Team Dover members get a glimpse behind the scenes of AFMAO

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Holly Roberts-Davis
  • AFMAO Public Affairs
Located in a far corner of the base just off of Purple Heart Drive is a building many may have heard about, but haven’t had the opportunity to see inside. As you drive by you’ll see flag poles centered near the front entrance. Standing tall is the American flag surrounded by the flags of each branch of service. Mixed among those brightly colored flags, one tends to stand out -- the sharply contrasting black and white of the POW/MIA flag, representing those service members who were missing in action or prisoners of war.

Behind the walls of the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs, service members and civilians assigned to Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations work diligently to provide dignity, honor, and respect to fallen service members returning home from overseas, as well as caring for their families left behind. Because of the sensitivity of the mission, the doors are not open to the public.

Recently, members stationed at Dover were offered an opportunity to see how fallen service members are cared for when they arrive home.

Christin Michaud, AFMAO’s Chief of Public Affairs, says the open-house style visits give base personnel a chance to see how their mission on base contributes to the mission at AFMAO.

“We could not do what we do without the support of Team Dover,” said Michaud. “This is allows them to see the big picture.”

Maj. Cynthia Hernandez-Falu, a special project officer with the base chapel, said it was an honor to see what AFMAO Airmen do on a daily basis to care for fallen service members and their loved ones left behind. 

“The whole AFMAO team has a huge cross to bear but you would never notice because what drives them is honor,” said Hernandez-Falu. “They complete their mission with the highest standards possible.  The ceaseless efforts to our heroes can never be measured.”

“The mission that is conducted at AFMAO elevates my appreciation for wearing this uniform,” said Master Sgt. Sharry Barnshaw, the 3rd Airlift Squadron’s first sergeant. “I have always known the mission of AFMAO, but the [visit] really showed us all of the hard work and dedication that is put into honoring our fallen and supporting their families.”

Barnshaw went on to say the open house was truly a humbling experience and wishes everyone had the opportunity to visit AFMAO.

“I learned so much more about how we receive and honor our fallen,” she said. “I didn’t know…the attention to detail that the AFMAO team considers to being sensitive to what the families are going through.”

Barnshaw also said she was impressed with the focus on resiliency within the unit.

Many of the members who work at AFMAO are Airmen from the services career field deployed from Dover and Joint-Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. These Airmen are typically assigned to work food, fitness and lodging -- a much different mission than their duties at AFMAO.

According to Michaud, the unit’s resiliency program is key in helping those Airmen make the transition.

“When you’re surrounded by death day in and day out, it’s important to take time away from the mission,” said Michaud. “Our resiliency program is all about relationship building.”

The open house offered just a glimpse into what happens behind the scenes at the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs. The opportunity is offered twice a year to Defense Department ID card holders.