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NEWS | April 30, 2020

Pa. National Guard members activated for mortuary-affairs mission

By Bradley Rhen

Nearly 60 Pennsylvania National Guard members have been activated to take part in a mortuary-affairs support mission as part of the PNG’s ongoing COVID-19 response efforts.

The mission, that started April 28, entails assisting local medical examiners from five Pennsylvania counties – Philadelphia, Chester, Delaware, Bucks, and Montgomery – in the transportation of remains to their central collection locations.

This is a joint mission that involves Army and Air National Guard mortuary affairs teams assigned to Pennsylvania’s Southeast counties which have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 virus. It is being coordinated by the PNG’s Pennsylvania Task Force (PTF) South, one of three geographic task forces that can be activated to coordinate missions during emergencies. The other two geographic task forces – PTF North and PTF West – are also activated for COVID-19 and are currently directing other missions within their areas during this state-wide emergency response effort.

The number of troops involved will be tailored based upon the mission requirements.

“We live in our communities and understand the importance of assisting our own families, friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens. This is a particularly difficult mission as it deals directly with the worst results of this dangerous virus, but we understand our responsibilities and will serve professionally to assist Pennsylvania on its road to recovery,” said Lt. Col. Brian Wilson, commander of the 111th Force Support Squadron, part of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 111th Attack Wing.

“These military units are well trained in many aspects related to this mission including the honor and respect that is rendered when handling fallen service members or civilians,” said Senior Master Sgt. Lauren Paul, superintendent, 111th Force Support Squadron. “This is a tough mission whenever and wherever you are called to do it. This one, however, is even more demanding because it is in our own communities. “

Chaplains and mental-health professionals have been assigned to these missions to assist the team if needed.

“We are proud of all of our guardsmen. We have asked a great deal of many of them to risk their own safety to save others’ lives and ease some of the great suffering that is out there. We are proud to team with other first responders, medical staffs, and many others to make Pennsylvania stronger, better, and closer as a community as we fight our way back to a more normal life,” Wilson said.

Photos and video from mission preparation are available for download at:

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Please contact Lt. Col. Keith Hickox (717) 861-6254, or e-mail