JBPHH team brings home 55 fallen from Korea

Honor guardsmen, assigned to the U.S. Indo- Pacific Command, move a flag-draped case from a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during an honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Aug. 1.

U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Apryl Hall

Compiled by 1st Lt. Avery Larkin

15th Wing Public Affairs

Before 55 transfer cases with remains of what are believed to be American service members were returned to the U.S. Aug. 1, a mission of 15th Wing and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam partners was organized to make such a return possible.

Aircrews from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 204th Airlift Squadron and 15th Wing’s 535th Airlift and 15th Operations Support squadrons coordinated with a diverse support team to execute a successful mission into Wonsan, North Korea, to retrieve the remains and deliver them to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in the United States.

“We had a lot of involvement from our intelligence, flight equipment, and survival, resistance and evasion teams so the crew was as prepared as possible going into this mission,” said Maj. Nicole Stenstad, 15th Operations Support Squadron assistant director of operations and mission commander.

“We were all very aware of the significance of this mission and wanted it to be a success. It was a team effort across the board.”

Cooperation with intelligence units was vital to mission success. JBPHH mission partners helped the aircrews mission plan and units at Osan Air Base provided support from the Korean Peninsula.

Interoperability was in full swing between the HIANG’s 154th Wing and the 15th Wing as 15th and 154th maintenance groups ensured all aircraft on the mission were in peak condition from their departure from Hawaii to their return. Maintainers played another key role in the mission as flying crew chiefs were attached to each crew to ensure the aircraft were properly serviced while away from home station.

“I’m very humbled for the opportunity to be a part of this mission,” said Command Master Sgt. Mark Henriquez, 15th Operations Group superintendent and aircraft loadmaster on the flight into North Korea.

“To be a part of something as significant as physically lifting the boxes and hand carrying the remains from the ground in North Korea onto sovereign U.S. territory, the C-17, and ultimately back to American soil and their loved ones – is truly amazing and the highlight of my career.”

The remains returned during this mission are being forensically analyzed at the DPAA laboratory. The process to identify most of the remains is estimated to take many months to a few years.

For the latest statistics and additional information about DPAA and the U.S. government’s mission of providing the fullest possible accounting of personnel lost from wars dating back to World War II, visit DPAA’s website at www.dpaa.mil.

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