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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.

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Preview 2016 Vietnam War League Meeting & DoD Briefing

Monday, June 13, 2016 @ 12:06 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

 

A discussion between League Chair Ann Mills-Griffiths & DPAA Director Michael Linnington during the 2015 annual Vietnam War meeting for MIA families.

League Chair Ann Mills-Griffiths & DPAA Director Michael Linnington communicating during the 2015 annual Vietnam War meeting for MIA families.


ALERT: MICHAEL LINNINGTON’S DEPARTURE

The joint meeting of the 2016 National League of Families (aka, League) and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) is an important annual event, held in D.C., and combined to allow Vietnam War MIA families an opportunity to be among others coping with the loss of a loved one in Southeast Asia, while still seeking answers that can only come through official US Government channels.

The three-day event, June 22 – 25, 2016,* is tightly scheduled with League Chair Ann Mills-Griffiths presiding for the 47th Annual League event! All presentations delivered by DPAA leadership and staff, League officials and special guests are timed for efficiency, and Mills-Griffiths  keeps the program on a roll.

Every time I attend the annual meeting, I am amazed at the quality of the presentations and number of experts in attendance.  I always leave with a feeling that I’ve learned something new or gained a better understanding of something I had never been able to truly grasp in the past.

NOTE: The initial schedule made available to MIA families may eventually include one or two changes related to a particular speaker and/or a presenter’s topic, but below is a partial list of the 2016 presentation agenda:

Mills-Griffiths, Assessing the Reorganization of Today;

DPAA Director Michael Linnington, Today’s Mission, Priority & Objectives;

DPAA Director Strategic Initiatives, Dr. Thomas Holland, Strategic Partnerships Update;

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, Post-Vietnam Trip (Tentative);

DPAA Director Asia Pacific Directorate Col Michael Gann, USMC, Asia & Pacific Regional Approach;

Commander Navy Expeditionary Command RADM Frank Morneau, USN, Maximizing Capabilities to Expand the Accounting Process;

Others on the list are people that most of us are familiar with, such as Richard Childress, Senior League Policy Advisor; General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF, (Ret.), US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs; Johnie Webb, DPAA Deputy Director Outreach & Communications; Bob Wallace, Executive Director & Assistant Adjutant General, VFW; and many more who bring so much value to this annual event.

Also, a special welcome to two members of Director Linnington’s leadership team attending and/or presenting for the first time at the annual event: BG Mark Spindler, USA, DPAA Deputy Director, who will discuss the agency’s Operational Perspective Worldwide; and Fern Sumpter Winbush, DPAA Principal Staff Director, who will focus on the agency’s role in facilitating Family and Veteran Engagement.  I look forward to meeting them and hope they enjoy the event.

*If you are an MIA family member and have not registered but would like to attend the Government Briefing ONLY, please contact your casualty officer. Now that the deadline for registering has closed, I don’t know if there are exceptions; however, I do know that credentials are required of all attendees.

HOW DOES THE ANNUAL MEETING DIFFER FROM REGIONAL MEETINGS?

Anyone who has read my posts about the Regional DPAA meetings knows of my respect for these events held throughout the country. However, it is tough to compare the annual meeting to the regionals, because the annual event is dedicated to issues involving Vietnam War losses and recoveries, while the regionals cover all pertinent past wars.

Although some of the DoD experts at the Vietnam War annual meeting also participate in the one for the Korean War and Cold War, the majority of those attending our meeting have a long history as analysts, historians and investigators in Southeast Asia. This is very important, because Vietnam War families have been involved with efforts to find loved ones for years, and many are highly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of their loved one’s case and all the nuts and bolts in the recovery system, so it helps to have government attendees fluent, as well.

Jay Veith, League Intelligence & Research Advisor will discuss Archival Research & Investigation Potential at the 2016 meeting.

Jay Veith, League Intelligence & Research Advisor, will discuss Archival Research & Investigation Potential at the 2016 meeting.

The expertise that DoD participants bring is especially apparent during the Department of Defense Q&A session, held on the last official day of the meeting. Families are given an opportunity to ask questions, and some are very penetrating, historically and otherwise. The DoD is adept at answering most questions, and they do a great job.  Mills-Griffiths is on deck ensuring that  questions are not personal, as in discussing a particular family member’s case, and that answers are technically correct – Ann is legendary for her unbelievable recall of events dating back decades.

I will cover the 2016 event in a future blog and showcase many of the people in attendance. Please stay connected.

DPAA’S 1ST YEAR ON THE JOB: A REPORT CARD!

Friday, April 29, 2016 @ 01:04 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

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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.

THE COMEBACK

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.

Preview DPAA’s 2016 Annual Government Briefing

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, a recently retired Army Col, is DPAA Director Michael Linnington's point person in the agency's D.C. office, in formulating policy and several other long- and short-term initiatives.

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.

 In a future blog, I will feature Sergeant Major Michael Swam,  who is serving a tour of duty with DPAA as the Senior Enlisted Leader.  When you read about Swam, it will be apparent that he really knows the accounting process!