Soldiers from the 94th Army and Air Missile Command toured the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency where scientists identify the remains of missing service members from prior conflicts ranging back to World War I at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Hawaii, Feb. 9.
“It is important that we tell the mission of the DPAA as it reaffirms America’s commitment to its service members that we never leave a fallen service member behind,” said Master Sgt. Anthony Worsley, DPAA senior enlisted command leader.
The DPAA’s mission is to recover American service members who went missing or were kept as prisoners of war overseas in past conflicts. The laboratory is on the third floor of the building where guests can visit the research being conducted.
“The tour that DPAA provided our young Soldiers helps them broaden their view on our military. They see the level of respect our nation places on service members, their families, and toward time-honored traditions,” said Sgt. Maj. Juan Chavez, 94th AAMDC Communications Sergeant. “They also gain an understanding of interagency and multinational cooperation that can be applied to many aspects of military service.”
More than 81,000 U.S. service members are still missing from World War II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Cold War, and the Gulf Wars. The majority of those missing are in the Indo-Pacific region with over 41,000 believed to be lost at sea.
“I encourage leaders to coordinate a tour with DPAA for their Soldiers,” said Chavez. “The experience enhances professional development and is a humbling reminder of the importance of our service to our great nation.”
Teams are often recruited from active duty military units in Hawaii such as Sgt. 1st Class Ezequiel Nunez, 94th AAMDC’s Exercises Planner, who participated in an archeological dig in the jungles of Vietnam prior to the coronavirus pandemic outbreak. Over 45 days, Nunez assisted research experts dig for 12 hours a day until they completed the dig site or found the fallen service member.
“We had an onsite dig site which meant we lived a short hiking distance from our dig site in very austere environments with no basic comforts,” Said Nunez. “We didn’t care because we all had one thing in mind, complete the dig site or find our fallen comrade.”
Scientific Recovery Scientist Dr. Sydney Garcia provided a guided tour of the facility and identified the difference in skeletal remains whether they belonged to a human and which gender the remains had. Outside of the laboratory a small museum displays various items recovered from the aircraft wreckage to combat equipment found in remote locations across the Pacific by volunteers such as Sgt. 1st Class Nunez.
The United States stands behind its commitment in bringing home its fallen men and women who sacrificed everything while answering the nation’s call to arms. The DPAA was activated in 2015 and is the largest forensic anthropological skeletal lab in the world.