BAKERSFIELD, Calif. –
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - At the request of the Kern County California
Coroner’s office, eight mortuary affairs specialists and two mechanics
from the Army Reserve’s 387th Quartermaster (Mortuary Affairs)
Battalion, from Los Angeles, California, deployed two Mobile Integrated
Remains Collection Systems (MIRCS) to assist in processing remains Sept.
7-18, 2015 The extra help from the proficient soldiers and mobile
equipment gave the Coroner’s office a chance to make much needed
upgrades to their permanent facilities.
The mortuary affairs soldiers gained real-world practice with the
Coroner’s office investigators and autopsy technicians. This field of
work, which is clearly not for most people, demands a meticulous eye and
a strong stomach.
Sgt. Lawrence Thomas, Platoon Sgt., said, “The traits required to do
this type of work are the right combination of upbringing in the home
and what soldiers have been exposed to.”
Mortuary Affairs Specialists, with the Military Occupational Specialty
of 92M, perform a number of duties relating to deceased personnel. This
includes recovery, collection, evacuation and establishment of tentative
identification. They also inventory, safeguard and evacuate personal
effects of deceased personnel and serve as recovery specialists at the
U.S. Army’s Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii. In addition to
the ten weeks of basic training, these soldiers must complete seven
weeks of Advanced Individual Training and continue with on-the-job
The Coroner’s office made their various specialists and technicians
available for cross training. This cross-training and support mutually
benefited the Army Reserve and Kern County.
The county autopsy technicians taught the Army Reserve soldiers to
collect fluid and tissue samples. They took blood from arteries and
urine from bladders. In one case, human remains were found a home
following a week of 110-degree temperatures. The hot weather accelerated
the rate of decomposition. The soldiers processed the severely maggot
covered remains without getting sick and were able to recover the liver
for a toxicology screen.
Two soldiers joined a coroner technician following a traffic accident
involving a pedestrian. The victim exited his vehicle to help someone
else who had been in a collision. In a horrible turn of events, he was
struck by multiple vehicles hon the highway. The soldiers assisted the
coroner with processing the remains at the scene.
Due to short resources, the coroner technicians were behind on filing
cold-case files. Soldiers assisted in reviewing the files and evidence.
They helped separate unsolved from the solved cases. Helping to connect
the dots in at least two cases which could then be closed by the agency.
The Mobile Integrated Remains Collection Systems (MIRCS) ran 24-hours a
day. This highly deployable, self-contained modular frame can handle up
to sixteen remains at a time. Soldiers ensured the system maintained a
consistent temperature for the entire mission.
During this mission, soldiers worked with remains from accidents,
suicides, homicides, a drowning, and three infants. This difficult, but
vital work, exposed the mortuary affairs soldiers to cases they would
ordinarily only have a chance to read about. They are now much more
prepared for their mission in a forward deployed environment.