Senior Airman Gina Castro, 436th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, stands ready with 9-year-old German Shepherd, Stoney. The MWD handlers conduct a search of all media members that document a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo/Roland Balik)
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. —
Dover Air Force Base Airmen are prepared to support the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at any given moment.
Some of the squadrons supporting the AFMAO mission share their insight about the job and why they are proud to make their solemn contribution.
The 436th Dental Squadron provides support in identifying human remains through a dental examination.
"It is very important that we help make an accurate, positive ID of the remains for the families of the fallen," said Tech. Sgt. Kristopher Auger, 436th DS and Dental Evidence Response Team member. "The DERT team takes X-rays of the teeth of the deceased to help identify the person."
Dental technicians compare the actual teeth to the dental records for any dental work. Also, dentists provide a full, hands-on dental exam to make a positive ID and confirmation compared to the X-rays.
Transporting the Families
Families of the fallen are transported by the Airmen from the 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron from the Center for the Families of the Fallen for the dignified transfer on the flightline.
When 436th LRS Airmen receive a call from AFMAO they wait for the families at the Center for the Families of the Fallen.
Senior Airman Kevin Cain, 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron driver and dispatcher, says it is an honor for him to transport families of the fallen.
"Even though it's a sad feeling that comes along with doing this, I try to remember it's not about me - it's about the family," said Airman Cain.
"This mission isn't something we were taught in technical school, but many of us knew this kind of support was something offered at Dover," said Airman Cain. "Each dignified transfer is different. I believe we can all relate in the feelings we would have if we lost our loved ones. I have a son and when I see the children with the families on the bus, I've teared up when the young children ask 'where's my daddy, and when is he coming back.'"
Dover's Sentry and Shield
When media members arrive at Dover to take pictures on the flightline of the dignified transfer, it is up to the 436th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog handlers to ensure the safety of the base by conducting a search. Whether it is day or night, Staff Sgt. Abraham Wheeler, 436th SFS MWD handler, says he is prepared to fulfill his mission with MWD Llance, a 6-year-old German Shepherd.
"When we escort media members, we check their camera bags and equipment to ensure nothing illegal enters the base or poses a threat," said Sergeant Wheeler. "When families come to Dover Air Force Base they are here to grieve for their loved one, and we conduct these security checks to ensure their safety."
The 436th SFS also provides a vehicle escort for the mortuary transfer vehicle from flightline to AFMAO at the conclusion of the dignified transfer.
The 436th and 512th Airlift Wings support AFMAO to conduct it's solemn mission of providing dignity, honor and respect to the fallen, while providing care, service and support to the families.