Air Force Morgue – The Air Force Dover military morgue entrusted with the solemn duty of receiving and caring for America’s war dead twice lost body parts of remains shipped home from Afghanistan.
Three mortuary supervisors have been punished, but no one was fired in a grisly case reminiscent of the scandalous mishandling and misidentifying of remains at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Air Force, which runs the mortuary at Dover, Del., acknowledged failures while insisting it made the right decision in not informing families linked to the missing body parts until last weekend — months after it completed a probe of 14 sets of allegations lodged by three members of the mortuary staff.
Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, told a Pentagon news conference he and the service’s top civilian, Michael Donley, are ultimately responsible for what happens at Dover and for its mistakes.
“There’s no escaping it,” Schwartz said.
However, an independent federal investigative agency, the Office of Special Counsel, said the Air Force had fallen short on accountability. That office, which forwarded the original whistleblower allegations to the Pentagon in May and July 2010 and reviewed the subsequent Air Force investigative report, faulted it for taking an overly narrow view of what went wrong at Dover between 2008 and 2010.
“Several of the Air Force’s findings are not supported by the evidence presented and thus do not appear reasonable,” the special counsel’s office said. “In these instances the report demonstrates a pattern of the Air Force’s failure to acknowledge culpability for wrongdoing relating to the treatment of remains.”
Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said her office is investigating allegations by the three whistleblowers that the Air Force retaliated against them in several ways, including an attempt to fire one of them.