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NEWS | Nov. 4, 2010

Lackland Airman contributes to mortuary mission

By Christin Michaud AFMAO Public Affairs

For four months, an Airman from Lackland's 802nd Security Forces Squadron provided dignity, honor and respect while serving on a carry team with Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations at Dover Air Force Base, Del.

Staff Sgt. Rachel Gamertsfelder-Doane was recently part of an eight-person team that transferred the remains of fallen servicemembers when they arrived at Dover for a dignified transfer. Carry teams also transfer remains prior to departure for their final resting place.

The transfer is a solemn movement of the fallen servicemember from an aircraft to a vehicle to the AFMAO Center. A transfer event is conducted for every servicemember who dies while supporting a combat operation, and also is enacted for civilians involved in a mass fatality or for those attached to other federal agencies supporting the war effort.

During a dignified transfer, the carry team, clad in an Airman battle uniform and stark, white gloves, carries the fallen servicemember from the aircraft to the dignified transfer vehicle with solemn, deliberate movements.

For Sergeant Gamertsfelder-Doane, the experience was another opportunity to show her respect to fallen servicemembers. While deployed, she was part of a group who placed transfer cases on aircraft bound for the states.

She said serving on the team at Dover reassured her that the care and honor put into the transfer downrange was continued. "I didn't know how much honor and respect (went) into it on the other side," she said.

Normally made up of Airmen from the services career field, Sergeant Gamertsfelder-Doane was among the first four Airmen from career fields outside that specialty to serve on the team. The opportunity to serve on the AFMAO carry team was a unique chance for the security forces Airman and one that gave her a great deal of satisfaction.

"I'm very proud of everything I have been able to do," she said.

Sergeant Gamertsfelder-Doane trained, drove vehicles, steamed and folded flags, and carried the fallen with dignify, honor and respect. She experienced something outside her Air Force specialty and left with something in return -- pride from being part of a special mission.