by Veronica Aceveda
512th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
4/6/2015 - NEW CASTLE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Del. -- Air
Force Mortuary Affairs Operations conducted a dignified transfer divert
exercise March 19 in collaboration with the 166th Airlift Wing at the
New Castle Air National Guard Base, Delaware.
The mission involved up to 60 total force members executing a contingency DT plan at another location.
"We hope this is something we will not have to do, but it's something we
must be prepared to do," said Capt. Matthew Frebert, the
exercise officer in charge.
Cory Larsen, AFMAO's chief of operations, later explained the importance of the drill.
"In the event there's some type of weather issue or another situation
which precludes an aircraft from landing at Dover [Air Force Base] due
to the runway construction, the aircraft can be diverted to New Castle,"
Larsen said. "Today, we're transporting all our capabilities here to
see how it works - including a simulated family in a surrey, driven by
Dover's [Logistics Readiness Squadron]."
Three months of planning led up to this dry run, but initial dialogue
regarding an alternate DT location began last summer, said Senior Master
Sgt. Michael Celesky, New Castle ANG's airfield manager and the 166th
AW's liaison for the exercise.
New Castle's team of guardsmen assisted with various aspects of the
exercise's sequence of events as well as other logistical considerations
such as staging areas for the families, distinguished visitors and
"The Delaware Air National Guard is very proud to assist our Dover Air
Force Base partners with this noble mission," said Col. Donald R. Bevis,
166th AW vice commander. "It is imperative that the families of the
fallen are supported to the best of our capabilities. It is our honor to
assist in keeping this critically important mission in the great state
The total force team conducting the divert dignified transfer for the
exercise included civilians and active, reserve and guard service
members from the Air Force, Army and Air National Guard.
"This exercise represents the benefits of maintaining close operational
ties with our total force partners both here at Dover and at New
Castle," said Col. Daniel F. Merry, AFMAO commander. "We will build upon
the lessons learned and relationship forged from this event, so we can
continue to successfully accomplish our 'No Fail' mission of taking care
of the fallen and their families."
In addition to the essential participants of a dignified transfer,
AFMAO's exercise team also included several subject matter experts from
their respective fields to ensure every detail was covered at the
alternate location, approximately 45 minutes north of Dover.
These members included a 436th AW protocol specialist, a contracted
military family life counselor and five-time AFMAO deployer Senior
Airman Omar Hall, who has served as a carry team member more than 100
Near the flightline, Hall provided some coaching to first-time AFMAO
deployer Senior Airman Marcus Wesley, who has served as a carry team
member three times. Both Hall and Wesley are reservists deployed from
the 512th Memorial Affairs Squadron.
Another AFMAO reservist on site for the exercise was Senior Airman James
Arredon deployed from Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, New Jersey. His
charge for the operation was as a marshaler, assisting the drivers of
the families of the fallen in parking their vehicles.
"It's not the most glamorous job, but I'm proud to do it," he said. "And, I would volunteer for it every time."
While most of AFMAO's members are in tune with the dignified transfer
mission, the exercise served as a first-time experience for most of the
"I felt very honored to be part of such a professional and sacred event
in which loved ones and family members are cared for and for those who
have fallen," said Chaplain (Capt.) Susannah Tulloch, 166th AW chaplain.
"Participating in this exercise was extremely helpful in understanding
how AFMAO leadership sees the importance and weightiness of their
mission and the role of the chaplain."
In addition to the chaplains on site for the exercise, AFMAO members
from its departures, dress and restoration, and public affairs sections
fulfilled their roles associated with a DT.
There are a lot of moving pieces," said Frebert. "So, it's important to
test our abilities to ensure we carry out the same dignity, honor and
respect no matter where we may be diverted to."