Joint Task Force - Full Accounting

The Mission

Joint Task Force - Full Accounting (JTF-FA) was established on January 23, 1992. Its mission is to resolve the cases of Americans still unaccounted-for as a result of the conflict in Southeast Asia. JTF-FA operations include investigations, archival research, oral history program, and remains recovery operations.

The task force was created in response to Presidential, Congressional, and public interest, as well as increased opportunities for case resolution. The opportunities included an increased willingness of the governments of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to share information they have regarding unaccounted-for Americans, as well as increased access to files, records, and witnesses in these countries.

JTF-FA consists of more than 170 investigators, analysts, linguists and other specialists representing all four services, as well as Department of Defense civilian employees. The task force's operations are supported by casualty resolution specialists and anthropologists from the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii (CILHI), representatives of the Defense POW/MIA Office, and augmentees from U.S. Pacific Command component commands. JTF-FA is headquartered at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii. Detachments are located in Bangkok, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Vientiane, Laos.

My Role

I was assigned to JTF-FA from April 1995 to June 1998 as an Assistant Team Leader and Analyst/Linguist. I participated in eight Joint Field Activities in Vietnam, including two with the Research and Investigation Team (RIT). The RIT concentrates on cases where, according to U.S. records, the individuals are carried in the "Last-Known Alive" status, and also Special Remains Cases where the host government should be able to provide additional information about the fate of the remains.

My experiences were solely with investigation elements (I did not participate in recovery operations other than isolated burial sites). Investigation elements interview witnesses and attempt to locate burial sites and crash sites associated with unaccounted-for Americans. Once we locate a site, we survey the site to determine the feasibility of excavation, as well as to find evidence which will permit us to correlate the wreckage/remains exclusively to a particular case. And of course, if the information isn't properly documented, it's useless. Therefore, report writing is another key part of the job.

The unique opportunity to work in Vietnam as part of such a humanitarian mission was extremely rewarding. Not only did it afford me the opportunity to gain an appreciation for another country, language, and people, it allowed me to become a part of an important part of American history. I have never had an assignment that provided such satisfaction -- the knowledge that the work I do is of such importance to family members, many of whom have been waiting for 30 years.

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