NEWS | Feb. 9, 2014

Joint Task Force-Bravo members complete mortuary affairs training

By U.S. Air Force Capt. Zach Anderson Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Twenty personnel assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo completed a mortuary affairs training course here, Feb. 4-6. The class was taught by Eric Herr, U.S. Army South Mortuary Affairs Officer, in order to ensure designated members of the Task Force are properly trained in mortuary affairs.

The three-day course, which was coordinated by Joint Task Force-Bravo's J4 (Logistics) Directorate, focused on preparing appointed mortuary affairs officers from each MSC for their duties in the event of a casualty.

"The very beginning of the class is focused on the history of mortuary affairs and why it is so important," said Herr. "The U.S. is the only country I am aware of that goes to the extent that we do in order to recover our fallen servicemembers. I explain to them the importance of what they will be doing, the importance of doing it right, and the importance of getting those remains back to the family members so they can have closure."

According U.S. Army Capt. Aimee Gregory, Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Element, commanders are required to have a five-member search and recovery team trained and ready to recover human remains and personal effects.

"The commitment to leave no servicemember behind is central to our national and military values and Department of Defense policy mandates that those who make the ultimate sacrifice be recovered and returned to family and loved ones expeditiously and with dignity, reverence, and respect," said Gregory.

The training provided during the course ensures the proper handling, care, retrieval of remains and personal effects.

"Team members need specific and unique training, incorporating scientific, strategic, tactical and administrative knowledge," said Gregory.

Herr said that along with the technical knowledge, the course also trained members on dealing with the emotional toll of a search and recovery effort.

"I teach them about the stress and the strain, and how to cope with the emotions of dealing with the deceased," said Herr. "We talk about how to understand the stress of a situation where a servicemember is required to go out and collect remains."

Herr said he believes that those who take the course not only leave with not only a skill set from the training, but also a greater appreciation for the efforts of the U.S. military to ensure every fallen servicemember comes home.

"They see and understand that if something were to happen to them the U.S is going to do everything possible to make sure they come home," said Herr.