DULUTH, Minn. --
Many members of the Air National Guard wear the hat of weekend warrior and a different hat in their civilian lives of a student or full time professional – some with careers that have little association with their weekend work. Some Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC) take this ability to juggle different skillsets even further, like 3MO or services.
Airmen who are part of the 148th Fighter Wing Force Support Squadron Services Flight can be assigned to food services; running a unit’s gym and fitness program, lodging, or possibly mortuary affairs. Active-duty Air Force units have more time and resources to train, but the part time components, like Guard and Reserves, have to get more creative with making sure all their personnel are proficient.
Recently, eight members of the 148th Force Support Squadron, Services Flight, Fatality Search and Recovery Team (FSRT) went to the Dr. Joseph H. Davis Center for Forensic Pathology in Miami, Florida, for real life on the job training for their role and responsibilities with mortuary affairs.
“If you’re on this team, training like that should be normalized for someone to experience,” said Staff Sgt. Karlie Kulas, Services Non-commissioned Officer. “If we were called up to respond to an incident like the condo building collapse [Surfside Condo Collapse, June 2021] without this real-life experience, it could be really jarring for someone to experience. This training could really take the edge off the reality of what mortuary affairs is an allow us to be more effective in times of need.
The experience was a new effort for the unit, as annual training at home consists of mannequins and weighted ‘dummies’. The opportunity was discovered by a pre-existing relationship of the FSRT with the Florida Air National Guard – the group took the opportunity to train at a facility attached to the University of Miami-Dale, where the faculty are accustomed to instruction and student overwatch.
“How do you really practice doing what we do,” said 1st Lt. Otha Tillery, 148th Force Support Officer and Officer in Charge of the 148th FSRT. “We do a lot of training, but how do you really duplicate what it smells like, looks like, and feels like.”
The small group was able to take a tour of the facility and shadow medical examiners as they went through their process, in real time – real life.
“I really thought it provided so many opportunities we can’t offer at home station, like: education, actually handling the decease and decomposed, having in-depth instruction on what a medical examiner is looking for, and more that we just can’t offer during a drill weekend,” said Tillery.
This unique training for the 148th Services FSRT provided an unique opportunity for them to be better equipped to wear the hat of FSRT and mortuary affairs.