) to enhance the welfare of the team while maintaining a high operational tempo. The caregivers focus on helping the staff maintain a balanced lifestyle and explore professional development goals while ensuring the dignity, honor and respect for the fallen, and the care, service and support to their families. Learn more about the resiliency team.
The Public Affairs office is the Department of Defense lead for implementing the media policy for dignified transfers and manages mortuary mission inquiries on behalf of the Air Force. In addition, they manage all strategic messaging and community engagement activities for AFMAO.
The Resource Division is responsible for the management and oversight of personnel actions, administration, budget and accounting, acquisitions management, information technology and logistics supply, which includes the management of a 9,000 square foot warehouse and a 12-vehicle fleet.
Mortuary Affairs Division
The Mortuary Affairs Division is broad in scope with worldwide oversight for current and past conflict deaths, ensuring dignity, honor and respect to fallen Airmen and Air Force civilian employees. This mission includes those Airmen who died in past conflicts whose remains have yet to be recovered, identified and returned to their families.
The division ensures the care, service and support to Air Force families. Mortuary specialists support families by assisting them with mortuary entitlements, funeral services, fly-over requests and providing updates or identification briefings of unaccounted-for Airmen to next of kin during DoD Family Member Updates. Mortuary Affairs coordinates with the Air Force Casualty Affairs at the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, which oversees the casualty notification process for ill, injured, wounded and deceased, as well as managing the worldwide Air Force casualty affairs program.
Mortuary specialists assigned to this division are charged with preparing fallen service members arriving at Dover Air Force Base for return to their families and final resting place as elected by the Person Authorized to Direct Disposition. In carrying out the mission, mortuary affairs personnel provide around-the-clock support to Headquarters Air Force, Air Force major commands, installation mortuary officers and technicians and funeral directors worldwide, ensuring immediate and continued support is provided to fallen Airmen and their families. When called upon in times of crisis or natural disasters, they provide support for mass fatalities and search and recovery operations.
The Mortuary Affairs personnel provide training for all mortuary officers and technicians through the Mortuary Officer and Technician courses held at the Eaker Center on Maxwell Air Force Base, in addition to mortuary courses held at AFMAO for Reserve and Guard personnel. Mortuary Affairs personnel also train Wing leadership at the Wing Emergency Response Course.
Operating Locations in Europe and the Pacific support all installations in their area of responsibility. They provide guidance on mortuary policies and procedures, assisting with case support that includes communications, funding authorizations, transportation solutions and mass casualties. The operating locations support mortuary affairs education workshops, staff assistance visits, mortuary readiness and contingency planning. They also assist with overseas honor guard inquires and support for congressional inquiries.
Operations Support Division
The Operations Support Division provides training, preparation and oversight for total-force deployed personnel who support the mortuary mission at AFMAO.
The Operations Support Division is responsible for a variety of tasks in support of the dignified transfer of remains for fallen service members arriving at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. The dignified transfer is a solemn movement of remains from the aircraft to an awaiting vehicle for transport to the mortuary facility where the identification process begins. To learn more about dignified transfers, visit their fact sheet.
The command, control and communication center serves as the focal point for the dignified transfer coordination and execution. C3 is a 24-hour operations center in which the transportation of remains is coordinated and tracked from place of death to final resting place. C3 tracks and conducts notifications related to overseas contingency operations, current deaths, and natural disasters from start to finish. C3 also makes initial and follow-up notifications for all Human Remains Missions to both internal and external organizations that support DTs.
The division provides support for Dress and Restoration, Uniforms and Departures. These sections are responsible for dressing the fallen in their respective uniform or civilian attire, engraving, identification tags and casket inspection for return via hearse, commercial or contract air.
The operations team has dedicated personnel who support family members who travel to Dover Air Force Base to witness the dignified transfer of their loved one. The division manages the Campus for Families of the Fallen, which consists of three main areas: the Center for Families of the Fallen, the Fisher House for Families of the Fallen and the Meditation Pavilion. The facilities are designed to provide families with an area of privacy, comfort and support while they are at Dover Air Force Base to witness the dignified transfer of their loved ones. To learn more about the Campus for Families of the Fallen, visit their fact sheet.
The division is responsible for the reverse dignified transfer program in partnership with the 436th Airlift Wing. The division selects individuals and conducts training for carry teams to accomplish the solemn movement as the fallen leave Dover AFB for return to their loved ones at their final resting place. Additionally, the division backfills the Air Force Honor Guard Team for dignified transfers and is responsible for instructing Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force carry teams for ground training.
They also facilitate a 5-day Force Support Contingency Training Mortuary course as pre-deployment training for Air Force Reserve personnel.
Readiness and Plans Division
The Readiness and Plans Division provides oversight of inspection programs; management of Air Force-wide Honor Guard programs; education, training and contingency guidance; support for plans, programs, and exercises; management of mortuary and honor guard policy; and deployment support to Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations and mortuary deployment managers.
The Readiness section maintains responsibility for updating mortuary Unit Types Codes and mortuary equipment requirements, while overseeing the deployment reception and redeployment process for approximately 60 members tasked to deploy to AFMAO annually. They provide training and contingency guidance through oversight of unit, Major Command, Headquarters Air Force and joint-level mortuary plans. Additionally, the Readiness section executes an internal exercise program, preparing AFMAO for mass fatality incident response and continuity of operations procedures. The section serves as the readiness and mortuary functional expert for Manpower, Personnel and Services, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, supporting a variety of Air Force and DoD exercises, operations, planning engagements and events.
The Readiness and Plans Inspections section oversees AFMAO’s internal Commander’s Inspection Program, preparing the unit for DoD Mortuary Facility inspections and Air Force Inspection Agency Unit Effectiveness Inspections. Additionally, the Inspections section oversees five active and inactive Air Force cemeteries, to include the U.S. Air Force Academy. They ensure standards and measures set forth by the Army National Military Cemeteries are met, as part of the Department of Defense requirement. The Inspections section also manages AFI 34-160, Mortuary Affairs Program, the mortuary affairs Self-Assessment Communicator within Management Internal Control Toolset, and provides mortuary and honor guard policies and support to more than 90 installations worldwide, overseeing a continuous evaluation process which communicates the status of installation programs to MAJCOM Inspector General prior to wing Unit Effectiveness Inspections.
The Education and Training section in Readiness and Plans oversees the training and development of AFMAO civilian and military employees. Additionally, Education and Training plans and executes Force Support Contingency Training-Mortuary. In addition, Education and Training liaises with the Eaker Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, to ensure execution of the Mortuary Officer and Technician course, a five-day course designed to better prepare Force Support officers and mortuary technicians to handle technical aspects of mortuary affairs.
The Honor Guard section provides management oversight, policy, guidance and support to Air Force-wide Honor Guard programs. They liaise with the Air Force Honor Guard at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C., to develop curriculum, direct and instruct three Honor Guard Program Managers courses annually. The Honor Guard section manages policy and standards for 57 Honor Guards in varying area of responsibilities, leading 102 total force units who deliver more than 40,000 Military Funeral Honors annually. They also serve as the Munitions Functional Manager for Manpower, Personnel and Services, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, validating and approving more than $1 million in operational assets for funerals, training and ceremonies.
More information on the Readiness and Plans Division is available here.
Additional information for the Honor Guard is available here.