21st TSC mortuary affairs operates with dignity, honor

by Sgt. Frank Sanchez III
21st TSC Public Affairs

Soldiers and civilian employees from the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s mortuary affairs office perform the delicate, but necessary, task of processing the remains and personal effects of U.S. servicemembers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for shipment back to the United States or country of origin.

Additionally, the office handles deceased retirees, dependents and Department of Defense civilians for processing back to the United States and provides support to U.S. European Command and some outlying units of U.S. Africa Command, which encompasses about 37 countries. Mortuary affairs provides assistance regardless of the location of their final disposition.

Although their duties vary, all personnel play a vital role in ensuring the remains of the deceased are properly processed. Pfc. Priscilla Blues, a mortuary affairs specialist, helps run the processing section at Landstuhl’s mortuary affairs office.

Private Blues’ responsibilities encompass a wide variety of tasks from fingerprinting to dressing the deceased. Private Blues does her part in helping fellow Soldiers, family members and DOD civilians and their families, she said about the challenges of working in mortuary affairs.

As the non-commissioned officer in charge of the 21st TSC’s mortuary affairs office, Sgt. 1st Class Adrian Randle said mortuary affairs is the most demanding, yet dignified, field in the U.S. Army.

“I believe a Soldier has to be strong minded. A Soldier must possess nothing but the best qualities to work in this field,” he said.

The office is outfitted with everything necessary to ensure the Army’s dress uniform is squared away and looking sharp for those fallen warriors who require it. It also provides a U.S. flag box with a complete display of the Soldier’s awards and decorations, which is given to the family of the deceased.

Despite the somber nature of their jobs, the Soldiers of the mortuary affairs office said it creates a deeper bond between them as they go about their daily duties.

“I think we have a tight group here,” said Staff Sgt. Terry John, operations sergeant for the office. “We all have different responsibilities, but we all make it come together.”