New commander leads mortuary mission

  • Published
  • By Christin Michaud
  • AFMAO Public Affairs
Col. Dawn C. Lancaster assumed command of Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations from Col. Daniel F. Merry in a ceremony presided over by Brig. Gen. Lenny Richoux, Director, Services, Deputy Chief of Staff, Manpower, Personnel and Services, Headquarters United States Air Force, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., here, June 28. 

The men and women of AFMAO, both military and civilian, permanent party and deployed, as well as commanders and members of the local community were in attendance to welcome the new commander and bid farewell to the old.

Richoux expressed his gratitude to those in attendance for their support of this sacred mission including a special thanks to the Dover community. 

"You have welcomed and cherished this mission as your own and without your local support, on behalf of the entire nation, we could not return our warriors to their families in such a solemn manner," Richoux told community members. "I cannot thank you enough."

When a commander leaves, another one has to be chosen to take the reins, said the general and that is not an easy choice. 

"The roles and responsibilities are unique, the mission is extraordinary and the stakes are high," said Richoux of the mortuary mission.  

Lancaster has previous command experience as a squadron commander and most recently, as the vice commander of the 78th Air Base Wing, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.

"Command is the premiere achievement of an officer's career," said Richoux. "It is the ultimate leadership test. You are uniquely and exceptionally qualified to follow in (Col.) Dan Merry's footsteps."

Next week will mark 20 years since Lancaster returned from Khobar Towers where she experienced firsthand the impact the mortuary mission has on the fallen and their families after the bombing. It was that experience that prompted her to put in an official request to become part of the services career field. Since then, she has worked as a mortuary officer and in other leadership positions at the squadron and command level before accepting command of AFMAO.

"I stand before you today truly blessed and humbled - to be entrusted not only as a commander again - but the commander of what I consider the most honorable job in the Department of Defense and my dream job," said Lancaster. "I am honored to be your commander."

The colonel saw the impact the services career field has on every single Airman and her experience has helped her truly understand the importance of honoring the fallen and caring for their families.

"I believe a leader is a servant," she said. "I am here to serve our fallen, their families ... and I am here to serve you."