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DHA leaders tour DPAA facility, highlighting enduring partnership

Military Personnel wearing a face mask signing a book The Defense Health Agency Director, Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, signs a book during a lab tour at the Senator Daniel K. Inouye DPAA building, Honolulu, Hawaii, Feb. 25, 2021. DPAA has the responsibility and authority to provide the fullest possible accounting for service members and civilians unaccounted for or missing from designated past conflicts. DHA, through the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System-Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, supports the DPAA mission with medical examiner assets and all DNA testing for human identification (Photo by: Army Sgt. Mitchell Ryan).

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The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) hosted the Defense Health Agency (DHA) Director, Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, and the Senior Enlisted Leader of DHA, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, at the Senator Daniel K. Inouye DPAA Center of Excellence at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, in late Feb. 2021.

DPAA has the responsibility and authority to provide the fullest possible accounting of Department of Defense personnel that are missing from designated past conflicts.

"Ideally, every health care professional should treat the living with the same level of care, dignity and respect as DPAA does for our fallen," said Place. "I'm in awe of what you do; thank you for keeping the promise."

DHA, through the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System-Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFMES-AFDIL), supports the DPAA mission with a medical examiner assigned to DPAA and approximately 4,000 DNA tests conducted annually by AFDIL in support of identifications.

Military personnel standing outside wearing face mask talking
The Defense Health Agency Director, Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, speaks with a service member at the Senator Daniel K. Inouye DPAA building, Honolulu, Hawaii, Feb. 25, 2021. (Photo by: Army Sgt. Mitchell Ryan).

DPAA's Joint Services medical personnel, including Army, Navy and Air Force medics, are assigned to support the agency’s numerous missions that take place around the globe. Additionally, to support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, DPAA medical personnel currently assist with COVID-19 testing and vaccination at local military treatment facilities.

"Despite COVID-19 restrictions, we as an agency accounted for 120 formerly missing DoD personnel in fiscal year 2020. I am extremely proud of our team's selfless efforts," said Navy Rear Adm. Darius Banaji, DPAA Deputy Director for Operations. "We are at an inflection point operationally. Our Surgeon was instrumental in modifying our protocols, working closely with our host nation counterparts, and preparing our personnel to safely adapt to COVID-19 as we resume field missions."

Through an enduring partnership of more than three decades between DPAA and AFMES, DHA also provides a medical examiner assigned as the DPAA Science Director, who also conducts current day, non-combat death casework in support of U.S. Indo Pacific Command at the DPAA laboratory in Hawaii.

Widely-recognized as a humanitarian effort, DPAA has strong partnerships with 46 host nations whose cooperation is essential in efforts to recover the more than 81,000 unaccounted-for Department of Defense personnel, approximately 39,000 of which have been determined potentially recoverable.

The relationship between DHA and DPAA is mutually beneficial to both organizations and is a key part of the ongoing mission to find, identify and return missing Americans to their loved ones.

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