News>McChord Reservists dedicated to Dover mortuary mission
Story at a Glance
446th FSS Sustainment Services Flight has supported mortuary mission for the last 15 years Reservists volunteer for Dover mission outside of AEF cycle Mortuary members feel the need to help families of the fallen
The Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs, a $30 million, 73,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility became home to the Dover Port Mortuary in November 2003. However, the 446th Force Support Squadron Sustainment Services Flight has been supporting mortuary missions since 1996.
Air Force Reservists from the 446th Force Support Squadron Sustainment Services Flight out of McChord Field, Wash. at the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs, Dover Air Force Base, Del. after finishing up a six-month deployment supporting Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, March 18, 2011. Master Sgt. Mark Candaso (left), Staff Sgt. Andrea Barrow (second from left), and Tech. Sgt. Michael Bishop (second from right) will be deploying back to AFMAOC in February or March 2012. The Reservists have been supporting the mortuary mission in various fields from the carry team to the Fisher House for families of the fallen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Richard Komurek)
An Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center carry team transfers the remains of an Air Force staff sergeant from an aircraft at Dover Air Force Base, Del., April 5, 2009. Tech. Sgt. Katie Badowski, 446th Force Support Squadron Sustainment Services Flight supervisor (front row, second from left) will be returning to Dover to support the mortuary mission in February or March. This will be her third time at the mortuary. (U.S. Air Force photo/Roland Balik)
by Master Sgt. Jake Chappelle
446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
1/13/2012 - MCCHORD FIELD, Wash. -- The Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center, Dover Air Force Base, Del., has the sole duty of fulfilling the country's commitment of ensuring dignity, honor, and respect to fallen U.S. troops and the care, service, and support to their families. Since 1996, Reservists from the 446th Force Support Squadron Sustainment Services Flight here have supported that mission.
In the coming months, five more McChord Reservists will deploy to Dover to support the mortuary. These volunteers know they could end up serving another six months there.
"The thought that we have volunteers who want to do things for this nation, shows the best part of who we are as a Reserve," said Col. Bruce Bowers, 446th Airlift Wing commander. "They want to do it to help other people. The fact that they are spending their time helping the families of some of the greatest heroes we've ever seen, makes my heart happy. This epitomizes who we are as a Reserve unit."
Tech. Sgt. Michael Bishop is preparing for his fourth deployment to the mortuary -- it's the second time he's put his 'service before himself' by volunteering outside of his flight's tasking- and he says, it won't be the last.
"I feel we owe it to the brave men and women who put themselves in harm's way for our great nation. It's an honor and a privilege to go to Dover as we're the last eyes before the fallen heroes are returned to their loved ones," said the Sustainment Services front-line supervisor
Bishop, from Shoreline, admits the mission can seem a little overwhelming at first.
"But once you get one mortuary deployment under your belt, it's almost like an addiction -- an addiction to help," said Bishop who has also deployed to Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. "At first, I was the one who didn't want to go. I actually tried to get another deployment to the desert. The mortuary seemed like something I couldn't handle. But it just grew on me and I realized it's not about me, it's about the mission and the families."
Tech. Sgt. Katie Badowski, 446th FSS Sustainment Services supervisor shares a similar background as Bishop.
"I had been to Dover twice prior to this upcoming deployment," said Badowski who, like Bishop, also deployed to Southwest Asia while on active duty. "I felt a strong camaraderie with the staff at the port mortuary."
Camaraderie and a delicate mission have the former "Tops in Blue" star coming back to Delaware again.
"I knew after completing that deployment, I would go again if the opportunity arose," she said. "In this case, an opening came up out of our rotation and it was perfect timing for me personally. In the event an extension is necessary to assist with the next rotation, I'm committed and ready to fulfill any role required of me."
First-time deployers, such as Capt. Carrianne Culy, 446th FSS Sustainment Services operations officer, prepare for the best at the mortuary.
"I have no doubts, I'll be working with a group of outstanding people and for a great commander," said Culy, from Gig Harbor. "I plan on going to the (port mortuary), doing my job to the best of my abilities, and coming home."
As simple as it may sound to prepare for a deployment of this delicacy and given the current events, Culy has no doubts of what's ahead of her.
"I went to an orientation course at the Port Mortuary and felt like it would be a tough, yet worthwhile deployment to volunteer for," she said. "I saw Airmen who were extremely dedicated and meticulous doing their job and doing it correctly.
According to Culy, the course at the mortuary was enough for her to know she would be volunteering for more than one deployment.
"I'm not sure how much longer officer assignments will be available, but I plan on going as many times as they need me to, whether I have a good experience or not," she said.