VIETNAM, May 12, 2016 —
VIETNAM-- The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency returned from a recovery mission in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, April 12, after deploying in an effort to recover the remains of a U.S. Air Force pilot and navigator who were lost when their RF-4C Phantom aircraft went missing during a reconnaissance mission during the Vietnam War in January 1968.Braving austere conditions, the team faced a 51 degree slope in order to successfully excavate the possible resting place of the service members. In total, the team excavated 800 square meters which led to the discovery of possible life support equipment and possible remains.
"DPAA’s mission is a great example of how our country repays the debt we owe all our service men and women for the sacrifices they make every day,” said John Campbell, an archeologist with the Corp of Army Engineers. “Both in the closure it can provide to the families of lost service members, and the participation of active service members in bringing their comrades home.”
Comprised of 16 members, the team included specialized individuals specifically trained for medical aid, explosives detection and mountain repels training. The joint effort ensured that all obstacles faced by the team were handled safely and professionally.
“The team faced a lot of challenges with the adverse mountain conditions, unpredictable weather and the intense operating tempo,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Christopher Perez, team leader. “From day one until the end, they all kept in mind the reason they were there. When they were tired, they focused on keeping the nation’s promise, and it made all the difference, and they did an admirable job.”
The mission was the second time DPAA was sent to Socialist Republic of Vietnam this fiscal year, continuing in their diligent effort to account for missing Americans from past wars, for the fullest possible accounting to their families and the nation.
“Being able to do this job is an awesome feeling and an honor,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Hector Garcio, who assisted in the recovery. “Being in pain at times while on the site digging, screening, building and hiking means nothing and the pain is replaced with excitement and joy when we find a fallen service member. I always keep the thought of the service member we are looking for while I am in pain to keep me going. I also keep their family in my thoughts as well knowing that I am helping them get closure. At the end of the day, it is worth all the pain and soreness when we get to bring a fallen service member back home and fulfill our nation’s promise of leaving no one behind.”