News: Young Airman trains others to honor the fallen
Story by Senior Master Sgt. Allison Day
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - As a service member, one can't help but to stand a little taller, be a little sharper and render the appropriate salute because nothing is more somber or moving than the transfer of the fallen to their final resting place.
For those who pay the ultimate price in service to their nation, the military's goal is to get them home to their loved ones as soon as possible.
Thousands of miles away from the United States in Southwest Asia, Senior Airman Julio Morales, 387th Expeditionary Support Squadron dignified transfer program manager, has the honorable charge of ensuring that his team reflects the solemn movements that are required for dignified transfers.
"The best part of what I do is being able to honor our nation's fallen heroes and knowing I am a part of their final trip back to their home town or final resting place," said Morales, who deployed from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
At 24, Morales has been the dignified transfer training manager for the past five months and has learned how to deal with the poignant aspect of his job. In preparation for the transfer, he has learned how to detach all personal feelings and most of his emotions in order to perform as sharply as possible.
"There is no amount of training to prepare for the emotional aspect of this job, but what helps me is not asking specific details of the fallen until after the ceremony," said Morales an El Paso, Texas native. "It is about the fallen and we're here to honor and pay our respects to them."
Morales takes his job as the dignified transfer program manager with utmost seriousness and has come to understand and deal with the most challenging part of his job, which is adjusting to last minute changes and training members that have little to no experience with drill, he said. Despite the challenges, nothing stops Morales from making sure that those who volunteer to be part of the transfer detail will do it with honor and dignity.
"We practice one to two times each week," said Morales. "Several factors, such as whether the remains arrive on a C-17 (Globemaster III) or C-130 (Hercules) will give me an idea of how much space I'll need for my detail."
Once the aircraft lands, Morales is given the go ahead by air terminal operations center to proceed with the transfer. It doesn't take long for all available members of the 387th Air Expeditionary Group to gather in formation and show their respects during the dignified transfer. Senior Master Sgt. Robert Cullison, 387th ESPTS superintendent has stood in honor during 13 transfers since January. Cullison, who deployed from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, describes his feelings.
"It is difficult to explain the feelings that I experience. I am struck with the sadness of a life ended much too soon and the pain and loss that their family must be going through," said the Warsaw, Ohio native. "But, I am also extremely grateful to serve alongside people willing to lay down their lives for their country."
Airmen who volunteer for the dignified transfer carry team are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.