FORT JACKSON, S.C. (Army News Service, March 1, 2007) - Families of fallen Soldiers no longer have to travel as far to pick up their loved one's remains.

The 2007 National Defense Appropriations Act directed the Office of the Secretary of Defense to provide military or military-contracted air transport for all Soldiers who die in a combat theater of operations.

In the past, remains were transported to the nearest commercial airport, usually a metropolitan-sized national or international airport, by scheduled commercial aircraft. Under the new procedure, the aircraft flies directly from Dover Air Force Base, Del., to the nearest airport of the Soldier's final destination.

"Flying the remains as close to their hometown is a lot more convenient for families," said Donald Johnson, Fort Jackson chief of personnel operations. "It is also more convenient for families to pick up remains in a smaller airport because there is easier access in and out. The trip to the funeral home is also shorter."

Once the aircraft lands, it is met by an honor guard of no less than six Soldiers, plus escorts to render military honors and transfer the remains to an awaiting hearse. To ensure Soldiers are properly prepared to perform this honor, a training film has been produced by the Defense Department.

Johnson said the new service has been added as a service to the existing Full Funeral Honors, Modified (two-Soldier) Funeral Honors, Casualty Notification Officer and Casualty Assistance Officer missions performed by the Fort Jackson Casualty Area Command.

The Fort Jackson Casualty Area Command is responsible for 29 counties in South Carolina, plus deployed Soldiers.

(Chris Rasmussen writes for the Fort Jackson "Leader.")