Cemetery verification project kicks off
April 18, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - In 2009, national media reports of burial record discrepancies at Arlington National Cemetery resulted in a 100 percent gravesite accountability initiative during which all interment records and headstone errors were corrected. Today, digitized images of ANC grave markers, records of interment and geospatial map coordinates are available to the public via an online database. As a result of the system overhaul at ANC, the Secretary of the Army has directed all Army cemeteries to also reach 100 percent accountability and sustainable operations by 2014.
Consequently, the Installation Management Command (IMCOM) stood up IMCOM Cemetery Operations (ICO) which recently embarked on an aggressive effort to obtain full accountability of 27 cemeteries at 17 installations -- containing more than 42,000 gravesites- by June 2014.
The project kicked off the week of April 8 -- 12 at three installations: Presidio of Monterey, Calif., Fort George G. Meade, Md., and here, at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Michael Bethel, ICO procurement analyst, led the team of ICO personnel who briefed Garrison leadership and personnel from the directorates of Public Works and Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, which oversees and maintains the installation cemeteries.
Bethel said that basically, the program is automating records that have always been kept manually and that Team APG volunteers were vital to the program's success.
"The work they do will enable automated research capabilities that will eventually be made available to the public," he said.
Bethel, ICO procurement analyst, Barry Lee, and contractor Audrey Hildreth, conducted the training and supervised the information-gathering procedures. During the week, Team APG volunteers, including a mix of Soldiers and civilians, learned the simple yet strict photographic and verification procedural requirements that must be met to confirm gravesite accountability.
They learned how to photograph the rear and then front of the headstone marker to provide data for research teams to verify accountability and research discrepancies.
"Information at the gravesite is compared to documents maintained by the garrison activities such the DA Form 2122 Record of Interment," said Lee. Other documents, including marriage licenses, birth certificates and the sponsor's DD 214 also are needed to make comparisons and confirm eligibility and accountability, he added.
"Once the photography is done, we match the records," said Hildreth, adding that "APG cemeteries are beautiful in comparison to others."
"The end goal is to create a public website where people will be able to view the headstones and exact locations of the gravesites. This has already been done at Arlington. And thanks to volunteers who are willing and able to come out and help, it's an end goal we can achieve."