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Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner

The Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner is the center of medical-legal investigations for the organization, and is responsible for determining the cause and manner of death for all active duty members who die within federal jurisdiction, as well as for identifying the decedent.

Medical-Legal Investigations 

Working closely with investigative arms of each military branch; forensic investigation of crime scenes are conducted upon request. The organization also has memorandums of understanding/agreement to support a variety of additional federal agencies. Operational deployment can be accomplished worldwide in when necessary and without notice, depending on location. Board certified forensic pathologists, forensic anthropologists, medical-legal death investigators, photographers, and histotechnicians all support this key function.

Aerospace Pathology & Air Mishap Investigations

In addition, the organization is the acknowledged expert in the area of military aircraft mishaps. A team consisting of a forensic pathologist, forensic anthropologist, medicolegal death investigator, and photographer can deploy to the mishap site for recovery, identification, re-association and return of remains to the families of the deceased.

Medical Mortality Surveillance 

Personnel conduct mortality surveillance on all active duty U.S. service members and provide information to improve warfighter survivability. They also present and publish relevant findings related to service member mortality.

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Folklore vampire possibly identified

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8/12/2019
Dr. Kristen E. Pearlstein, Collections Manager, National Museum of Health and Medicine displays remains of “JB-55” during a Science Café at the museum, Silver Spring, Maryland. “JB-55” remains were that of a suspected “vampire” in the mid-1800s. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo)

According to legend, residents of Jewett City, Connecticut, were being terrorized by recently deceased vampires

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Colony Glacier: Joint team unearths lost service members

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7/17/2019
Recovery team members traverse Colony Glacier, Alaska, June 2019. The recovery team was searching for remains from a C-124 Globemaster II that crashed into Gannett Mountain, Alaska, on Nov. 22, 1952, while flying from McChord Air Force Base, Washington, to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska resulting in the loss of 52 service members. (Courtesy photo)

This is part one of a two-part series on the Colony Glacier recovery efforts

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Histology: Where art and science merge

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6/13/2019
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Wiedmeyer, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System histotechnichian, looks at slides of tissues under a microscope before handing them off to a medical examiner June 6, 2019. The stained tissues help medical examiners see down to the cellular level for a diagnosis of cause of death. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Leidholm)

Without a histotechnician, tissue processing would take much longer to be completed

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AFMES, DPAA shares missions with service members, families

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2/6/2019
Todd Livick, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Outreach and Communications director, speaks to U.S. Army Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape instructors about the DPAA mission at the U.S. Army S.E.R.E. school, Fort Rucker, Alabama. The DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System provided information on their respective missions and held question and answer session with the Soldiers to provide a better understanding about the two agencies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Leidholm)

They’re all here for the same reason; to bring their loved one home

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Positive identification is assured

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11/21/2018
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ricky Penuelaz, 59th Medical Wing lab technician, uses a pipette to put blood on an Air Force trainee’s DNA card. The Armed Forces Medical Examiner System-Armed Forces Repository of Specimen Samples of the Identification of Remains inspected Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, on the collection of DNA cards. AFMES-AFRSSIR is responsible for managing, coordinating and maintaining the collection of DNA blood reference cards for all active duty, reserve, and National Guard service members. This is done when service members first enter the military and is collected at one of nine basic training sites, dependent on their branch of service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Leidholm)

The goal of the DNA cards is to never have an ‘unknown soldier’ or unknown military member ever again

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AFMES participates in 'Safe and Sound' week

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8/27/2018
Air Force Tech Sgt. Aisuluu Alford (left) and Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Tutt, both Armed Forces Medical Examiner System forensic toxicology laboratory technicians, grab supplies out of the Shelter-In-Place Kit during a Shelter-In-Place exercise. The exercise was part of Safe and Sound week where AFMES personnel were able to engage in different safety activities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Leidholm)

Safe and Sound Week is a nationwide campaign to raise awareness and understanding of safety and health programs within the workplace

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AFMES DoD DNA Lab receives perfect score

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Sean Patterson, quality management section DNA analyst, checks expiration dates on reagents in the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System – Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory. AFDIL recently underwent a quality assessment where they received zero findings of nonconformance for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Leidholm)

This was the first time AFDIL has received zero findings during a quality assessment

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AFMES embraces resiliency

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7/9/2018
Col. Louis Finelli, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System director, talks with AFMES personnel during a resiliency day at Dover International Speedway, Dover, Del., May 24, 2018. Finelli talked about the importance of coming together as a family to be able to destress and be more resilient. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Leidholm)

AFMES town hall focused on workplace and summer safety, security awareness and resiliency

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AFMES DNA lab helps identify the fallen of past conflicts

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5/30/2018
Gina Parada, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System DNA analyst, collects a DNA sample during a POW/MIA Accounting Agency Family Member Update in Louisville, Kentucky. DNA can be used to support anthropology of recovered skeletal remains or be used as primary means of identification. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo)

DNA can be used to support anthropology of recovered skeletal remains or be used as primary means of identification

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DPAA accounts for 183 missing service members in fiscal year 2017

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10/27/2017
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency conducts a ceremony for POW/MIA Recognition Day at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii, Sept. 15, 2017. POW/MIA Recognition Day, first established in 1979 through a proclamation from President Jimmy Carter, is an observance to honor and recognize the sacrifices of those Americans who have been prisoners of war and to remind the Nation of those who are still missing in action. Today, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency is conducting worldwide operations to provide the fullest possible accounting for those classified as still missing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Bruch)

DPAA works closely with the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, part of the Research and Development Directorate of the Military Health System

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