Col. John M. Devillier, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations commander, welcomes Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James to the atrium of the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs, Dover Air Force Base, Del., Jan. 10, 2014. James received an orientation of the mortuary, the Center for Families of the Fallen and the Fisher House for Families of the Fallen during her visit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Laura Beckley)
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del, —
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James came to Dover Air Force Base Jan. 10, for the second time since becoming the 23rd secretary of the Air Force.
James' first visit was under different circumstances, she said.
"The first one was rather sobering and sad, but it was an honor to be part of it," said James.
Just 10 days after being sworn in, James attended the dignified transfer of an Airman killed in Afghanistan. His remains were flown to Dover on that cold, dark night.
James saw more of the sacred mission and met with the men and women who support it during her second visit. She received an orientation of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs facility and Campus for Families of the Fallen.
The secretary has taken three trips to the field, and two of the three have been to Dover.
"That should tell you how important this mission is," said James in an All Call to a packed audience at the base theater.
She referred to the port mortuary as the heart of Dover's mission.
"The effort she is putting forth to understand what we do shows that our mission is inevitably a priority," said Tech. Sgt. Cheryl Uylaki, Fisher House NCO in charge.
The managers on duty at the Fisher House for Families of the Fallen were among the first to receive the secretary's coin for their work and support for the families.
"She expressed sincere interest in ensuring the exceptional Airmen we have today supporting our families are receiving the right training," said Uylaki.
Uylaki said she was touched that the secretary showed concern not only for the families, but for the well-being of the Airmen who care for those families long after they leave AFMAO.
"People are the core of our mission," James said, and her focus on Airmen was evident when she returned two days later with General Mark A. Welsh, Chief of Staff and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody to honor the Airmen killed in England.
In her three weeks as the SecAF, it was her third trip to Dover.