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    Nebraska Guardsman helps recover three Vietnam War service members

    Nebraska Guardsman helps recover Vietnam War service members

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Jason Wilson | A United States-led joint operation aided in the recovery and repatriation of three...... read more read more

    A United States-led joint operation aided in the recovery and repatriation of three American service members on April 15 from the Quang Ngai province in Vietnam.
    The three service members, whose identities will not be disclosed until families are officially notified, went missing in action more than 40 years ago during the Vietnam War after the planes they were flying crashed during a mission.
    Nebraska Air National Guard Tech Sgt. Michael Wellman, a 155th Air Refueling Wing aircrew flight equipment technician who is trained as a crash investigator, became the first National Guardsman selected to participate in recovery efforts of this type.
    “Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) selects its members from a pool of certified crash investigators,” said Wellman, a native of Waco, Nebraska. “Up until this point they have always selected from active duty service members. When I was notified of this assignment, I didn’t have to think twice about it. This was a great opportunity and a chance to bring closure to some families.”
    With assistance from the Vietnamese government and with the help of eyewitness testimonies, the recovery teams Wellman worked with were able to narrow their search to four locations.
    “The Vietnamese kept really good burial records,” Wellman said. “Interpreters also interviewed villagers to gather information on possible crash sites to search.”
    The four crash sites the teams were searching were from F-4 Phantom and A-4 Skyhawk aircraft.
    “Searching crash sites that involve supersonic jets makes the task extremely difficult,” Wellman said. “A lot of the times you are looking for teeth or some type of personal belongings, such as dog tags, watches, boots or helmets.”
    In all, the trip was two months long, March 3-April 15, with 36 nights spent in the jungle searching recovery sites.
    “This was a very rewarding and somber experience,” Wellman added. “Everyone involved was very motivated and had a great attitude.”
    The recovery mission was overall a success, with three service members honored during a repatriation ceremony before the signing of diplomatic documents between Vietnamese leadership and the United States. Repatriation is the process of returning someone to their own country, and the signed paperwork officially allows the transfer to take place.
    “The members were then placed in a casket draped in a flag and flew back to Hawaii,” he said. “Once the flight arrived in Hawaii, the remains were placed in a DPAA facility where their DNA was matched against a database. Once there was 100 percent confirmation of their identity the family members were notified.”
    The DPAA was established in 2015 and has since been conducting recovery missions of personnel who are listed as prisoners of war or missing in action.
    “A lot of people don’t know that this mission and agency exist,” Wellman said. “I want to bring awareness and educate people of this mission. They are always needing help and I am sure that people would volunteer. I think bringing someone home to their family is huge.”
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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 06.11.2018
    Date Posted: 06.11.2018 17:07
    Story ID: 280542
    Location: NE, US

    Web Views: 346
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