My first husband, Capt. Jerry Zimmer, was an F4B Phantom jet pilot, whose aircraft was shot down on August 29, 1969, approximately 20 miles South of Da Nang, Vietnam, after six months in country. Neither Jerry nor his navigator, 1st Lt. Al Graf, was able to eject, before the aircraft crashed into the Que Son Mountains. Initially Jerry and Al were classified as Killed in Action/No Body Recovered (KIA/NBR). Years later, both Marines were listed as MIA, along with other service members whose bodies were never recovered.
Jerry has been gone nearly a half century, and hope for recovering his remains had run out a long time ago. However, in recent years our family became involved with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), now merged with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), and learned that Jerry’s and Al’s remains might, in fact, be recoverable, so we are doing everything possible to support their efforts to make this happen and bring our guys home where they belong.
NOTE: BLOG POSTS ARE NOT UPDATED, SO INFORMATION MAY HAVE CHANGED OVER TIME.
Bringing Jerry Home...
This blog site represents the work of many people – family, friends, Marines, National League of POW/MIA Families, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) – now integrated into the newly formed Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) -- and others within the U.S. Government and elsewhere who believe that bringing home our MIAs is the fulfillment of a solemn promise that we make to our men and women in uniform.
We invite you to follow our collective journey in the quest to bring Jerry home.
Two hundred MIA families attended the DPAA regional meeting in Boston. When invited to talk a little about their loved ones, it was apparent that some found the experience cathartic, while others found it difficult. As always, it was a very moving part of the program.
New Englanders often take a while to warm up to newcomers, or so they say, but as one who was raised in that part of the country, you could have fooled me! It was apparent that families attending the May 14, 2016, Regional Meeting of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) in Boston, MA, warmed up immediately to DPAA Director Michael Linnington. A number of them stood up during the meeting and expressed their thanks for DPAAs efforts to account-for their loved ones, still classified as MIAs from WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War or Cold War conflicts. “It means a lot to my family,” said a family member whose loved one is still unaccounted-for from the Korean War.
As is customary, Linnington and his team of DPAA experts covered nearly every aspect of the accounting program, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., consisting of presentations and Q&As by Jack Kull, Policy Advisor; Dr. Rebecca Taylor, Forensic Anthropologist; Lt Col Alice Briones, USAF, Director DoD DNA Registry; along with three analysts, each of whom specialize in a wartime location for DPAA: Daniel Baughman, Chief of Korean War Research & Analysis; Major Shannon Lee Coleman, USAF, Research & Analyst, European and Mediterranean area of WWII; and LCDR Michael Rancour, USN, Southeast Asia Analyst, Vietnam War.
(L-R) Major Shannon Lee Coleman; Jack Kull; LCDR Mike Rancour; Dr. Rebecca Taylor; Daniel Baughman; Lt Col Alice Briones
Also present were numerous other specialists, critical to the accounting program, such as the Casualty Officers from each of the Armed Forces, along with others involved in internal/external communications. Todd S. Livick, Director, Outreach and Communications, is a new addition to the DPAA leadership team. Although Livick is a newcomer to the accounting program, he is definitely not new to his field of expertise. Livick is an Army veteran with extensive background in all aspects of government relations, including serving as a former Deputy Special Asst. for Public Affairs in support of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
MY REALITY CHECK
Barbara Grybz was presented with a collection of medals, earned by her brother, who is classified as MIA in Vietnam. This special presentation was made by (L-R) DPAA Director Michael Linnington, accompanied by Capt. Jim Prial; USMC; Major Craig Chereck, USAF; Mike Fowler, DPAA Outreach & Communications Directorate.
Every time I attend an MIA family meeting, as in Boston, I am amazed at the level of interest, love and hope on the part of families who lost loved ones dating back to WWII and Korea. Yes, as expected, many of the 200 attendees were extended family members, but not all, who had inherited a loved one’s case from another family member. Yet, neither time nor relationship to the MIA had diminished their dedication to the mission. I listened to their stories, saw their tears and was once again reminded that pain is not exclusive to my wartime generation.
(L-) Todd S. Livick, Director, Outreach & Communications, DPAA; Major Craig Chereck, DPAA; Johnie Webb, Deputy Director, Outreach & Communications.
However, the founding of the current recovery efforts is considered exclusive to the Vietnam War generation, thanks to the dedication and sheer determination by some very special families, veterans and politicians – early-on – that were instrumental in creating the global, ongoing recovery programs that we now take for granted, covering the Vietnam War, WWII, Korean War and other conflicts. Were it not for people like Sybil Stockdale, Anne Mills Griffiths and other determined diehards, this great humanitarian effort would probably have ended decades ago. We owe them a debt of gratitude.
Strategic Partnership Programs: Linnington was clearly enthused about discussing the level of interest among academic institutions, tech companies, and the list went on of organizations that have already formed partnerships with DPAA which are being implemented in 2016 to augment and assist all areas of the accounting mission. Although partnerships are not entirely new to DPAA, the concept is now officially sanctioned to help speed up the recovery process, particularly in WWII locations. For professional organizations wanting to get involved, I suggest that you do your homework before contacting DPAA – the agency has a terrific website — www.dpaa.mil/. NOTE: Linnington stressed that laboratory services involving identifications of our MIAs, are not open to partners. DPAA has a state-of-the-art laboratory and world-class forensic and DNA technologists.
Director of the partnership program is Dr. Tom Holland – I am looking forward to learning more from Holland about Partnership Programs during the upcoming 2016 Family League/DPAA Annual Meeting in D.C., June 22 – 25, 2016. (more info in next blog).
Accounting Mission 101: Jack Kull is an entertaining speaker, knows his stuff and shared it with the families: (my comments in blue)
- Each conflict is pursued differently (much depends on location, culture, type of incident…)
- DNA is taking on an increasing role (Lt. Col Briones discussed Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), eventually offering hope when nothing else works for IDs)
- Casualty officers are important to know (Each of the Armed Forces has its own MIA Casualty Office. If you have questions, contact the branch in which your loved one served and ask to be connected to the Casualty Office that handles MIA cases)
- The Dept. of State is important — we could not do this without our ambassadors
- Intelligence is important, and the government gives us full access
- Deep water recoveries are almost nil (I believe DPAA water recoveries do not exceed 150′ )
- Strategy determines how cases are worked
- Witnesses are passing away (Were it not for in-country witnesses, I doubt that our family would have located Jerry’s crash site)
- Loss of records makes WWII recoveries challenging (It is a blessing every time a WWII recovery and ID is made and the same goes for the Vietnam War)
- Re-building WWII case files offers an opportunity to simultaneously digitize them
- Strategic partnerships are a true force multiplier. (The accounting program is huge, especially in the area of field operations. Partners can make a huge difference).
- Some partnerships can do recoveries and allow DPAA to move to others
- Host nations typically have the training and assets required for DPAA missions
From the Field: Dr. Rebecca Taylor discussed the recovery process, of which she is very familiar, having already led 11 global recoveries. I first met Taylor in Vietnam during one of my visits and was told that she is topnotch. Her short, amateur video of a WWII excavation in India kept us all riveted and was proof positive of her dedication to the mission and that of DPAA team members. Check it out — I think you’ll agree.
FROM DISARRAY TO DISTINCTION
Approximately two years ago, efforts to account for our MIA service members and personnel from past wars were in serious trouble, and indirectly the DoD was tagged with the impending failure. I’m not referring to the difficulty of finding thousands of our loved ones’ remains – that’s a given, but rather the challenge of fixing the disarray that existed in the accounting program, causing MIA families and others to lose confidence in the system. Our nation’s largest global, ongoing humanitarian effort was in jeopardy – a program believed to be the only of its kind in the world today was hanging in the balance. In the end Congress gave the DoD an ultimatum: Fix it, or we’ll fix it.
Not only did the DoD meet the challenge, but in my opinion, the fix exceeded expectations.
Belated congratulations to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) on reaching full operational capability (FOC) as of January 8, 2016 – an important milestone achieved in one year, almost to the day. During the interim period, the DoD continued to account for missing personnel and provide information to MIA families, such as mine. A key element in the process appeared to be on the structural side, as in consolidating several organizations in the accounting community that had been operating quasi independently prior to the emergence of DPAA.
The importance of FOC status is a declaration that the reorganization is complete with all DoD legacy accounting organizations now merged into a single, unified defense agency headed by DPAA Director Michael Linnington. “Now is the time to sharpen our focus, increase our efforts, and maximize all aspects of our accounting efforts to better provide answers to the families of our missing.” said Linnington, of an effort that I believe was finally given proper support and respect by the powerbrokers on Capitol Hill.
NO MAN IS AN ISLAND…
Most successful leaders recognize that no man is an island, and Linnington’s style seems to ascribe to that adage. The accounting program is very demanding and multi-dimensional, so I’m sure his direct-support leadership team –civilian and military – are very capable individuals possessing topnotch skills, cultural fit, likeability and above all, capacity for dedication to the MIA accounting mission.
DPAA Principal Director Fern Sumpter-Winbush
Undoubtedly Fern Sumpter-Winbush was appointed by Linnington to serve as his DPAA Principal Director, because she fits all the necessary criteria and more for this critical support position. As a civilian hire, Winbush brings continuity to the agency. But even more important, she will be Linnington’s point person in the D.C. office, formulating policy, overseeing business development and increasing outreach initiatives, particularly in support of MIA families.
Raised in Boston, MA, Winbush was an honor graduate of the University of Massachusetts and a distinguished military graduate of Suffolk University’s ROTC program in Boston, which led to a very accomplished career in the U.S. Army, from which she retired as a full Colonel in 2015. Throughout Winbush’s career, she continued with her education and earned a Master of Science degree in National Resource Strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, attended Command and Staff College and several other high-level military schools.
Winbush’s Army career began in 1983 as an enlisted soldier in the reserves, leading to a commission in 1990. She pinned on her first bar as a 2nd Lt., transitioning into the active duty military, initially serving in Military Intelligence.
With several deployments over the years to such places as Germany, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Korea and the Netherlands, Winbush’s last tour was closer to home in command of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall — a prestigious assignment and one in which she was undoubtedly proud, serving as the second female commander and the first African-American female commander at the base. She was also the 102nd commander of Ft. Meyer, which has a history dating back to the Civil War and is located adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery.
Historical Footnote: One of Winbush’s predecessors was none other than Gen. George S. Patton, who was garrison commander at Fort Myer from 1938-40 before moving on to serve in WWII and become one of our nation’s iconic wartime heroes.
PART II will feature Sergeant Major Michael Swam, who is serving a tour of duty with DPAA as the Senior Enlisted Leader. When you read PART II and meet Swam, it will be apparent that he really knows the accounting process!
Also in PART II, I will discuss three important accomplishments achieved during DPAAs first year at the helm and more.
PART II will be posted during the second week of May. Please check back.