128th FSS Conducts Search and Recovery Training

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ryan Kuntze
  • 128th Air Refueling Wing
A line of Airmen meticulously moves across a grassy field. Step by step, the Airmen lower themselves to the ground while they part the grass with their hands.

Armed only with latex gloves and dust masks, the Airmen continue their search until a voice is heard.

"Find," an Airman calls out.

As the other Airmen continue their search, a training monitor approaches the simulated remains of an Airman. This is part of the 128th Force Support Squadron's search and recovery training, which was conducted on Sunday, June 26, 2011, at Gen. Mitchell International Airport.

The search and recovery training is meant to familiarize Airmen from the 128th Air Refueling Wing with assembling the search and recovery team, transitioning to the incident area, scouring the landscape for human remains, and tagging any remains for collection, said Maj. Steve Botsford, the commander of the Force Support Squadron.

While the terrain and location of the incident area determines the amount of preparation needed to initiate a search and recovery effort, Botsford said that base camps are likely needed in remote locations because the recovery effort could be an on-going event.

It's important for the search and recovery team to arrive at the incident site as fast as possible because nature can work against the team, Botsford said. Decomposition, natural elements, and wildlife can hamper a search, and recovering the remains is of the utmost importance, he said.

Furthermore, a thorough search is very important because the mortuary affairs officer is responsible for notifying the next of kin, Botsford said.

"You don't want to come back to a family member . . . after they've buried their son, parent, daughter, or [spouse] and reopen those old wounds," he said.

As the mortuary affairs officer, Botsford is responsible for determining how the living relatives want their family member buried. He said that the MAO cannot initiate anything until family members give their consent.

Botsford believes this training is helpful to the members of the Search and Recovery Team.

"It was very, very good training," Botsford said with regard to the course he attended as the 128th Air Refueling Wing's mortuary affairs officer. "It was the best one week of training I've had in my Air Force career."