|The Airmen, Soldiers, Marines and Sailors who work in the uniform section of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center here take their job very seriously. The uniforms they work on will be the final uniforms fallen servicemembers will wear as they are cared for with dignity, honor and respect and then sent home to their loved ones.|
Staff Sgt. Charles Anthony Bell, a mortuary technician, has been with the center since June 2008. He oversees the uniform section, working with the liaisons from the Army, Marines and Navy, as well as making sure the section is stocked with uniforms, rank insignias, ribbons, patches and more. The team spends hours preparing uniforms for the fallen, even though the uniforms may never be seen.
"I want everything to be as perfect as possible," Sergeant Bell said. "Even though the shirts are covered by the jackets, we still take the time to clip the strings on all of the buttons, around the collars and the pockets, making sure there are no strings. We polish the devices on the ribbons, making sure they're equally nice and shiny. We check every detail, making sure the uniform is 100 percent correct."
Details are very important for Petty Officer 2nd Class Danielle Van Orden, a hospital corpsman and Navy - Marine Corps liaison, who has been at the center for two years.
"Everybody, everybody is treated with respect, dignity and honor," the ten-year mortician said. "We take pride in what we do.
"We know that when the uniform leaves here, it has our stamp of approval, our name on it," she continued. "We know that people are going to be viewing their loved ones at funerals. When they open that casket, they see the military creases; they see that we took our time."
Taking their time to make sure everything is correct, the joint team uses a variety of tools such as a ruler crafted specifically for the uniforms, stand up steamers, mini grinders and more. They also engrave urns and produce uniform nametags.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy Toro, Army liaison and uniform section Army NCO in charge, said measurements are taken as soon as the servicemember begins processing.
"We get sizes as soon as (the fallen heroes) arrive in the building," said the deployed Army Reservist from the 311th Quartermaster Company, Puerto Rico. "We put together their uniforms and take (the items) to the alterations shop, getting the patches and stripes sewn on the uniform. We verify the proper awards and decorations for that (servicemember), and we put it together.
"The team works around the clock to get the uniforms put together as quickly and accurately as possible, so that the fallen can be sent home to their families.
"Everyone is taken care of here to the 100 percent-level of everyone's ability," said Marine Lance Corporal Adam Knebler, a Marine liaison from Marine Corps Casualty, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. "Sometimes I'm here 12 to 14 hours. I don't want to leave until the mission's accomplished. I stay until the mission's done. The mission is first here for everybody."
A Marine reservist from Wichita, Kansas, Lance Corporal Knebler volunteered for a one-year assignment here. He plans to become a chaplain so that he can serve Marines both downrange and here.
Sergeant Toro took a one-year deployment here but enjoyed the work he did so well, that he volunteered for two more years.
"This is an honor for me, having this opportunity to serve those (servicemembers) who have given their lives in combat," said the 22-year veteran. "That's my satisfaction. I will do it for as long as I can. It's the best job I've ever had in the Army, serving
Staff Sgt. Charles Bell, a mortuary technician at the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at Dover Air Force Base, Del., walks through rows of military service dress uniforms that are stored there for every rank and size. Sgt. Bell is the Air Force non-commisioned officer in charge of logistics and oversees ordering and stocking service dress uniforms and items for dignified transfer of remains.
Specialist Xavier Gonzalez, a mortuary affairs specialist, prepares a U.S. Army service dress shirt for a fallen solider March 31. Servicemembers working in the uniform section of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at Dover Air Force Base, Del., prepare uniforms for the fallen heroes and work with military escorts for the dignified-transfer-of-remains process. Specialist Gonzalez is deployed from the Army Reserve, 311th Quartermaster Company in Puerto Rico.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Danielle Van Orden irons a U.S. Navy uniform March 31 for a fallen sailor. Petty Officer Van Orden is the Navy and Marine Corps liaison for the uniform section of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Service liaisons prepare uniforms for fallen heroes and work with military escorts for the dignified-transfer-of-remains process.
U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Adam Knebler, Marine liaison for uniforms section, hangs Marine service dress uniforms into inventory. The uniform section of the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs, Dover Air Force Base, Del., prepares uniforms for remains and works with military escorts for the dignified transfer of remains process.