Military News

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Green Backpack

Editor's Note:  The author of the essay is a former servicemember.

I really wanted that green backpack. It had green and white stripes with a large “ecology” symbol on the back. The symbol was essentially an upside down peace symbol within a circle. Its aluminum frame and nylon construction weren’t particularly comfortable, lightweight or even useful; but, in 1972 it was groovy. I imagined I would explore the wilderness with it on my back. I never imagined the journey it would take me on.

Read On
http://www.police-writers.com/articles/green_backpack.html

VA/DOD Expand Electronic Health Information Pilot to Eastern Virginia

March 8, 2010 - The Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense today announced the next phase of the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) Health Communities Program. This initiative improves care and services to our nation's heroes by sharing health information using the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) developed under the leadership of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

DoD and VA selected the Virginia/Tidewater area of Southeastern Virginia as the next area to partner with due to its high concentration of Veterans, military retirees, members of the guard and reserve, and active duty service members and their dependents.

In the Virginia/Tidewater area, VA and DoD will partner with private sector hospitals who have joined a regional health information exchange in this area. The Virginia/Tidewater pilot builds on the continuing success of the first pilot in San Diego with Kaiser Permanente.

Service members and veterans in the Virginia/Tidewater area will be invited to participate in this health data exchange program scheduled to launch this year. Individuals who choose to participate will authorize their public and private sector health care providers and doctors to share specific health information electronically, safely, securely and privately.

The program, through policy and technology, places the highest priority on patient privacy and data security. No exchange of information will occur without the appropriate permissions of the individual patients. Access to care will not be affected by a decision not to participate.

MILITARY CONTRACTS March 8, 2010

AIR FORCE

McDonnell Douglas Corp., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $148,668,470 contract which will provide for 6,565 Lot 14 guided vehicle kits procured for Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) purposes. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 678 ARSS/PK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity (FA8681-10-C-0072, P00003).

Boeing Co., St Louis, Mo., was awarded a $69,702,919 contract which will provide for the QF-16 full scale aerial target basic contract. At this time, $950,000 has been obligated. 691 ARSS, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity (FA8678-10-C-0100).

Science Applications Technology Services Co., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $50,841,636 contract which will provide for Option 3 for system engineering and integration contract. This will provide proactive technical management to enable more effective program execution. At this time, $25,578,521 has been obligated. GPSW/PK, El Segundo, Calif., is the contracting activity (FAA807-07-C-0002, P00046).

DRS Sustainment Systems, Inc., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $23,102,651 contract which will provide the Tunner 60K loader is an air cargo transporter/loader designed to transport and load up to six pallets with a total combined weight of 60 thousand pounds. At this time, $15,401,767 has been obligated. 542 CSW/PKBA, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., is the contracting activity (FA8519-04-D-0006).

United Launch Services, Littleton, Colo., was awarded a $6,502,811 contract which will provide new capabilities, tools, or resources required to increase the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. SMC/LR, El Segundo, Calif., is the contracting activity (FA8816-06-C-0003).

NAVY

Force Protection Industries, Inc., Ladson, S.C., is being awarded $26,192,014 for firm-fixed-priced delivery order #0012 under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5031) for the purchase of extending the performance of 216 field service representatives, life support, and vehicle and equipment rental in support of the TAK-4 Independent Suspension System installation on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Cougar Vehicles. Work will be performed at the MRAP Sustainment Facility in Kuwait, and is expected to be completed by June 30, 2010. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

Oceaneering International, Inc., Hanover, Md., is being awarded an $8,230,478 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for worldwide rapid non-nuclear engineering, production, planning, and yard support; Navy sponsored deep ocean search, research escape and rescue, and recovery services; and support for underwater and surface systems in support of the Deep Submergence System Program Office, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Work will be performed in Kittery, Maine (20 percent); Hanover, Md. (20 percent); Chesapeake, Md. (35 percent); Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (15 percent); Diego Garcia (5 percent); and Guam (5 percent). Work is expected to be completed by March 2015. Contract funds in the amount of $250,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Naval Electronics Commerce Online, Federal Business Opportunities, and Naval Sea Logistics Center Web sites, with one offer received. The Naval Sea Logistics Center, Mechanicsburg, Pa., is the contracting activity (N65538-10-D-0001).

Statement by Deputy Secretary William Lynn on Northop Grumman Tanker Announcement

"We are disappointed by Northrop's decision not to submit a bid for the U.S. Air Force tanker replacement program.

In the last tanker replacement (KC-X) competition, Northrop Grumman competed well on both price and non-price factors. We strongly believe that the current competition is structured fairly and that both companies could compete effectively.

Based on the inputs we received from both offerors to the Department's draft Request for Proposal (RFP), we made changes to reduce the out-year risk to the potential manufacturers of KC-X. However, we did not change the war-fighters' requirements to accommodate either offeror.

The Department strongly supports trans-Atlantic defense industrial ties and believes they benefit the American war-fighter and taxpayer."

Security and Stability in Africa: A Development Approach

Authored by Lieutenant Colonel Clarence J. Bouchat (USAF, Ret.).

The security and stability of Africa has recently become an important national issue readily seen in the increased time, effort, and resources now devoted to the continent by such new organizations as the U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM). This paper seeks to overcome centuries of ignorance and misunderstanding about the conditions and people of Africa by discussing the fundamental issues of economic development and political governance through which enduring stability and security might be obtained. This paper offers solutions in terms of improving African stability and security and a framework of several key issues which should give policymakers the knowledge they need to work in a constantly changing and very challenging environment.

Read On
http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?PubID=964

Something Brewing in Venezuela

By Lieutenant Colonel Phillip R. Cuccia
Strategic Studies Institute

Addressing a regional diplomatic-military problem is made all the more complicated when the region is not at the forefront of U.S. global strategic interests. Such a region simply does not get the attention that it deserves. I fear that may be what is happening now with South America in general and Venezuela in particular.

Read On
http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB961.pdf

Security Sector Reform: A Case Study Approach to Transition and Capacity Building

The authors explore the definition of SSR as it has emerged in the international community. The makeup of the security sector is examined, emergent principles are identified for implementing SSR in the community of practice, and the outcomes that SSR is designed to produce are specified. The supporting case studies of Haiti, Liberia, and Kosovo assess the impact of SSR programs on host nation security sectors. The authors conclude that those conducting SSR programs must understand and continually revisit the policy goals of SSR programs so as to develop concepts that support a transitional process that moves forward over time. Intermediate objectives required in support of this transition also articulate what is good enough and fair enough at various stages in the transformational process. State actors must acknowledge and often accommodate nonstate security actors more effectively in SSR planning and implementation, while recognizing both the advantages and the risks of collaborating with such actors. The authors also identify a need for rebalancing resources committed to SSR, especially given that justice and civil law enforcement typically are badly under-resourced as elements of SSR programs. Finally, the authors note the need for more flexible and better integrated funding processes to support SSR activities within the U.S. Government.

Read On
http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?PubID=960

Guardsmen feel effects of foreclosure

By Sgt. Will Hill
Indiana National Guard

(2/26/10) -- Tenants throughout Indiana are raking leaves, mowing grass, paying rent and getting evicted.They are discovering being responsible isn't enough to avoid eviction due to foreclosure.

A projected 8.1 million properties across the nation will be foreclosed on, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's National Delinquency Survey taken in 2008. And the effects can be felt here.

Foreclosure can cause anxiety and stress on renters who have no control over property owners allowing their property to go into foreclosure, and the effects can leave good tenants homeless. Fortunately, there are laws that help Soldiers and civilians from losing their residence.

Tarah Jackson of the Camp Atterbury public affairs office has first-hand experience. She was home alone when she heard a pounding at her door. As she peeped through the blinds, she saw a deputy sheriff standing at her step.

Her first thoughts were the safety of her husband, who is a Soldier with the 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command in Indianapolis.

The deputy sheriff served her a summons, leaving her confused. "I was handed a summons, because the landlord let the house go into foreclosure," said Jackson. "My husband and I were blindsided and thought this had to be some kind of mistake because we have never missed a payment."

After several unsuccessful attempts to contact the property owner, they retained a lawyer who filed documents with the court, allowing them to finish out the remainder of their lease.

"The worst part of all this is the uncertainty," Jackson said. "Hopefully we will be able to finish our lease, which is up in October."

Prior to 2009, most tenants had to be out of their houses before the auction or sale of the property but on May 28 of last year, the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act passed legislation allowing tenants more time before being evicted from a foreclosed home.

Capt. Daniel Bagley, a Judge Advocate General legal assistant for Camp Atterbury, said under the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, tenants now have a set minimum of 90 days before eviction.

"There is a general rule that the lease has to be honored by the [landlord], unless they turn around and sell the house to somebody who is going to occupy as a primary resident in which case the tenant gets the 90 days before being evicted," said Bagley. In other words, the tenant remains in the property for the reminder of the lease, until the property is sold. If the property is bought before the end of the lease, and the new buyer wishes to live in the home instead of renting it out, the tenant has 90 days before eviction.

"Soldiers confronted with an eviction notice should contact JAG as soon as possible," said Bagley, "because we can make sure documentation gets appropriately filed with the court."

Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard of the Indiana Supreme Court offered words of encouragement to people suffering the effects of foreclosure during his speech at the 2009 State of Indiana Judiciary Address.

"Foreclosures in our state have risen 50 percent in five years," he said. "I promise you this: by the 2009 summer, Indiana will have trained more judges, pro-bono lawyers and mediators to help people facing foreclosure than any other court system in America."

Jackson said that she and her husband have been discouraged by the idea of renting a house from private homeowners.

"Try to rent through a business or a bank, but not a [private homeowner] because the [landlord] might not have your best interests at heart," Jackson said. "You might find yourself out on the street with just your boots and belongings."

Maj. Douglas Downs, housing officer for Directorate of Public Works at Camp Atterbury, said if a Soldier is put on the street, the housing office can provide living quarters for single Soldiers for up to 30 days.

"If a single Soldier lost their home and went through their chain-of-command, the housing office could provide a place to stay," said Downs. "We do not get a lot of these kinds of requests but when we do I think we have never turned a Soldier down," he said.

As Soldiers and civilians suffer from an epidemic of foreclosures, be assured there are laws in place to help the American people stay in their homes.

Before a Soldier decides to rent a house, research the homeowner and have the JAG office review the lease. Soldiers and civilians of Camp Atterbury have options, tools and support at their disposal to protect themselves in the event of foreclosure.

For additional information about foreclosures or evictions call the U.S.

Department of Housing and Urban Development housing help line at 1-800-569-4287.

New Health System Site Makes Information Accessible

American Forces Press Service

March 8, 2010 - The Military Health System has launched a new Health.mil Web site that provides a single point of entry to military health news, information and resources. The site is part of the Defense Department's continued commitment to make health information available and easy to find, officials said. Content is categorized by topic or audience, including servicemembers, retirees and families; health care providers; educators and researchers; Military Health System staff; Defense Department leaders; and the media.

"We've listened to the feedback from our users and redesigned the site to make it better-easier to navigate and easier to find information," said Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, director of strategic communications for the Military Health System. "The new Health.mil is better organized, better looking, and more seamlessly integrated with our social media efforts."

The new design better serves the system's health care beneficiaries by providing links to Tricare and eBenefits up front. An easy-to-navigate layout provides multiple paths to the information, including an exposed site map and a topic index on every page. The new site includes improved Section 508 compliance for the disabled and is easier to use with mobile devices. A robust search function pulls in results from across multiple organizational Web sites within the Military Health System.

America's Military Health System is a unique partnership of medical educators, medical researchers and health-care providers and their support personnel worldwide. This Defense Department enterprise consists of the office of the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs; the medical departments of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and Joint Chiefs of Staff; the combatant command surgeons; and Tricare providers, including private-sector health-care providers, hospitals and pharmacies.

(From a Military Health System news release.)

Hungary, Serbia leaders meet with Ohio Guard

By Dr. Mark Wayda
Ohio National Guard

(3/5/10) -- Since the early 1990s, state National Guards have responded to an evolving international affairs mission. The State Partnership Program, matching state National Guards with the militaries of countries around the world, now consists of 62 partnerships. The Ohio National Guard has been partnered with Hungary since 1993 and with Serbia since 2006.

On Feb. 26, delegations from Serbia and Hungary, led by Hungarian Chief of Defense Gen. László Tömböl and Serbian Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff Lt. Gen. Miloje Miletić arrived in Central Ohio for trilateral discussions with their mutual partner, Maj. Gen. Gregory L. Wayt, the adjutant general of the Ohio National Guard.

On Feb. 27, both men addressed several hundred of the top Ohio National Guard senior officers and non-commissioned officers at the state's annual Joint Commanders Call.

“(It) is an opportunity for the most senior leadership of Ohio's Army and Air National Guards to come together to achieve a common understanding of the most important issues facing the National Guard,” Wayt said. “I invited the generals to speak here today, because our international partners are critical stakeholders, and core competencies include continuing to grow as valued partners to them.”

Both men spoke of the value of the professional connections between their Soldiers and Airmen and those of the Ohio National Guard, but both spoke also of the personal relationships that have developed over the years and how those relationships transcend any specific operational issues.

Maj. Steven Shilliday, the director of the State Partnership Program for Ohio, explained some of the many projects and events Ohio participates in jointly with its partners.

"The Hungarian partnership has been going on for much longer," Shilliday said, and that may be one reason that the partnership events have evolved into the operational realm.

"Ohio National Guard Soldiers are deploying with Hungarian soldiers in Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams, training the Afghan National Army," he said. "But the relationship with Serbia is also evolving very quickly. Just last summer, Soldiers and Airmen from Ohio spent more than a month performing a humanitarian mission--rehabilitating several school houses--with their Serbian partners."

Hundreds of Soldiers and Airmen from Ohio, Hungary and Serbia have participated in dozens of partnership events just in the past three years.

"Each one of those Soldiers and Airmen have learned from each other and become better at what they do because of the exposure to new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things inherent in these parthership exchanges," Wayt said. "I cannot thank enough Gen. Tömböl and Lt. Gen. Miletić for being here to share their perspectives on our partnerships with Ohio's most senior leaders."

A Pioneer in Naval Oceanography: Navy CDR Mary Sears


By Bob Freeman, Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy.

In celebration of Women’s History Month it is worth considering the accomplishments of a small, shy marine plankton specialist from Massachusetts named Mary Sears (1905-1997) who became a pioneer in naval oceanography.

Sears is generally associated with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. In 1932, while completing her Ph.D. in biology from Radcliffe College, she began working as one of the first ten research assistants at the recently founded institution. She would maintain her association with Woods Hole until her retirement in 1970, becoming a senior marine biologist and eventually being named Scientist Emeritus.

In 1943, at the height of World War II, Dr. Sears was commissioned as a lieutenant junior grade (LTJG) in the Navy and assigned to the Naval Hydrographic Office in Washington, DC where she helped establish a small Oceanographic Unit that greatly expanded the role of applied oceanography in naval warfare.

As able-bodied men were needed in the combat zones, the Naval Hydrographic Office increasingly relied on women. By 1944 there were 30 women officers and 332 enlisted women working there. The Oceanographic Unit was composed of 13 women and three men.

The Naval Hydrographic Office was created in 1854 with a focus on ocean bottom mapping (hydrographic surveys) to assist in creating more accurate charts to enhance safety of navigation. Although it maintained a small marine meteorology division, it wasn’t until the 1930s that the Navy really began to focus on oceanography.

This interest was partly due to advances in submarine warfare and the newly developed sonar technology. Understanding such ocean properties as temperature distribution, pressure, salinity, and bottom characteristics is important to predicting how sound travels in the water. With this knowledge, sonar could be used more effectively in hunting enemy submarines, and our submarines could develop strategies to more effectively avoid sonar detection.

LTJG Sears coordinated ocean research conducted at Woods Hole that assisted this effort, and her fleet publication “Submarine Supplements to the Sailing Directions” predicted the presence of thermoclines in certain waters. These are areas of rapid temperature change in the water column which cause refraction and bending of sound waves. Submarines can effectively hide under thermoclines, avoiding detection by ship-mounted sonars. This remains a critical consideration in modern submarine warfare tactics.

Naval oceanography was also interested in such diverse areas as current drift for search and rescue operations and floating mines, surf predictions for amphibious landings, and the turbulent effects of sea and swell waves on moored mines. Marine biology was also an interest since bioluminescent plankton activated by ship wakes could be used to locate ships in the dark, certain organisms contributed to ambient marine noise that inhibited sonar operations, large kelp growths fouled amphibious landing craft, and certain marine organisms degraded mine mechanisms.

Much of this data was time critical and needed to support ongoing operations, so Sears gathered data from observers in the fleet and from existing civilian research papers and produced detailed oceanographic reports and pamphlets for use by mission planners.

Sears also worked on improving tidal predictions. The Navy became ruefully aware of its shortcomings in this arena after the battle of Tarawa when an inaccurate tide prediction stranded an amphibious group of Marines on a reef, allowing them to be cut to pieces by shore-based Japanese machine gunners. Sears used refined tidal predictions and wave refraction charts to recommend very successful landing locations for the subsequent amphibious assaults on Luzon and various islands around Okinawa in 1945.

During the course of the war, the Oceanographic Unit was expanded into a division, and Sears was promoted to lieutenant commander. Years later, in 1960, the preeminence of oceanography was officially recognized when the Naval Hydrographic Office was renamed the Naval Oceanographic Office. Sears remained at the Oceanographic Division until 1946, working to shape the future of naval oceanography in the post-war era. She then transferred into the Naval Reserve, eventually retiring as a commander in 1963.

After leaving active service, Dr. Sears continued to make her mark. In 1959 she was chairperson of the First International Congress on Oceanography, and she became a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Society of Women Geographers and the American Geophysical Union.

In recognition of Dr. Sears’ contributions to naval oceanography, the Navy named one of its oceanographic survey ships after her. The USNS MARY SEARS (T-AGS 65) was launched in October 2000 and continues to serve today. It is the 12th Navy ship to be christened with a woman’s name, and the first oceanographic survey ship.

Roger Revelle, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a colleague of Mary Sears, once said: “…the federal government…has generally forgotten that the first oceanographer of the Navy in modern times was a short, rather shy and prim [Navy] lieutenant j.g. They underestimated the powerful natural force that is Mary Sears.”

Air Force Mortuary Ensures Dignity, Honor for Fallen


By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

March 8, 2010 - Under a deluge of rain, the 757 touched down here late at night, returning Army Staff Sgt. Michael David P. Cardenaz home. He had been killed just a few days before in an enemy attack in Afghanistan. With family and friends near, an Army carry team marched in slow, measured steps to the aircraft, undeterred by the whipping wind. Their hands clad in stark, white gloves, the soldiers slowly moved the transfer case from aircraft to waiting vehicle. Only the sound of distant aircraft and the anguished cry of a loved one cut through the silence.

As the driver pulled away slowly, all military members in attendance raised their hands slowly in salute.

The responsibility, and honor, of preparing the 29-year-old for his final journey home now rested on the shoulders of the staff of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center here.

It's a mission they will undertake with dignity, honor and respect in mind, and with only one acceptable goal: perfection.

"It's a heavy toll our nation has paid on this, and these are the men and women who have borne the cost," said Air Force Col. Robert H. Edmondson, the center's commander. "We owe our best every time and in every way."

The center's mission is to receive a servicemember's remains, prepare them for final disposition, then secure an expedient passage to the place of burial -- all while ensuring "dignity, honor and respect to the fallen and care, service and support to their families," Edmondson said. The staff tends to every seemingly minute detail, from the tight crease on a U.S. flag draped over a casket to a carefully built ribbon rack on a perfectly fitted uniform that may never be seen.

The center, while Air Force-led, is a joint effort among all services, a reflection of the people it serves. All U.S. servicemembers who die in support of a contingency operation overseas will process through here, as well as the U.S. victims of a mass casualty incident, such as the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

The number of returning fallen servicemembers varies, but Edmondson said he's seen up to 20 remains in one night. Though the center can accommodate about 50 remains in one day, he added, that's a scenario he doesn't want to witness.

The center stood up about a year ago to consolidate Air Force mortuary operations in a central location as well as to oversee the port mortuary, the only one of its kind in the Defense Department. The port now is one of the center's three divisions, along with mortuary affairs and operations.

Port mortuary division

The port mortuary is tasked with identification, medical examination and preparation of fallen members for transport to their final destination. This process begins at the time of death notification in the combat theater. Upon arrival of the remains, usually within 48 hours, the processes of identification and medical and legal investigation take place, said Randy Keel, director of the port mortuary division.

Experts obtain fingerprints and compare dental charts. After the autopsy, the embalming and restoration begins, Keel said. This involves preparing a new, custom-tailored uniform, equipped with the most up-to-date awards and decorations, and cleaning and restoring any personal effects, such as wedding bands, watches and wallets, he explained. Each task is undertaken with exacting care, he added.

"Everything is done with a high attention to detail," Keel said, from snipping loose threads off of a uniform to painstakingly restoring a beloved piece of jewelry.

The division's staff also prepares the casket, or the urn if the family chooses to cremate. Those services also can be provided here at the Defense Department's sole crematory, Keel said.

After the remains are dressed and a quality check takes place, the remains are carefully prepared for placement into a casket, with a U.S. flag draped on top. Meanwhile, an administrative team is working behind the scenes to arrange for transportation and to complete a plethora of necessary documentation, Keel said.

"[The staff is] here doing a mission that's largely unseen, and that's the way it ought to be if you're doing it right," Edmondson said.

This division has a weighty mission on its shoulders, but Keel said he's proud to bear that burden. "I can't think of anything else I'd rather do," he said.

Mortuary affairs division

While the port mortuary serves military members from all branches, the mortuary affairs division is a bit more service specific. This division is responsible for the Air Force's mortuary affairs on a global scale.

Only about 5 percent of Air Force deaths worldwide come through this facility, said Todd Rose, director of the mortuary affairs division. "The rest of the deaths the Air Force experiences over a year's timeline occur throughout the world," he said.

Rose's division is tasked with the care, service and support of the deceased and their families. This includes training mortuary affairs officers and technicians assigned to Air Force bases worldwide.

"My staff is responsible to make sure everything the deceased is entitled to receive and the support that the families are entitled to receive is extended to them," Rose said.

The division also oversees the Center for Families of the Fallen, a new, 6,000-square-foot facility here that offers a comfortable waiting area for families that have traveled to Dover to witness the dignified transfer of a fallen loved one. The center features sitting areas designed with privacy in mind, a stocked and fully equipped kitchen, meditation room, nursery and even a room where teens can watch a wide-screen TV or play a video game.

"We wanted to create a comfortable, beautiful environment for the families who have sacrificed so much," Rose said.

Operations division

While the missions of the port mortuary and mortuary affairs divisions are more visible in nature, the operations division takes on more of a behind-the-scenes role. But without this division, the other two would be unable to carry on, said Trevor Dean, deputy to the center's commander.

This division is the support mechanism for the other two, responsible for functions such as budget, resource management and manpower, just to name a few, said Air Force Lt. Col. Mason B. Pigue, the division's director. The division also coordinates the movement of the fallen out of the area of operations, he said, through a 24/7 command, control and communications hub called HRC3.

Upon notification of death, the HRC3 staff starts the information-gathering process to learn as much as possible about the family's wishes regarding the return of remains. They then track the return flight, from the mortuary collection point overseas through Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and then here.

"We track to see if the aircraft is on schedule and watch for issues that might affect arrival time of the fallen or family," Pigue said.

After the remains are ready to transport home, the division takes on the reverse role, arranging for travel to the final destination and tracking every step of the way until the remains are home.

This division also oversees the dignified transfer of remains from the aircraft to the transfer vehicle, a solemn event that's conducted in honor of the fallen servicemember. A dignified transfer is conducted for every servicemember who died in a contingency operation overseas, Dean explained, and also is enacted for civilians involved in a mass fatality or for those attached to other federal agencies, such as the State Department or CIA.

All three divisions work together to ensure fallen servicemembers and their families get the best care possible, Edmondson said. Although it's been just a year since the center stood up, it's since made huge inroads into the care of the fallen and their families with new facilities, technology and partnerships, he said.

"If you were to come here pre-9/11 and asked how many people are on this staff, the answer would have been eight," Edmondson said, noting that there now are about 150 people on staff. The port mortuary was a surge operation then, he explained, with a primarily peacetime mission. When a national emergency occurred, operations would ramp up and then return to the former steady-state operations.

A change in policy last year further changed the face of the center here. The defense secretary authorized media to cover a dignified transfer, with the family's permission, and also allowed funding for up to three family members to attend.

Since then, more than 1,700 family members have traveled here to attend a dignified transfer, and "we've only been doing this for 10 months," Edmondson said. "A tremendous amount of family members want to come." The increase in families drove home a need to increase the support capabilities, resulting in facilities such as the Center for Families of Fallen.

"The new policy allowed our new, fledgling organization to show the Air Force and other services how deeply involved [we are] and how much we care," Dean said. "It's given us the ability to serve each of the services and provide additional services to our families that now come here."

All of the effort the center undertakes circles back to its ultimate mission: to care for the fallen and their families.

"Our mission is important, because those men and women died in service of their country," Edmondson said. "They not only made that ultimate sacrifice, but their families did.

"People are working very long hours, very meticulously, with lots of love and care to make sure it's perfect so the families can have their final honors," he added.