Two planes carrying the remains of U.S. service members killed in Saturday's Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan have landed at Dover Air Force Base this morning and president Obama canceled his schedule to travel to Dover and pay respect to the 30 U.S. service members killed of Saturday's chopper crash in Afghanistan.
Military officials say a rocket-propelled grenade took the Chinook down in Afghanistan's Wardak Province, killing all those aboard. It was the deadliest incident for American forces since the war began in 2001. Among the victims were 22 Navy SEALs, Air Force troops and an Army air crew.
"Their loss is a stark reminder of the risks that our men and women in uniform take every single day on behalf of their county," Obama said of the fallen soldiers. "Day after day, night after night, they carry out missions like this in the face of enemy fire and grave danger."
President Obama canceled a visit to Springfield, Va. to make the trip to Dover which is the home of the largest military mortuary for fallen Americans. It's his second unannounced trip to the base for a dignified transfer since becoming president. The last time he visited Dover was in October, 2009.Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen are also attending Tuesday's ceremony at Dover.
The remains are unidentified and comingled, making it difficult for the military to know which remains are in each transfer case that returns. The remains of the Afghans killed in the mission are comingled as well and will be returned to Afghanistan when and if they are identified.
Pentagon policy is to release names of those killed in action but right now there are no plans to release the names of those killed. The military's policy is to release names 24 hours after the fallen service member's second next of kin are notified.
News media outlets are typically permitted to photograph the coffins of fallen soldiers and Marines when they return to Dover but in this case cameras are prohibited as the remains have yet to be identified.
Since the remains are comingled, and not all families granted permission for news media to attend the Dover event, the Department of Defense won't allow coverage.
The media policy, which was reversed in 2009 to allow media coverage of the return of fallen troops, is built on the assent of families. "It was rendered moot, given the condition of the remains," according to Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman.
The Pentagon has appointed U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Colt, Deputy Commanding General, 101st Airborne Division, to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash.
There will likely be two investigations. One would be a standard Army investigation into the helicopter mishap since it was flying the Chinook. ISAF (NATO) will likely carry out another investigation.