Senior Airman Kodi Jackson, 721st Aerial Port Squadron honorable transfer instructor, teaches fellow Airmen how to properly handle the transfer case of a fallen hero during a training course with an empty case at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Ramstein is the main hub for transferring fallen service members from the frontline to Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations at Dover Air Force Base, Del. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Damon Kasberg)
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany —
Members of the 721st Aerial Port Squadron, handle the delivery and shipment of everything from munitions, aircraft parts, medical supplies, ration pallets to registered mail. Even though they handle many high priority items, their most important job is also their hardest -- not because of the weight on their shoulders, but in their heart.
"Nothing is more important than our dignified (honorable) transfer operations," said Tech. Sgt. Clifton Robertson, a 721st APS special handling shift supervisor. "Our primary focus is to honor our fallen heroes' ultimate sacrifice to our country, by providing the utmost respect and professionalism on their journey back to their loved ones.
"I've seen quite a few fallen heroes come through here," he continued. "My heart sinks when I go out to our aircraft to perform my duties -- these are my comrades."
Ramstein is the main hub for transferring fallen service members from the frontline to Dover Air Force Base, Del. To ensure they arrive home in a respectful manner, a 721st APS Airmen constantly train on how to properly and professional transport fallen service members.
"I believe this is the most important thing you can learn in this career field," said Senior Airman Kodi Jackson, a 721st APS honorable transfer instructor. "During the course, Airmen learn how to respectfully handle the transfer cases before, during and after the operation.
"Everyone is very attentive," he said. "They want to learn everything so they can go out and perform a perfect operation for the dignified (honorable) transfer."
No matter how much training the Airmen attend, nothing can prepare them for the emotions they will go through during their first honorable transfer duty.
"The first time I had a lot of different emotions," said Airman 1st Class Sarah Buena, a 721st APS ramp services technician. "It didn't seem real at first. In the end, I felt honor and pride. I can't say it has gotten easier, but I've been able to handle it better because when I see that aircraft take off, I know I had a part in getting our fallen hero home."