Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory plays a vital role in Korean and Cold War identification
Dave McClung, nephew of Marine Master Sgt. William McClung, gets his cheek swabbed for a family reference by Kerriann Meyers, Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory Past Accounting Section assistant technical leader. McClung was one of 51 family members to give a cheek swab during the briefings. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashlin Federick)
ARLINGTON, Va. — Four hundred twenty-six family members of servicemen met at the 2016 Korean/Cold War Annual government briefings, Aug. 11-12, 2016, in Arlington, Virginia.
At these briefings, family members had the opportunity to meet with numerous government officials who specialize in certain expertise to include policy update, global operations, DNA process and identification.
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 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 laboratory which contributes to their evidence to hopefully come up with identification.
“We are the only DoD 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 in 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.”
Kristine Momper and Shari Mulvey, nieces of Army Sgt. Donald Dean Noehren, attended the event to gain information about the identification of their uncle.
Momper said their journey started in 2004 when their brother was searching their last name and information listed about Korean War veterans for missing in action came up. Noehran had no family listed. She said they informed their mom about the situation who did some research and they have been attending family updates since.
Momper and her sister Mulvey were contacted a few weeks ago that their uncle had been identified. Noehren was identified by DNA.
“I didn’t believe it,” said Momper. “The whole time I was telling Peggy they are probably never going to find his remains and then it happened right away. They really did find him. It was a pretty special feeling.”
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.
“Knowing that we are putting all of our resources and continue to push with tomorrow’s technology and our scientists to bring these family members to their loved ones and provide closure,” said Briones. “It is further reinforced when we actually have those success stories of having identification and we actually get to see these family members face to face.”
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