By Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The 21st Force Support Squadron partnered with the El Paso County Coroner’s Office for a search and recovery exercise at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., July 15.
The training exercise consisted of FSS Airmen and officers from Peterson AFB, Schriever AFB and representatives from the El Paso County Coroner’s Office. Because the bases are located within El Paso County limits, the El Paso County Coroner’s Office is a vital resource concerning any death or mass fatality.
“We are out here observing the recovery operations hoping to take home information to better the working relationship,” said Matt Reid, El Paso County Coroner’s Office chief deputy. “The better the relationship we have, the easier our jobs are and we have a great relationship.”
Airmen lined up in a row, outfitted with personal protective equipment under a bright morning sun, to search a training area for simulated remains and personal belongings. Working as a team, they each began by taking a step forward and performing thorough spot checks on their immediate surroundings.
The training itself was modeled after a real-world scenario. It incorporated the harsh realities of a real-world disaster, including identifying and handling simulated remains. The search was halted anytime an item or body part was found. The process was meticulous in that each simulated remain was bagged, tagged and recorded before the search could begin again.
“We are out here so we are prepared,” said Staff Sgt. Sharla O’Bryant, 21st FSS Plans and Readiness unit deployment manager. “This is important because someone has got to do this job. We have to make sure that if any of our active or retired military or their dependents passes, they are taken care of.”
The seriousness and magnitude of the training was not overshadowed by any added stress the heat and PPE created.
“This has been awesome,” said 2nd Lt. Riley Coates, 21st FSS Plans and Readiness officer in charge. “A lot of time when you do exercises outside in the sun with extra equipment, people can get a bad attitude, but everyone has been super positive and these guys have been willing to learn.”
If there is ever a situation and a need to call upon them, FSS leadership knows they have a great arsenal of Airmen ready to serve, said Coates.