18th FSS stands up morgue for inspection
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Along with lodging, food services and running the Risner Fitness Complex, the Airmen of the 18th Force Support Squadron present a new, lesser-known capability during contingency operations.
Throughout an exercise or if the need ever arises, the 18th FSS calls on Airmen from the other FSS services to become the primary collection for the deceased on base to minimize unnecessary travel times to U.S. Marine Corps Camp Kinser.
"When an exercise kicks off, we work our normal shift until we get called," said Senior Airman Curtis Thiede, Marshal Dining Facility food service specialist working at the mortuary. "Once we get called, some people work in mortuary, other people hand out (Meals, Ready to Eat.) We get tasked to serve in different locations. It's a good learning experience."
"Although we have an Air Force mortuary located on Kinser, during exercises, we set up a mortuary on Kadena to allow us to practice our contingency mortuary procedures," Master Sgt. Audy Doctora, lodging section chief, said. "Many times we simulate fighting from an austere or bare base location. When we practice using a facility similar to what we would use in those situations, it reinforces our training and ensures that we're ready to execute our mission at any time."
Doctora said in the event of a real-world contingency, it's paramount for the Air Force to properly return fallen heroes with utmost respect.
"The ultimate goal of the 'Contingency Mortuary' team is to assure that our fallen warriors return home with honor and dignity," Doctora said. "More importantly, it is our responsibility to ensure the expedient return of casualties from the battlefield to the Port Mortuary at Dover AFB to ensure positive identification."
Beginning Oct. 22, Kadena began an operational readiness inspection, dubbed Exercise Beverly Bearcat 12-1, to test 18th Wing Airmen on their capabilities to deploy and receive assets, as well as survive and operate in a hostile environment, and the mortuary was no exception.
Doctora said the inspection, though difficult at times, has provided key insight into operations under the worst conditions.
"(The Pacific Air Forces inspection team) has provided robust and challenging scenarios, testing our contingency mortuary capabilities," he said. "The perspective that we have gained from the outside eyes of the inspectors is invaluable. The inspection is a good validation on our training and preparedness to provide mortuary services in any field condition."
Though the job can be challenging to accommodate to, Thiede and Doctora both agreed it's a trade worth learning.
"Contingency Mortuary takes the utmost pride in fulfilling our nation's sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor, and respect to our fallen ... It's what we do," Doctora said.