XIANGKHOANG PROVINCE, Laos, July 29, 2016 —
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) is now using recovery leader augmentees to maximize efficiency with the increasing operations tempo, and archeologists from the Army Corps of Engineers have been called to assist.
Three teams set out for Laos People’s Democratic Republic at the end of February for approximately six weeks, with hopes of returning a few of our nation’s fallen heroes. All three teams were led by Army Corps of Engineers archeologists, two of which had never worked side-by-side with active duty military members in such a great capacity.
“Generally, on an archeological excavation everyone out there is an archeologist in some capacity,” said S. Joe Griffin, senior archeologist with the Sacrament District. “They might just be a field technician, or they could be a crew chief, or field director, or whatever; but generally they have a background in archeology, some education in it, some level of experience in it. I wasn’t sure what to expect working with an all military crew. I think it was much better than anything I would have expected had I had expectations.”
Griffin has been accustomed to having a more direct approach in directing the excavation, however in this case the standard military chain-of-command was in place.
“I would tell the team leader or team sergeant-typically both-generally what I wanted to have done and they would assign who they would have do it, and they would get things going the way I wanted,” said Griffin. “It worked effectively but it was a very different way of dealing with that kind of a situation than what I have done in the past.”
Cynthia Peterson, an archeologist augmentee with the St. Paul District, Army Corps of Engineers, was also not accustomed to daily interaction with active duty military prior to her mission with DPAA. Peterson noticed something a little more personal about this assignment.
“There was a real enthusiasm toward the purpose of the mission,” said Peterson. “There was a deep meaning for, I think, every person on my team. You do not usually have such a personal connection when you are doing most other archeology in the states.”
In the end, both archeologists had nothing but positive things to say about their teams.
“The difference is not really one of experience,” said Griffin. “A lot of the members of our team had done some number of these missions before, had experience with it, knew what they were doing, and they are fantastic hard workers.”