Transporting cargo and troops to the Middle East for the Afghanistan war and receiving all fallen warriors at the Air Force Mortuary are among the main duties of the Dover Air Force Base.
There is always a colonel present for each fallen warrior that comes into Dover draped under the American flag, Dover Air Force Base Col. Richard G. Moore said on Media Day at DAFB Monday. That includes his reception of one fallen solider at 3 a.m. on Christmas Day.
"Anybody killed in action comes here and we take that very, very seriously," said Moore, commander of Dover Air Force Base. "It's something we pride ourselves on doing well."
In addition to dignified transfers, DAFB prides itself on moving troops and cargo efficiently, Moore said. It helps that the 4,270 active airmen from the 436th Airlift Wing and the 1,878 reserve airmen from the 512th Airlift Wing are complemented by a civilian workforce of 1,700 that usually have spent more time at Dover Air Force Base than the airmen themselves, Moore said.
"The civilian workforce stays here a very long time," he said. "The continuity that they bring is very, very helpful [in terms of context and background knowledge]."
The duties of the U.S. Air Force military personnel at Dover include dropping supplies and even troops as close to the front lines as possible in such hostile places as Afghanistan, DAFB Lt. Col. Erin Meinders said. DAFB was running cargo drops on C-17s four times per week to the Middle East earlier in the Afghanistan war, but it had been running two cargo drops per week lately, he said.
Meinders said the powerful, $202.3 million aircraft reached speeds of 450 knots at 30,000 feet and could take off with a maximum weight of 585,000 lbs. It was also capable of aerial refueling, as demonstrated for a dozen members of the local and state press in a C-17 flight Monday morning to New England.
Lt. Col. Jon Fullerton and Capt. John Weaver, the pilots of the C-17, supervised the refueling as Capt Jay Blinn escorted pairs of reporters to the cockpit to witness the refueling just off the Atlantic coast so as not to interfere with commercial flights. The refueling was part of the U.S. Air Force's training exercises, officers said.
When the C-17 aircraft returned to Dover Air Force Base, loadmasters Tech Sgt. David Grant and Staff Sgt. Bryan Bailey demonstrated a combat offload, whereby two tractor tires on aluminum pallets were jetted onto the runway in blazing speed as the C-17 taxied on the runway.
After the flight, press were escorted to the cargo processing warehouse where Lt. Tyler Olson and Senior Master Sgt. Neubauer showed media how pallets of cargo and military vehicles were prepared for loading and transport to such places as Kandahar Air Base and beyond.
Page 2 of 2 - Then, at the Air Force Mortuary Affairs, Chief of Operations Support Cory Larsen and chaplain David Sparks explained how they dealt with many families still shocked over the news of losing a loved one to war. All they could do was make the families as comfortable as possible with sofas, flowers, warm colors on the walls and a kitchen with plenty of coffee.
There have been 1,682 dignified transfers of soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen killed in action since President Obama opened up the DTs to the media in April 2009, said Major Tracy Bunko, public affairs chief for Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations.
All in all, Moore wished for the media to help tell Dover Air Force Base's story and thanked the press for visiting on Monday.
He said the Dover Air Force Base had an $590 million economic impact to Dover and Kent County in 2011. That was up from $445 million in 2009.
Moore, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, said he had also been impressed with the support of the local community for the Dover Air Force Base since his arrival in August 2012.