By Cadet Lyly Varela and Maria Garcia
April 2, 53 Maricopa High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) program cadets had the chance to attend Luke Air Force Base in Glendale for its 2016 air show.
While on the trip we had the honor of interviewing the C-17 Loadmaster Technical Sgt. Benson as he described his job duties.
We asked, “What was the best and worst part of the job?” He looked at both of us and said simply, “the most honorable mission I fly was the Dignified Transfer mission.”
That is the process of getting the caskets from the battlefield to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, peacefully
When handling the caskets they do everything they can to make sure they get the utmost respect. They put all caskets in the very front of the plane to the left with the U.S flag draped over each. The most difficult part of this mission is trying to keep his composure while waiting for the cargo door to fully open and watch the funeral hearse and families of the fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines come into the aircraft (while some families break down emotionally) at the sight of their loved one’s transfer case draped with the U.S. flag.
Extensive coordination goes into planning any Air Force flight, especially when transporting both people and supplies. Loadmasters are responsible for properly loading, securing and escorting cargo and passengers and custom loading aircraft before any flight. From calculating proper weight distribution to providing for passenger comfort throughout the flight, these specialists ensure everything and everyone is safe and secure on flights all over the world.
Our research also indicated a dignified transfer is the process by which, upon the return from the theater of operations to the United States, the remains of fallen military members are transferred from the aircraft to a waiting vehicle and then to the port mortuary. The dignified transfer is not a ceremony; rather, it is a solemn movement of the transfer case by a carry team of military personnel from the fallen member’s respective service.
A dignified transfer is conducted for every U.S. military member who dies in the theater of operation while in the service of their country. A senior ranking officer of the fallen member’s service presides over each dignified transfer.
This experience for all of our cadets will last a lifetime. I am very thankful for the Maricopa Union High School District, Principal Renita Meyers, Career Technical Education Director Michelle Shaffer, Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey, our new senior aerospace science instructor and Master Sgt. Dishon Gregory, our assistant science instructor for giving 53 Maricopa High School AFJROTC cadets such a great experience. It was an awesome day.
Lyly Varela and Maria Garcia are students at Maricopa High School.