News: Caring for the fallen
Story by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres
DUBLIN, Calif. - Army Reserve soldiers from the 387th Quartermaster Company in Los Angeles traveled to the Bay Area on July 24 to demonstrate a little known capability, mortuary affairs, to local, state and federal representatives at Camp Parks, California.
The 387th is part of the 311th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and has been demonstrating the use of the Mobile Integrated Remains Collection System all over the state.
“Our mission is show, FEMA, California Emergency Services, County and State Coroners, and Local law enforcement representatives, that we have the equipment and the soldiers to assist them in the event of a mass casualty situation," said Pablo Albizures, Unit Administrator for the 387th and a mortuary affairs soldier, "Not a lot of people know about mortuary affairs and we brought the best soldiers we could with us change that."
The 387th is one of five units in the Army Reserve with Mortuary Affairs Specialists, 92M, and there are only two active duty unit. These units are responsible for the recovery, processing, and transportation of fallen soldiers from the battle field to their families. This is a vital but often overlooked mission according to Albizures.
“I'm here to introduce and share my knowledge with the public about what it is we do and to show them the Mobile Integrated Remains Collection System," said Spc. Andy Diaz, who lives and works in Los Angeles, "I want the public to know that the individuals in the mortuary affairs community just want to respect our fallen soldiers and give them the honor of coming home," said Diaz. The MIRC-S has two different sections: an administration section and a processing section. It is also a completely self-contained unit which can elevated and be moved at a moment’s notice said Diaz.
The administration section handles the documentation while the other side is for preparing the remains for transportation home. The MIRC-S can hold the remains of up to 16 soldiers between 32 and 37 degrees, which is critical to maintain the integrity of the remains, prior to being sent home.
One the local representatives in attendance as Sgt. Paul R. Graves with the Alameda county sheriff coroners bureau.
"These rigs, with the ability to elevate and to store 16, are really nice assets that I've never seen before. These would be great in a mass fatality theater and it's very good to know they're accessible... should we need them," said Graves who also praised the 387th soldiers responsible for conducting the tour, "The Soldiers have been very respectful, well spoken, and thoughtful individuals; their leaders should be proud of them."
One of those soldiers, Spc. Abraham Henry, with the 387th Quartermaster Company and a Los Angeles native and musician said this job isn't for everyone. "For a job like this you really have to be mentally prepared and mentally tough. You really have to want to help soldiers and their families to make sure the soldiers get back home," said Henry.