Today the Obama administration lifted the 18-year-old ban on media coverage of the arrival of war dead, and by dawn, journalists had already taken advantage of the new policy. The first pictures and stories came out detailing the arrival home of 30-year-old Air Force Staff Sgt. Phillip Myers, who was killed on April 4 in Afghanistan and whose family gave the media permission to attend the solemn event at Dover Air Force Base. The president had been facing increasing pressure to change this controversial policy, which some charged was used to soften the blow of war. "Seeing these returning caskets prompts a national sense of shared pain and sacrifice, as well as gratitude and pride," argued New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, one of the loudest proponents for the change. The government released guidelines on Friday on how it would do just that.
Here are the details:
No. 029-09 April 03, 2009
Procedures To Obtain Media Access To Dignified Transfers Of Remains At Dover Air Force Base Announced
Journalists will be granted access to Dover Air Force Base, Del., to view the dignified transfer of the remains of service members returning from overseas.
This new policy is effective on April 6, 2009. Media will be notified of and permitted to view transfers when the family consents to such coverage.
Notification of dignified transfers will be sent via email as promptly as possible. Due to the expedited return of casualties from overseas and the requirement to gain family consent for media coverage, notification may often be on short notice and at all times of the day or night.
The notification email will include the date and time of the dignified transfer, the time and location media representatives will be required to meet with the AFMAO Public Affairs officer to be escorted onto Dover Air Force Base as well as the identification of the deceased service member to include name, rank, military service, home town and theater where death occured.
Dignified transfers take place at all hours and in all weather conditions. Media members will be required to transport themselves to Dover at the place and time specified in the notification email for escort onto Dover Air Force Base. News media will be required to adhere to established ground rules at Dover Air Force Base while recording the event.
Notification of dignified transfers at Dover Air Force Base will be emailed to journalists who register with the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center Public Affairs office at the following email address: AFMAO.PA@Dover.af.mil. Media representatives are required to provide the following information in their email:
- Full Name
- Media organization with which credentialed
- Email address (Note: initial and any follow up notifications will be done by email)
- Name, phone number, and email of immediate supervisor for credentialing verification
Due to space and logistic constraints at the site of the dignified transfer, if a significant number of media outlets express interest in covering the dignified transfer, media members may be required to pool coverage. AFMAO Public Affairs will notify media as early as possible if pooling will be required.
For further information regarding the change in policy, media may contact the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs at (703) 697-5131.
For further information regarding access to coverage of a dignified transfer, media may contact the AFMAO Public Affairs office at (302) 677-2275 or by email at AFMAO.PA@Dover.af.mil.