Tag Archives: Dover AFB

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Cherishing life, past heroes

By Capt Amber Millerchip
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

I’m Capt Amber Millerchip, Chief of Emerging Technology for the Air Force Public Affairs Agency, and I’d like to share with you how one of my deployments changed me. Last week, we (AF Social Media) asked you on Facebook to share with us what you planned to do to honor fallen service members on Memorial Day. We read such amazing stories, and we were inspired to try something new. In order to highlight some of your stories, we want you to be guest bloggers and send us posts for the USAF blog (instructions are below). I hope that my blog post will inspire you to write your own post.
Capt Amber Millerchip

As a third generation Air Force officer, Memorial Day weekend is more than time off from work, picnics and fun in the sun; it’s a special time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about enjoying the break and spending time with family, but what’s more important is taking the time to reflect, honor and remember those veterans who’ve served and those who’ve died for our great nation.

Last summer, I deployed to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operation Center, Dover Air Force Base, Del., where all of our fallen service members arrive home from combat. During the dignified transfers, I shared in the ultimate loss of parents, spouses and children. Some were silent welcoming their loved one home and others cried out their despair, their heartbreak so evident I barely could maintain my military bearing and at times just couldn’t stop my tears from falling.

I come from a very big military family and thank goodness we’ve never lost anyone to combat, but I did lose a best friend. She died in a joint exercise in Egypt. In her short life, she was a such as bright star. Her amazing spirit shone through her eyes and affected everyone she met. When I was at Dover, I couldn’t help but think of her, and although I didn’t get to help her on her final journey, at least I was able to help those that I could. 

My deployment was one of the most intense and honorable experiences of my life, and I felt blessed for the opportunity to help my fallen comrades on their final journey home. Looking back, I realize they helped me more than I helped them. Their sacrifices and their family’s sacrifices deeply touched me. I am a better person and Airman after these experiences. I realized with every fallen service member I encountered, it could be me, or one of my brothers, troops or friends serving. The experience renewed my pride in my service and gave me such an appreciation for my life. I will NEVER be the same again.
Grandfather
I decided to start a Memorial Day tradition every year. I’m going to do something remarkable. Something that reminds me that life is precious, beautiful, and that I should live life to the fullest– now! This past weekend I decided to do sky diving to honor my fallen comrades, including my friend and my grandfather, a former WWII hero who didn’t die in combat, but flying later on in his life. Not sure what next year will be, but I can promise you it will be a grand adventure, and I’ll be thinking about these special people all the way.

We want to know how the USAF has taught you a lesson or inspired you. Send us your own stories for our consideration at afbluetube@gmail.com. We need from you at least 300 words, a headline, a byline, and a photo with a caption. We’ll fix typos and grammatical errors, but we won’t change your writing style. Remember to keep entries family friendly and relevant. Profanity or solicitation will not be read. We will pick the best and share them with our social media followers.

PHOTOS: (Top) This is me in action at Dover Air Force Base, Del. I was waiting for the vehicle transporting the family to the flight line for a dignified transfer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik). (Bottom) An up-close photo of my grandfather and a crew member in front of his A-20 Havoc.

A New Policy Brings a Change in Communication Attitude

A new policy goes into effect today: Journalists are allowed to “view the dignified transfer of the remains of service members returning from overseas,” DOD’s media advisory says.  See more on the process here.  The families of the fallen continue to grieve and the process and people in place will allow them to maintain honor and privacy if they choose.  We thank those families, and we thank our brothers and sisters in arms who have given all. It is our duty as Americans to never forget them.

We will never forget.
We will never forget.

This post won’t discuss the decision to allow or deny access to reporters.  This post discusses the communicators behind the scenes who are helping the media share this story because that’s what I know about.  This event marks a significant change in the way Air Force has done Public Affairs in the past, IMHO. 

First off, the new site looks great, but what’s probably not evident is the planning that went into the production, implementation and sustainment of the dedicated communication team behind this effort. In nine years on active duty, I’ve not seen an effort so committed to ensuring family members were taken care of and that the story was told in the right way with honor and respect first and foremost. A first class operation for first class people who are no longer with us; they gave all and we owe it to them and their families. Our Chief of Staff understands the value of the media and he also understands the need for solid communication on this matter.  This is changing the way the Air Force does business and we applaud him. 

Captain Mike Andrews, assigned to the Pentagon but supporting the media efforts at Dover AFB, Delaware’s Mortuary Affairs Operations Center said: “This Web site reflects the honor, dignity and respect the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations center affords all of our fallen and the care, service and support we provide the families. I’m honored to be a part of this team of professionals who carry out this mission with such a selfless sense of service.”

According to the Air Force Mortuary site, it’s “the mission and privilege of Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center to fulfill our nation’s sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor, and respect to our fallen and care, service, and support to their families.”  This is our goal as an Air Force first and foremost, to ensure dignity, honor and respect for our Airmen and their families.  

The communication planning for this event and the team supporting it are first rate.  Air Force understands that we need to communicate differently about what’s happening in the world around us and this is one way it’s being done.  Air Force leadership understood the media pressure that was about to envelop Dover Air Force Base and the Airmen there, so a plan was set forth and additional support was called in to truthfully and transparently represent the fallen servicemembers’ family’s wishes should media be allowed to cover events while still balancing the demand for timely information for the public.

The Air Force is trying to engage, talk and share our story.  And we know that there have been issues in the past but these are steps in the right direction.  You can see photos here, video here and a story from Capt. Shannon Collins here. She’s on the ground with the communication’s team as well.

Thank you to the families and friends of the fallen and all those who support our men and women in uniform. I cannot say enough how sorry we are for your loss.

 

 

 

Air Force in upcoming HBO flick ‘Taking Chance’ with Kevin Bacon

Airmen will appear in HBO’s upcoming “Taking Chance” with Kevin Bacon. Click here to watch a two-minute sneak peak.  The HBO film should premier mid-January at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT.  HBO will broadcast the movie in February on HBO. The clip includes brief interior and exterior scenes of a C-17 with assistance from personnel from the Dover AFB, DE. Mortuary Affairs offices. Check out the story from Blackfive.