Dover Team builds ultimate vehicle for solemn purpose

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Airmen from the 436th Equipment Maintenance Squadron’s fabrication flight here finished remodeling a mortuary transfer vehicle Jan. 16, raising its capacity from two transfer cases to six.

When servicemembers die on foreign soil their remains are transported to the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs here where workers prepare them for their final resting place.

Mortuary officials requested bids from local businesses to remodel the vehicle. When the bids came in, Tech. Sgt. Thomas DiCuirci, of the 436th EMS metals technology shop, said his section could complete it for much less than the local bids.

When the project began, Sergeant DiCuirci knew what the end product needed to be and called on the specialists in his shop and airmen from the 436th and 512th airlift wings here, plus workers from the 439th Maintenance Squadron at Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass., to come up with an initial plan. The plan was continually modified until the project was completed.

“When a problem would arise, we would talk about it and work on how to fix it,” Sergeant DiCuirci said.

“It was great,” said Chief Master Sgt. Ralph Doty, 436th EMS fabrication shop superintendent. “One person would have an idea and another would add to it. It was like a snowball effect.”

With everyone contributing to the design of the truck, it has modifications that make it unique.

“We would find pieces of metal that would normally be considered scraps and they would actually be useful for other things on the truck,” Sergeant DiCuirci said. “Some of the items on the truck that are unique are the stops on the rollers, the locks at the end of the rollers, rails to help guide the transfer case onto the rollers and even the bars to hold the doors when the wind blows.”

Many times, airmen from fabrication flights do not get to see how their work affects the war mission; however, news reports of servicemembers dying meant their work was important. With this motivating them, they completed the project in only six weeks.

“Nobody ever complained about working on the truck,” Chief Doty said. “They looked at this as if they were the ones who were going to (drive and use) the truck and wanted to make it more user friendly.”

“These guys know what the guys (in Iraq) are doing,” Sergeant DiCuirci said. “For those giving the ultimate sacrifice, we are giving them a respectful return to their families.”

While many people want to show off their creations, the airmen who built the truck know its purpose and wish there were a way to keep it locked away and unused.

“I’m proud of what we accomplished with (remodeling) the truck, but I’m also sorry that we (need it) in the first place,” said Tech. Sgt. Terry Willis of the 512th EMS.