NEWS | Dec. 3, 2021

Dover reservists support mortuary mission

By Tech. Sgt. Katie Maricle Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations

Compared to the 6,825 miles between Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, and Al-Udeid Air Base, the quarter mile to get from the 512th Memorial Affairs Squadron and the Fisher House for Families of the Fallen doesn’t seem like it would be considered a deployment.

However, three reserve Airmen at Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations are serving in a deployed status, just as they would be overseas – but they only have to travel down the street from their home unit. They serve with their teammates at AFMAO’s main building, which shares a parking lot with the 512th MAS.

“Sometimes that’s a disadvantage because it doesn’t feel mentally like a typical deployment,” said Tech. Sgt. Kyle Robinson, Fisher House manager on duty.

The nature of AFMAO’s sacred mission brings with it unique challenges and work tempos. Deployed total force Airmen in the Services career field dedicate their time over roughly six months to this important mission.

Providing care, service and support to families of the fallen in the Fisher House was Robinson’s first choice when he learned he would deploy to AFMAO.

“I like to care for people and this seemed like a good fit,” Robinson said.

Master Sgt. Ernest Davis, Fisher House manager on duty, has deployed several times to AFMAO since he joined the 512th MAS in 2002, but this is his first time working with families of the fallen.

“It’s a great mission. It’s a learning experience and a very unique experience,” said Davis. “It’s opened my eyes to the family aspect of things. I’ve always worked on the other side of [the mission].”

Senior Airman Franck Yonkeu, Fisher House manager on duty, understands that while a deployment to AFMAO is not typical in the Air Force, serving in the Fisher House provides a unique way to honor the fallen and care for their families.

“You still serve the fallen, and you have that same honor, just in a different place,” he said.

While the Fisher House is in a separate complex from AFMAO, Robinson said many of the deployers, whether they have traveled from a neighboring state or across the country, have a strong bond regardless of their deployed unit.

”We get to spend the holidays together and there are always opportunities for us to get out and spend time together,” he said.

Although their unit is just next door to AFMAO, two of the three Airmen live out of state. Robinson lives and works in New York and Yonkeu resides in Maryland. They are among the 30 deployed personnel who stay in base lodging during their deployment and away from their families. Davis lives locally and is able to commute to work each day.

Although this mission can be very challenging, it also brings deployers, both from Dover and around the Air Force, a sense of honor in pride for their contribution to the mission.

 “If I had to choose where to [deploy] again, I would choose the Fisher House,” said Yonkeu.