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Services: More than just food

Members of the services flight in the 124th Force Support Squadron conduct a search and recover exercise at Gowen Field, Idaho, Sept. 7, 2018

Members of the services flight in the 124th Force Support Squadron conduct a search and recover exercise at Gowen Field, Idaho, Sept. 7, 2018. Search and recover is part of mortuary services, a lesser-known duty assigned to services. Airmen conducing search and recover are responsible for recovering equipment and human remains from crash sites. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor K. Walker)

GOWEN FIELD, Idaho --

A hand, severed approximately 3 inches above the wrist, rests on the black branches of a sparse sagebrush bush in the Idaho desert. Palm facing up, it waits to be discovered by a services flight member who meticulously scans the crash site for fingers, feet and flight equipment.
 More than a dozen members of the 124th Force Support Squadron Services Flight here conducted a search and recovery exercise south of Gowen Field, Idaho, Sept. 7, 2018.
 Search and recovery is part of mortuary services, a responsibility assigned to the flight, in addition to their primary roles in lodging, food services, events and fitness.
“Most people don’t know about the mortuary side of services because services members work behind the scenes,” said Maj. Tracy R. Busmann, commander of the 124th FSS. “Their primary mission at home station is cooking, however their combat mission doesn’t have anything to do with cooking.”
While deployed, the flight’s primary mission is to lead search and recovery efforts following a crash or attack. If human remains are recovered during the search, the flight is also charged with preparing the remains for shipment to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, and ultimately, to a final resting place.
 During search and recovery, the flight moves through an impacted site in synchronous steps. They stop together when an item or body part is found in order to identify, label and bag it before continuing the search.
 Senior Airman Ashley D. Feehan, storeroom manager in the 124th FSS, said it’s important to be alert, vigilant and non-discriminatory towards items and remains that are recovered.
“It could be clothing, a ring, a can of soda, broken glass or aircraft equipment,” said Feehan. “Anything that’s found could be important to the investigation.”
Once the search is complete, members of the civil engineer squadron will then obtain coordinates for found items. CE is one of many groups, including security forces and medical, that make a search and recovery mission successful.
 Busmann and Feehan both emphasized the importance of collecting as many artifacts as possible during the mission, as it enables family members to get as much of their loved ones home for a proper burial and closure.
 Feehan said handling mortuary affairs is important to the services flight because they are so involved in the lives of the men and women on base.
“They’re part of our family too,” said Feehan. “We see these people everyday. We make their food, we are involved in events with their families and we help them stay fit. Our time invested in them is high, so we’re good people for this job.”