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.
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.