News Search

Force Support Squadron conducts search and recovery exercise in Alpena, Mich.

  • Published
  • By Maj. Lindsay Logsdon
  • 178th Fighter Wing
The 178th Force Support Squadron conducted a search and recovery exercise Aug. 1 during the 178th Fighter Wing's annual training at the Combat Readiness Training Center, Alpena, Mich.

Nearly 20 members from Personnel, Services and Base Training sections of the Force Support Squadron participated in the search and recovery scenario.

The services and personnel components of FSS have real-world requirements regarding situations that would require search and recovery, mortuary affairs and notification. The exercise scenario involved a plane crash with two deceased individuals.

"Services is tasked with the search and recovery of a crash site and removal of human remains. The Personnel side of FSS takes care of the notification," said Maj. Matthew Zelnik, 178th FSS commander.

"So we're doing a combined effort to get both Personnelists and our Services specialists to understand the full process from the crash site in the field all the way through notification to higher headquarters and ultimately to a family which is also part of what we're responsible for."

Search and recovery is a systematic search of every square inch of the determined wreckage field. "They search, they discover and then they catalogue whatever they find," said Senior Master Sgt. Dave Franzen, 178th FSS, Personnel superintendent.

"In a real world situation this would all take place after the site has been cleared," said Franzen. "Sometimes it is days after the crash."

There are three waves to the search and recovery process. The first time through the wreckage field participants discover items, the second wave catalogues the discovery and the third wave recovers. Recovery could be of personal effects or human remains.

According to Master Sgt. Brent Stringer, 178th FSS supervisor, the main purpose of the training was familiarization with the processes of search and recovery.

"The more they do it the more they are likely to retain," Stringer said.

Manpower, Personnel and Services agencies were recently formally consolidated into one agency. Due to everyday FSS customer service requirements, it has been difficult for the components to get full-time Guardsmen and traditionalists together to exercise.

"We all have checklists and tasks that we need to work through, both Services and Personnel from start to finish. From the time we do the search to the time that it's reported and closed out," said 2nd Lt. Trina Ross, 178th FSS officer in charge of Manpower Personnel flight and coordinator of the exercise.

"We're attempting to practice the thought processes the steps from beginning to finish for support functions when it comes to an actual event like this. We don't get a lot of time to practice this part until we're out here. "

Thankfully only a few of the 20 participants in the exercise have ever had to work the search and recovery and mortuary affairs aspect of a real-world incident. "They have done an amazing job collaborating over the week. They have really made the entire process mesh and it has brought together the services, personnel and base education and training functions of the force support squadron," said Ross.

"It has absolutely been a team building event for us."