Fort McCoy News Sept. 9, 2016

How AFDIL helps ID POW/MIA remains

ARLINGTON, Va. — Four hundred twenty-six Family members of servicemen met at the 2016 Korean/Cold War annual government briefings here in August.

At these briefings, Family members had the opportunity to meet with numerous government officials who specialize in certain expertise, to include policy updates, global operations, DNA processing, and identification.

POW/MIA poster

Air Force Lt. Col. Alice Briones, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System Department of Defense DNA Registry director, gave a brief about the DNA process and why the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) plays a vital role in the Korean/Cold War government briefings.

Briones said their role is to provide DNA sequences and "believed to be" summaries from those sequences to the scientists at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) laboratory, which contributes to their evidence to hopefully come up with identification.

"We are the only Department of Defense DNA Human Identification Laboratory for testing," said Briones. "So we are a vital part of the whole identification process because we do the DNA testing, and we have the foremost conditions and technologies to achieve getting DNA sequences from very challenging samples."

Another role AFDIL has at the briefings is collecting Family reference samples to compare profiles of the remains because in order to have identification, they have to have something to compare their findings to. At the end of the briefings, AFDIL collected 51 Family reference samples.

"AFDIL collects, runs, and controls a database of Family reference samples for past conflicts," said Briones. "They coordinate with the Service Casualty Officers to make sure the right Family members are contacted to donate a sample. They also run the remains that come through DPAA to create a data summary of 'believed to be' to be compared to references in hopes of identification."

Briones said there is a definite sense of closure and satisfaction in knowing that the strengths of the science and dedication of the scientists is bring closure to the Families in supporting identification.

"(It's satisfying) knowing that we are putting all of our resources (into this) and continuing to push with ... technology and our scientists to bring these Family members to their loved ones and provide closure," he said.