Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs
The Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs is a Mortuary Affairs facility at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware housing the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center (AFMAO), which combines the functions of both Air Force Mortuary Affairs and Port Mortuary, historically known as Dover Port Mortuary. The Port Mortuary is the United States' only port mortuary, the largest mortuary under the Department of Defense (DoD), and the only DoD mortuary located in the continental United States.
The mortuary was used in 1978 for the victims of the Jonestown mass murder/suicide, 1986 for identifying the remains of the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger, and in 2003 for the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia. It was also a major site for identifying the remains of military personnel killed in the 9/11 attacks.
In 2003, the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs replaced the 48 year old facility that had been in use since 1955 to identify and process the remains of over 50,000 service members. The new $30 million mortuary is 70,000 square feet (6,500 m2). In recognition of dedicated and committed services for over two decades, Dover Air Force Base named its mortuary after Charles C. Carson.
The mortuary staff prepares the remains of fallen U.S. service members, as well as government officials and their families stationed abroad in Europe and Southwest Asia.
In 2011, a federal investigation by the United States Office of Special Counsel found the center had committed "gross mismanagement" of remains, including losing body parts, sawing off the damaged arm bone of a soldier so he would fit in a casket without telling his family, and lax supervision. Three supervisors were disciplined but not removed from duty.
The Special Counsel investigation found that Air Force officials had attempted to silence whistleblowers by firing them from their jobs, had falsified records, and lied to investigators. The investigation was critical of the Air Force for, in investigators' opinions, not accepting full blame for the misconduct and trying to cover it up. Colonel Robert H. Edmondson, commander of the facility from January 2009 to October 2010 was reprimanded but allowed to remain in the Air Force. Quinton R. “Randy” Keel, division director at the mortuary, was demoted in August 2011 and reassigned to a different position at the base before eventually resigning. Trevor Dean, the top civilian official at the mortuary voluntarily accepted a demotion and transfer in September 2011. The Special Council report was critical of the Air Force for allowing all three men to remain employed by the service. In response, the USAF convened a board, led by John Abizaid, to review the mortuary's operations.
A subsequent Washington Post investigation revealed in December 2011 that the center had disposed of the cremated remains of 274 US military personnel in the King George County Landfill in Virginia. The remains were dumped in the landfill between 2004 and 2008.
An investigation by the US Office of Special Counsel found in January 2012 that mortuary officials had retaliated against four civilian whistleblowers involved in the issue, by trying to fire two of the civilians and suspending the other two. The Office recommended further disciplinary action against Keel and Dean and said it would do so itself if the USAF failed to do so. The USAF replied that it would impose stronger discipline on Edmondson and Dean. On 21 May 2012, the USAF announced that it had given Edmondson a formal reprimand and fined him $7,000. Dean was suspended for 20 days without pay. Both were allowed to remain in their positions. In June 2012, three of the civilian whistleblowers who had suffered retaliation, James G. Parsons Sr., Mary Ellen Spera, and William Zwicharowski, were honored as "public servants of the year" by the United States Office of Special Counsel.
In February 2012 it was revealed that the mortuary had improperly disposed of remains of September 11 attacks victims in a landfill. According to the Washington Post, mortuary and Dover officials suggested disposing of the remains at sea, but were overruled by an unidentified USAF officer at Air Mobility Command and officers at the US Army's Personnel Command, who directed that the remains be disposed of as medical waste.
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- "Factsheet: Air Force Mortuary Affairs, Port Mortuary". Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center. August 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
- 8 December 2011
- Whitlock, Craig; Jaffe, Greg (9 November 2011). "Air Force mishandled remains of war dead, inquiry finds". The Washington Post. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
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- Whitlock, Craig, "Abizaid To Lead Review Of Dover Mortuary", Washington Post, 22 November 2011, p. 2.
- Whitlock, Craig, "Ashes of U.S. vets dumped in a landfill", Washington Post, 9 December 2011.
- Hendrix, Steve, "The Landfill As Sacred Ground", Washington Post, 24 September 2012, p. B1
- Whitlock, Craig, "Whistleblowers Faced Reprisals At Dover, Probe Finds", Washington Post, 1 February 2012, p. 15.
- Whitlock, Craig, "Ex-Dover Officials Face More Discipline", Washington Post, 17 March 2012, p. 3.
- Whitlock, Craig, "Dover Officials Punished For Reprisals", Washington Post, 22 May 2012, p. 2
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- NBC Nightly News, live broadcast, 28 February 2012.
- Laster, Jill, "Dover panel: Some 9/11 remains went to landfill", Military Times, 28 February 2012; retrieved 29 February 2012.
- Whitlock, Craig, "Mortuary Urged Not Dumping 9/11 Remains At Landfill", Washington Post, 7 March 2012, p. 3.