HomeNewsFeatures

Feature Search

Searching for the missing

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dotey Lynn, commander’s support staff for the 36th Wing comptroller squadron and Lao workers dig at Vietnam War Era F-4 crash in search of two missing in action pilots, Savannakhét Province, Laos, July 15 2019.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dotey Lynn, commander’s support staff for the 36th Wing comptroller squadron and Lao workers dig at Vietnam War Era F-4 crash in search of two missing in action pilots, Savannakhét Province, Laos, July 15 2019. There are over 81,000 service members still missing from past conflicts. DPAA’s mission is to provide the fullest possible accounting of missing personnel to their families and the nation, a mission that is heavily dependent on augmentees. (courtesy photo)

Americans and Lao workers dig at Vietnam War Era f-4 crash in search of two missing in action pilots, Savannakhét Province, Laos, July 15 2019.

Americans and Lao workers dig at Vietnam War Era F-4 crash in search of two missing in action pilots, Savannakhét Province, Laos, July 15 2019. There are over 81,000 service members still missing from past conflicts. DPAA’s mission is to provide the fullest possible accounting of missing personnel to their families and the nation, a mission that is heavily dependent on augmentees. (courtesy photo)

Americans and Lao workers dig at Vietnam War Era F-4 crash in search of two missing in action pilots, Savannakhét Province, Laos, July 15 2019.

Americans and Lao workers dig at Vietnam War Era F-4 crash in search of two missing in action pilots, Savannakhét Province, Laos, July 15 2019. There are over 81,000 service members still missing from past conflicts. DPAA’s mission is to provide the fullest possible accounting of missing personnel to their families and the nation, a mission that is heavily dependent on augmentees. (courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dotey Lynn, commander’s support staff for the 36th Wing comptroller squadron dig at Vietnam War Era F-4 crash in search of two missing in action pilots, Savannakhét Province, Laos, July 15 2019.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dotey Lynn, commander’s support staff for the 36th Wing comptroller squadron dig at Vietnam War Era F-4 crash in search of two missing in action pilots, Savannakhét Province, Laos, July 15 2019. There are over 81,000 service members still missing from past conflicts. DPAA’s mission is to provide the fullest possible accounting of missing personnel to their families and the nation, a mission that is heavily dependent on augmentees. (courtesy photo)

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam --

She dug through tons of dirt, mud, clay and scorpions in her search for two missing pilots. From May 25 through June 13, 2019, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dotey Lynn, commander’s support staff for the 36th Wing Comptroller Squadron and a group of multi-branched volunteers were going to Laos to excavate an F-4 aircraft crash site from the Vietnam War.

"When the email came in that the Defense POW/MIA Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Accounting Agency were looking for volunteers to search for missing POW’s and MIA’s from the Vietnam War I didn’t think twice about it," said Lynn. "I knew this would be a life changing experience for everyone involved."

Before leaving for the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lynn's team of volunteers met at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency's (DAAA) headquarters in Hawaii for processing and training. They learned how to build sifting stations out of nearby bamboo, wet stations for when the inevitable rains came, and basic medical care. Their dig site was in the remote Savannakhét province, in the Vilabouli District, found near Ban Kok Mak Village, almost an hour away from their living quarters.

 

"The first day of work we loaded up in the back of a truck and drove 40 minutes to our site where we would be digging every day," said Lynn. "On the way there, you would see families out on hillsides searching for vegetables, and rice as well as families taking their baths in the lakes."

There were two teams that would dig at sites right next to each other. The teams were composed of 30 Americans, 200 Lao workers, and 2 translators. The Loa workers were locals who slept on site and were paid five dollars per day per family.

"At first it seemed almost impossible to converse with the Lao workers because we couldn’t understand them, and they couldn’t understand us," said Lynn. "We all made close relationships with the locals, broke down barriers, and even developed our own form of communication with each other. It makes me realize how important host nation relationships are."

The first day's work consisted of clearing trees and bushes, as well as digging a huge hole which would be their bathroom while working. The U.S. team members would dig for six hours in one hour shifts. Every shovel of dirt was placed into buckets, passed down a bucket line formed by the sometimes 50 or more Lao workers. The buckets would go to screening stations where one American and one Lao worker would sift through all the dirt, rocks, and insects searching for life support equipment.

Life support equipment (LSE) includes survival items carried by the aircrew members, helmets and flight suits. LSE directly correlates and helps in confirming the identity of missing service members.

"Everyone, every day would be so excited when someone would find pieces of metal from the aircraft or a piece of equipment that crewmember might have been wearing," said Lynn.

Excitement was tempered, however. Daily discoveries of bones would turn out to belong to animals, rain would wash away the dig site and there were so many unexploded ordnances (UXO) it would halt the dig for hours every day. One UXO discovered weighed 500 pounds and took on site explosive ordnance disposal technicians 24 hours to clear the site.

"The most exciting thing my team found was a large piece of what we assume to be an aircrew members helmet," said Lynn. "The team next to us found a dog tag and eight teeth. This was huge in bringing home the remains to their family and ensuring it was the person DPAA had researched."

Human remains are transferred to DPAA’s headquarters to go through the identification process. Once confirmed, the remains are given a proper burial, with honors, with their family.

When the teams arrived back in the Lao capital, all service members wore their dress uniforms and contributed to the repatriation ceremony, loading the casket with remnants within, and flag on top, onto the C-17 Globemaster III. There was a moment of silence for the service member’s who were finally returning home after 56 years.

"Once completed the teams returned to Hawaii. The last day the archeologists took us on a tour of the DPAA building," said Lynn "It was like nothing I have ever seen. They had so many human remains that they were researching from World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and the Cold War."

Clear cases line the entry hall, displaying recovered equipment as it was found and next to it, recreations of how the equipment would have looked in its prime. In the back of the facility, 75 chrome tabletops supported skeletons in various states of completion. These skeletons were recently returned to the U.S. from Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"I would volunteer every time DPAA went out, if I were able, said Lynn. "If you ever have the opportunity, I encourage you to take it. DPAA is always looking for volunteers and you may also have the chance to bring a service member back home to their families."

To date, there are over 81,000 service members still missing from past conflicts. DPAA’s mission is to provide the fullest possible accounting of missing personnel to their families and the nation, a mission that is heavily dependent on augmentees.

Social Media

Facebook Twitter
Not just a right - It's your responsibility. #Vote
Tomorrow (Jan 31st) CE Customer Service and both Andersen Family and Unaccompanied Housing Offices will be closed from 11 A.M.–4 P.M. For emergencies, please see additional information below: CE Customer Service: For any emergency issues, please call 366-2916/2917/2918. All other non-emergency issues can be sent to the CE Customer Service email org box at 36ces.service@us.af.mil. Housing Office: For any urgent Housing matters, please call 366-6240 or 653-4731. Normal operating hours will resume Monday, 3 February. Thank you, 36th Civil Engineer Squadron
The Readiness & Emergency Management Flight will be conducting training today (Jan 30) from 7 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.. It will involve personnel driving around base in MOPP 4 and setting out detectors on main base. It is all for training purpose only.
Congratulations to our 4th Quarterly Award winners! Airman of the Quarter: SrA Tiffany Arquette- 36th Mission Support Group Non-commissioned Officer of the Quarter: SSgt Bryan Koch- 36th Mission Support Group Senior Non-commissioned Officer of the Quarter: MSgt Coreena Dejesus-36th Wing Staff Agency Company Grade Officer of the Quarter: 2Lt Megan Barrick- 36th Maintenance Group Civilian Category I of the Quarter: Mr. Nathan Atalig- 36th Mission Support Group Civilian Category II of the Quarter: Mr. Shawn McMahon – 36th Mission Support Group Civilian Category III of the Quarter: Ms. Lucy Benavente - 36th Wing Staff Agency Honor Guard of the Quarter: SrA Brandi Dennis – 36th Communications Squadron Volunteer of the Quarter: SSgt Duawana Robinson – 36th Maintenance Group Team of the Quarter: Family Health- 36th Medical Group
Don't miss this great training opportunity on Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention, and Bystander Intervention, 31st Jan, 11 A.M. at the Meehan Theater. This event is FREE and open to all! Joint Region Marianas
Andersen is proud to host the U.S. Navy's Tritons!
Congratulations to Staff Sgt. Jolesa Scott from the 36th Force Support Squadron team for being recognized as one of Team Andersen's Best! Great job!
#TeamAndersenDYK the fire prevention experts recommend to never leave open flames or cooking unattended, to check lint traps regularly as well as checking electrical outlets to make sure they are being used properly. In addition, family members of all ages should know and follow a shared emergency escape plan. Andersen firefighters recommend that, in case of fire, residents use their established escape plan and proceed to a designated rally point, a safe distance away from the flames and smoke. Once outside, immediately call 911 and describe the situation to dispatchers as calmly as possible. Fires happen sporadically, so please pay attention to your housekeeping, your surroundings and when you’re cooking or even just near a flame. #safety
Calling all football fans and history buffs!!! Immediately after World War II, the American military stationed in the South Pacific began playing full-contact football - pads and all. Andersen Air Force Base's Gilkeson Field, named after Brig. Gen. Adlai H. Gilkeson, commanding general of the 19th Bombardment Wing from 1949 to 1951, served as home of the North Field Bombers, the base football team! Teams in Japan, the Philippines, and Guam played in local military leagues, occasionally flying long distances to compete. A league champ on Guam wasn't determined until 1947, when the 1st Marine Brigade and the 501st Port Battalion tied for the island championship. The North Field (later Andersen) Bombers went undefeated in the 1948 season to capture the island title, which began a long legacy of the most successful football team on Guam for the next 34 years. The Bombers won at least 17 league/island championships - including 11 titles in a row from 1955 to 1966. The last Bomber championship was in 1974. Other teams on the island were also rich in tradition and history. In short, while the Navy dominated the league with their number of teams in action, it was the Andersen Bombers that dominated on the scoreboard and in the standings. The Bombers lasted until the leagues' end after the 1981 season. #TeamAndersen #TBT #NorthFieldBombers Joint Region Marianas US Naval Base Guam U.S. Pacific Air Forces 1st Marine Brigade
Every flight starts with planning! And a trip to Aircrew Flight Equipment. AFE Airmen maintain equipment used by pilots, which are essential for survival capabilities. AFE Airmen provide direct support to the Continuous Bomber Presence. Thanks, AFE!
The United States, along with Mexico and the Philippines, were ranked one of the world's worst places for human trafficking in 2018. In the U.S., there is no official number of human trafficking victims, but estimates place it in the hundreds of thousands. Look for these indicators to help combat human trafficking.
WARNING: Security Forces will deny access to the base and/or issue fines for not updating your vehicle registration or not having insurance.
Exercise the very right you protect - your right to vote! We can help with registering to vote, requesting an absentee ballot and notifying your local election officials back home of a change of address. Below is Voter Registration application, Absentee Ballot Request form (SF-76), and mailing address. This form is for Uniformed Service members, family members of voting age, DoD civilians, and citizens residing outside the United States. You may access many voting related questions and answers on the FVAP website at http://www.fvap.gov. Please click the link below to access the direct-to-voter training video which goes through the process step by step. https://www.fvap.gov/militaryhowto If you have any questions please contact your designated squadron UVAO or IVAO at DSN: 366-8137 or email: Andersen.vote@us.af.mil
Congratulations to Staff Sgt. Shannen Lisbourne from the 36th WG/JA team for being recognized as one of Team Andersen's Best! Great job!
#TeamAndersenDYK every day in the United States, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the U.S. Many Airmen and families enjoy swimming within the shallow water, but some choose to swim beyond the reef into deeper depths. Since there is no continental shelf around Guam, the landmass underwater does not have a gradual slope; therefore, the water depth drops suddenly. Swimmers are advised not to swim beyond the reef and into the deep open water to avoid hazardous waves and currents or other harmful conditions. Alcohol is also a major cause of water-related incidents. Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70 percent of deaths associated with water recreation, according to the CDC. Drinking alcohol causes a lack of coordination, disturbance of the inner ear, impaired reaction time and impaired judgment, which can cause someone to become injured or drown while swimming. Please be safe when out swimming. Never swim alone, drink while swimming, and pay attention to the flag conditions. #safety
Way to go, Security Forces! Sen. Joe San Augustin from the 35th Guam Legislature presented Airmen from the 36th Security Forces Squadron with a legislative resolution and certificates of appreciation, recognizing their volunteer efforts throughout the island community, Jan.16 at Tarague Beach. #TeamAndersen #OneGuam #Community #GoodNeighbors The Office of Senator Joe S. San Agustin Joint Region Marianas U.S. Pacific Air Forces The Guam Legislature
Showing love to Guam and promoting #environmental stewardship with #partners! Airmen from the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron and 190th Air Refueling Wing - Kansas Air National Guard partnered with Sailors from Commander, Submarine Squadron Fifteen and members of Love Guam for a roadside cleanup Jan. 11 in Yigo. #OneGuam #GreenGuam #GoodNeighbors #Community #TeamAndersen #TeamAndersenTBT Joint Region Marianas U.S. Pacific Air Forces Yigo Mayor's Office
The "First Lady" of Andersen Air Force Base has retired. Please join Team Andersen in giving our thanks and well wishes to Mrs. Joyce Martratt after her more than 54 years of service to the U.S. Air Force. Mrs. Joyce has been guiding and assisting the leadership of AAFB as an invaluable secretary since the height of the Vietnam war. Serving with 27 general officers during her tenure, she has been essential in the continued success of Andersen, and by extension the security and safety of the indo-pacific region. Thank you for all that you have done for all of us in Team Andersen and may you have a blessed retirement. Si Yu'us ma'åse' Mrs. Joyce U.S. Pacific Air Forces U.S. Indo-Pacific Command #retirement