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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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Posts Tagged ‘Jessica Tavasti-Davis’

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DPAA DIRECTOR MICHAEL LINNINGTON VISITS SOUTHEAST ASIA

Monday, November 23, 2015 @ 05:11 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

Hanoi - DPAA Director Michael Linnington meets with Vietnam Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Ha Kim Ngoc during his visit to Southeast Asia. Linnington visited DPAA detachments in Bangkok, Thailand; Vientiane, Laos; and Hanoi, Vietnam, and met with senior U.S. officials in each country, as well as senior host nation counterparts. He also met with U.S. Embassy staff and Cambodian counterparts in Phnom Penh. Photo by Lee tucker

Hanoi – DPAA Director Michael Linnington meets with Vietnam Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Ha Kim Ngoc during his visit to Southeast Asia. Photo by Lee Tucker

Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Director Michael Linnington conducted his first major  tour of Southeast Asia, Oct 30 – November 12, with stop-offs in Vietnam; Laos; Thailand; and Cambodia.  As is customary, Linnington met with senior U.S. officials and their in-country counterparts, along with DPAA leadership and staff at detachments in Hanoi, Vientiane and Bangkok.

With a little less than six months at the helm, Linnington was undoubtedly eager to get into the field and see how his operation works beyond the Beltway.  As a retired Lt. General with an impressive resume, Linnington knows that there is nothing like boots-on-the-ground when it comes to assessing a situation, and that’s what prompted him to visit several excavation sites during his multi-country visit.

Observing DPAA recovery teams, working alongside their in-country counterparts, is an amazing experience for the uninitiated, but as a family member with a loved one still unaccounted-for in Vietnam, I found Linnington’s remarks especially heartwarming:  “The opportunity to get out into the field and visit with our teams and host nation partners working to account for our missing countrymen was the highlight of my trip,” said Linnington.  “The dedication and commitment of the young men and women on our recovery teams is truly inspiring.” 

Linnington went on to compliment the host countries for their assistance, saying that we couldn’t do this without them. 

VIETNAM’S REACTION

When Secretary of Defense Ash Carter selected Linnington, a retired, high level Army officer, to lead DPAA, he sent a powerful message that the U.S. was serious about the MIA issue, and this was not lost on the Vietnamese.

Following a reception for Linnington in Hanoi, November 10, the Vietnamese government released a statement in which Deputy Defense Minister Lt. Gen Nguyen Chi Vinh said that “Vietnam always gives priority to cooperation with the U.S. on the search for the remains of U.S. servicemen who went missing during the war in Vietnam.”     

The Vietnamese government was obviously pleased with Linnington’s response, saying that he thanked the government, people and war veterans for their valuable assistance in looking for and repatriating the remains of U.S. servicemen who went missing in Vietnam. 

RELATIONSHIP BUILDING

For those of us with loved ones still missing in Southeast Asia, the value of good relationships cannot be emphasized enough, so I am pleased that Linnington’s trip went well.  As I reflect on Deputy Defense Minister Vinh’s words in which he spoke of giving “priority to…the U.S. on the search for …remains,” I am reminded that our respective countries have come a long way in developing an excellent working relationship.  Nobody knows that better than families who have followed a loved one’s case for decades.  Clearly, Linnington gets it!

“I am honored to have been selected by the Secretary to lead this most important mission.  As a former soldier myself, I take very seriously the commitment that we leave no one behind,” said Linnington, also explaining that he was looking at “every opportunity to speed up this mission” and that “those we search for deserve no less, as do their families.” (View a brief bio on Linnington).

Hopefully, 2016 will be a great year for Vietnam War recoveries and identifications — 1,626 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. 

Our family is praying that the coming year will bring good news, possibly about the return of Jerry’s and Al’s remains.  Please stay connected, and I will pass along updates as they become available.