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Obama surprise visit to Dover AFB to witness arrival of 18 soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Pool reports

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WASHINGTON--President Obama, pondering sending more troops to Afghanistan, helicoptered to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware near midnight on Wednesday to witness the return of the bodies of 18 soldiers. Obama returned to the White House a 4:45 a.m. Thursday morning.

Click for the pool reports.

Pool report from Alex Leary, St. Petersburg Times...

Sent: Wed Oct 28 23:45:24 2009
Subject: Pool report: POTUS travels to Dover AFB

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama made an OTR, near-midnight trip Wednesday to Dover Air Force Base, where the bodies of 18 U.S. personnel who died Monday in Afghanistan were flown home.

POTUS, wearing a dark suit and long dark overcoat, boarded Marine One on the South Lawn and was in the air at 11:44 p.m. Wednesday. He was joined by Denis McDonough, Robert Gibbs and Marvin Nicholson.

An Air Force C-17 was scheduled to arrive at Dover AFB in Delaware at 12:19 a.m. EST.

The fallen consist of 7 U.S. Army soldiers and 3 Drug Enforcement Agency agents killed when their MH-47 Chinook crashed at Darreh-ye-bum, and 8 U.S. soldiers killed when their STRYKER personnel vehicle was struck by an IED blast in the Arghandab River Valley. Both incidents occurred on October 26, the military said. The deaths contributed to the deadliest month for the U.S. in Afghanistan.

Remains were to carried by a team of military personnel from the fallen member's respective service to the Air Force Mortuary Operations Center facility.

The official party was to include POTUS, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart, U.S. Army Assistant Judge Advocate Maj Gen Daniel Wright, U.S. Army Special Forces Commander Brig. Gen. Michael Repass, and Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center Col. Robert Edmondson, who will serve as the Dignified Transfer Host Officer.

POTUS' final scheduled event was a 6:05 p.m. reception commemorating the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. When it was over, the in-town pool was asked to stick around. Only late in the night did the reason become clear.

Alex Leary St. Petersburg Times
Pool report from Michael Fletcher, Washington Post

An Air Force briefer told us that the official party, including President
Obama (full list in the pool report sent upon potus's lift off from the
South Lawn), will board the back of the C-17, where an Air Force Chaplain,
Maj. Richard S. Bach, will offer a prayer before the dignified transfer
(not a ceremony) takes place. The party then will stand in a line as the
flag draped transfer cases (not coffins or caskets) are each carried by a
six-person Army carry team to the mortuary transfer vehicle, which is
parked about 70 feet away. Members of the carry team wear black berets and
camouflage fatigues. The vehicle then takes the remains to the Port
Mortuary. There will be four movements. The pool will be allowed to witness
only one transfer, per the wishes of the families. The dignified transfer
that we witness will be that of Sgt. Dale R. Griffin, of Terre Haute, Ind.
The briefer could not say in which incident he perished. That information
will be available in a couple days.
Michael Fletcher

Pool report from Michael Fletcher, Washington Post

Sent: Thu Oct 29 04:06:31 2009
Subject: Pool report #3 dover

At 3:40 am, potus marched out of a base building with other members of the
official party. Ahead of them was the six-person carry team, wearing white
gloves. Potus's group walked maybe 250 yards across the tarmac to the C-17,
and they followed the team up the back ramp onto the plane. A minute
later, potus's group marched off and stood at attention in a single file
near the ramp, facing the carry team's path. Nearly ten minutes later a
small bus with family members of sgt.dale griffin pulled up. As the team
carried the flag draped case off the plane, potus and the party saluted,
holding the position until the case was placed on the white mortuary van,
which was parked nearby. They saluted again as the van slowly drove away.
Potus and the group then strode back to the building. The transfer lasted
about 15 minutes. A few minutes later the helos were moving and we were
aloft by 4:05 am.

1 Comment

I'm sure, even as president, this must have been a very sobering moment to see all those coffins coming off that plane. I remember when the soldiers came home during the Viet Nam Conflict. It was horrible. I just wonder what the president's decision will be, more troops or no more troops. I guess I'm naive but there has got to be another way. I give President Obama credit for going to Dover Air Force base as I guess he is trying to let us know that he does understand to some extent.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on October 29, 2009 6:58 AM.

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