AFA official returning to Vietnam on MIA mission

Discussion in 'Vietnam War' started by David Layne, Feb 16, 2009.

  1. David Layne

    David Layne Active Member

    From Liverpool Annie's neck of the woods.

    Air Force Academy Master Sgt. Greg Meinert will return to Vietnam for the third time this week on a mission to bring some of his fellow airmen home.

    An expert in flight crew gear, Meinert will be working with a team of Americans at suspected crash sites in a bid to find some of the 568 Air Force airmen who remain missing 34 years after the war in Vietnam ended.

    "It's one of the most rewarding things I have done in the military," Meinert said before leaving Colorado Springs last week. "I feel when we're out there we're on hallowed ground."

    The Vietnam War was the bloodiest in modern history for the Air Force, with more than 2,500 aircraft lost and nearly 2,600 airmen killed during a decade of fighting.

    Although Air Force losses were small compared with the Army and Marine Corps, a disproportionate number of its airmen were left missing in action after jets crashed in enemy territory. Since Vietnam, the Air Force has worked to recover the remains of those flight crews.

    Meinert's expertise on equipment used by flight crews makes him useful to teams from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which is charged with finding missing military personnel from all wars. His trained eye can spot bits of parachute harness, fragments of flares or tattered oxygen masks, identifying a crash site.

    It's hot shovel work in a triple canopy jungle.

    "We excavate the ground," he said, saying dirt is sifted for sign of remains. "The screen is really small so we don't lose anything."

    In his past trips, Meinert has gained a deep respect for the people who fought in Vietnam.

    "I don't know how they fought a war over there in that heat," he said.

    But the miserable conditions don't slow the search.

    "These kids died out there, if I have to sweat a bit, that's nothing."

    Most of the hunts are exercises in frustration.

    But sometimes the teams hit paydirt.

    "The last time when we found a tooth everything just stopped," Meinert said. "We were so excited we could bring somebody home.
    You forget about everything else."

    Meinert's exposure to the relics of war also help him when he's working with cadets. A member of the academy's 306th Operations Support Squadron, he helps cadets learn about flight.

    And he now talks about heroes in the jungle and how cadets can survive when the worst happens.

    "I refer back to these missions," he said. "It keeps them on their toes."

    He'll have more lessons for cadets soon, and he hopes he'll bring some brother airmen home.

    Meinert's team will start its work in Hanoi and will be in Vietnam for two months.
  2. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

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