On Sept. 8, Brigadier General Mark Spindler addressed the senior leaders of the 503rd Military Police Battalion (Airborne) and the 16th Military Police Brigade headquarters on the mission of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
The DPAA is responsible for finding unaccounted for service members from prior conflicts, going as far back as World War II.
Recovery missions started back in 1973.
Without the use of DNA these first missions had to rely on anthropology, eye witness accounts, and mission reports.
So far, nearly 83,000 are unaccounted for. At this time only 2,100 have been recovered.
The majority of the unaccounted for personnel are in the Pacific region.
Of the all the Soldiers missing, the Pacific region has 70 percent of the known losses.
Once significant evidence has been complied, a team is assembled and is deployed for the recovery of the service member. It is a 60 day mission headed by a captain and sergeant first class. Anyone can lead and or join these teams, there is no military occupation specialties requirement.
Once on the ground, the team begins the painstakingly arduous task of sifting through the muck to fulfill the nation’s promise of bringing them home.
It is no easy feat. The team faces the challenges of temperature, terrain and language barriers.
Unfortunately, after 60 days the team must depart the area regardless if the lost service member is found, which can be heart breaking.
“There’s real emotions assigned to it,” described Spindler, DPAA deputy director of operations.
Once complete, the team will take back what they’ve found and update the mission folder. The real reward is being able to bring closure to Family members.
“As a Family member, this agency (DPAA) to me is doing phenomenal work,” said Delton Shilling Jr., son of 1st Lt. Delton Shilling Sr. (MIA) “The agency keeping my father’s memory alive, which keeps the mission alive to find him. It means that you are not just doing this alone. You have a whole body of people who are concerned about finding your dad and bringing him home,” he continued.
Southeast Asia continues to be the main DPAA effort through fiscal year 2018. Currently, the DPAA is in 25 countries and performing 56 missions worldwide. All for the slim chance that we can fulfill the nation’s promise to these service members that no one shall be left behind.