DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AFNS - 4/12/2011) -- Each
colonel assigned to Dover Air Force Base has a unique
mission in addition to his or her primary duties as a wing,
vice or group commander.
There are nine O-6s
assigned here who serve as dignified transfer hosts for
fallen heroes returning to American soil.
DTH is given to the colonel designated to call the orders
for the solemn dignified transfer of remains conducted upon
arrival at Dover AFB from the aircraft to a transfer vehicle
to honor those who have given their lives in the service of
Col. Anthony Krawietz (right) serves as the dignified transfer host Feb. 7, 2011, for Marine Cpl. Lucas T. Pyeatt of West Chester, Ohio. Colonel Krawietz, the 436th Airlift Wing vice commander, is one of nine colonels assigned to Dover Air Force Base, Del., who share the duty. U.S. Air Force photo
by Roland Balik
Originally called the dignified transfer officer, the
position later was changed to DTH when Air Force Mortuary
Affairs Operations became a named activity. Although a
general officer from the respective branch of service may be
part of the official party, it is always an Air Force
colonel from Dover who officiates and serves as the host for
the transfer, explained Col. Thomas C. Joyce, the Air Force
Mortuary Affairs Operations commander.
Col. Randal L.
Bright, the 512th Airlift Wing commander, has been
contributing to this sacred mission longer than others who
currently serve to honor the fallen. He performed his first
dignified transfer on June 27, 2007.
"The first DT
was tough," Colonel Bright said. "My son was in the Army and
served with the 1st Armored Division and was wounded in
April of 2006. I just wondered at that time of my first DT,
what if this had been my son?"
He said it helped him
realize how fortunate his family had been, but at the same
time, how fortunate the nation is for this fallen hero to
have given his last full measure for his country.
Col. Anthony Krawietz, the 436th Airlift Wing vice
commander, said his first DT was a significant experience.
"They all are," he added. "It is tremendous what we
get to do. This is not a have to do; it's a get to do. It
gives back possibly more than any other job I have been
As the DTH, his focus is on his role
in the formation and making the calls.
"I very much
concentrate on what it is I am supposed to be doing every
step of the way," Colonel Krawietz said.
hard not to. A fallen comrade, another father, or someone's
son. A mother, daughter, sister or brother. The Soldier,
Sailor, Airmen or Marine in the transfer case has made the
ultimate sacrifice. And so has his or her family.
The official party marches out to the aircraft. After a
prayer by a chaplain, the DTH calls, "Present Arms." The
remains of the fallen military member are transferred from
the aircraft to the transfer vehicle with slow deliberate
movements by the carry team. The DTH calls, "Order Arms."
The transfer vehicle guide closes the doors and
another salute is rendered as the vehicle makes its way to
the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs.
The time on the flightline is something the colonels do in
addition to what they do all day, explained Colonel Krawietz.
It has helped him put things in perspective. He has seen how
civilians who are charged with creating military policy see
it in effect on the ramp here.
"Our civilians and
senior leaders absolutely get it," he said. "They understand
what is going on here. How they arrive is quite different
from how they leave here. You can see it in their faces."
Both colonels view the extra duty as one of the most
important in their careers, and the most memorable.
"I am sure at some time, after my time is up at Dover, I
will take the time to see how many fallen heroes I have
welcomed home with the utmost in dignity, honor and
respect," Colonel Bright said. "I have found throughout my
time here that serving as a DTH was the hardest duty I have
performed but also the most honorable duty I have performed
in my 25-year career."