Frequently Asked Questions - General AFMAO information

Why is the process called a "dignified transfer?"
The process is a solemn and dignified transfer from the aircraft to an awaiting transport vehicle that ensures dignity, honor and respect are afforded to the fallen. 

Does the military pay for families to travel to Dover Air Force Base to witness the transfer?
We are committed to the care, service and support of the families of our fallen. 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. 

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 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 long does it take 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, most service members arrive to Dover AFB within 24-48 hours.

If they are in a "believed to be" status, why has the family been informed if positive identification hasn't been established?
The Department of Defense considers all returning service members as "believed to be" until they are officially confirmed by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System. It is Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations mission and privilege to fulfill the nation's sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor and respect to the fallen. In addition to caring for the nation's fallen, it is AFMAO's mission to ensure families of those fallen service members are provided care, service and support of the families of our 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 happens to the personal effects of a fallen service member?
Personal effects of the fallen are shipped to the Joint Personal Effects Depot, also located at Dover Air Force Base, Del., which are then inventoried, processed and cataloged. A Summary Court Officer will be appointed by the service member's commander. This individual will inventory, safeguard and deliver, as directed by the primary next of kin, all personal effects. 

What is the difference between a transfer case and a casket?
Transfer cases are used to transport fallen members 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.