Faces From the Front for August 24, 2009 - Staff Sgt. John Rosado
Current Unit: 143rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command
Current Position: Mortuary Affairs Noncommissioned Officer-in-Charge Supply and Services
Component: Army Reserve
Current Location: Afghanistan
Hometown: Clermont, Fla.
Years of Service: 16
As the Joint Sustainment Command-Afghanistan (JSC-A) Mortuary Affairs Noncommissioned Officer-in-Charge, Staff Sgt. John Rosado, a U.S. Army reservist from Clermont, Fla., conducts one of the Army’s most sensitive and respected missions.
A Soldier since 1993 and civilian corrections officer for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Rosado has worked in mortuary affairs since 2000 and now fulfills his mission at Kandahar Airfield (KAF). Rosado is responsible for ensuring a fallen hero's timely, dignified return to their family at Dover Air Force Base, Del.
"Our job is to make sure to expedite our fallen comrades back to loved ones in a timely manner," said Rosado.
Rosado acknowledges that not everyone can handle the stress and toll that comes with his mission, but he is honored to have a role in ensuring his fallen comrades are returned home with the dignity and respect they deserve.
There are only two mortuary affairs collection points for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The KAF point, managed by the NATO Maintenance and Supply Association, serves Regional Commands South and West, while the collection point at Bagram Airfield serves Regional Commands North and East.
Rosado became a mortuary affairs specialist after a six to seven week course at Fort Lee, Va. During that course, Rosado worked at a morgue, took fingerprints of remains and assisted technicians with autopsies.
When Rosado receives notification of a fallen comrade, he first alerts personnel to standby while he collects information about the arrival of the remains.
"In a respectful manner, with the unit escorts, we'll unload the remains from the plane," said Rosado. The mortuary affairs personnel and the unit escorts then proceed to the Mortuary Affairs Collection Point (MACP). At the MACP, the personnel first screen the remains for unexploded ordnances, ammunition and sensitive weapons, said Rosado.
"Once they're screened, they enter a holding area," said Rosado. "A chaplain will say a prayer over the remains with the unit representatives."
After the fallen troop's comrades leave, the MACP personnel remove personal effects from the remains. Dover AFB personnel will later cleanse the remains and conduct an autopsy. Once the belongings have been inventoried and paperwork completed, the remains are stored inside transfer cases and placed in refrigerated vans.
Rosado then contacts the movement control team at the airfield to receive a transportation control number (TCN) for the fallen. Upon receiving the TCNs, he coordinates with the mobility section of JSC-A to book a flight. The Theater MACP and Air Mobility Division/Tanker Airlift Control Center then make the final flight arrangements to Dover AFB where the hero receives a dignified transfer of remains to their family.
Rosado's final duty is the ramp ceremony, organized through the U.S. 649th Regional Support Group (Provisional).
"The purpose of a ramp ceremony is to give a final farewell to our comrades, especially for the unit who's suffering the loss," said Rosado. "It's to pay respect to the person who paid the ultimate sacrifice."
Rosado and MACP personnel prepare by tying a U.S. flag over the transfer case. They transport the flag-draped case to the flight line. After American and coalition servicemembers line up in formation, the mortuary affairs specialists bring the van forward to send the servicemember home.
"Not many people can handle seeing a deceased person, or the cause of death, in this state," said Rosado. "It's a privilege and an honor. It helps give the family closure."
Through his hard work and dedication as a mortuary affairs specialist, Rosado provides an important service for fallen heroes and their families.
Rosado has been married for 12 years and is a proud father to Natalia (10) and Bryan (9.) He is slated to return home to Fla. at the end of the year.