Marines often talk about coming home to their loved ones, seeing the beautiful faces of the individuals who’ve touched their lives and built them to who they are. At first, it’s coming home from basic training, anticipating proud faces of family and friends, enjoying the moments of being home whatever it may be. Marines don’t anticipate coming home with the dignified transfer teams of Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.
Unlike the body bearers, who take on the solemn duty of laying fallen Marines to their final resting place, the dignified Dover transfer teams are assigned the honorable task of bringing those Marines home – transporting them from the aircraft to the vehicles, designed to support the weight of multiple transfer cases, on the flight line.
“It’s us taking care of our own… honoring our fallen, “said Gunnery Sgt. Cedric Smith the Barracks’ drill master. Aside from our other duties at Arlington, it’s also another honorable role.
There are five dignified transfer teams consisting of nine Marines each. Every week a non-commissioned officer from one of the five teams will take charge in receiving an activation notice. Once activated, the Marines will conduct a rehearsal 48-hours prior to the event with the drill master.
“I will do a [rehearsal] with the team, to verify that that team is ready to go,“ said Smith. “It is my responsibility.”
During that time frame, the Marines also prepare their MARPAT camouflage uniforms making sure every crease is pressed and stray threads are finely trimmed just as they would for the dress blues uniform.
Often times, the teams operate under short notice.
Once preparations are complete, the assigned team travels to Dover Air Force Base, Del. where the solemn movement will commence. Upon arrival, final preparations are taken in order to ensure faultless execution takes place.
Maintaining military bearing, the Marines will remove the transfer cases and carry them to a vehicle specially designed to transport the case
“We represent them in the best way that we’re trained to do,” said Cpl. Cristobal Mutch, a Marine on the dignified Dover transfer team. “We show the family the respect they deserve for their family member who served their country proudly.”
The selection to be part of the Dover diginified transfer teams begins with Marines who volunteer or are recommended for the team. A short brief followed by a video demonstration of the movement is conducted in the enlisted club at the Barracks. Once complete, a series ceremonial drill movements are performed in the lower parking area. The drill master observes the try outs, selecting the most qualified Marines.
Currently, new requirements are considered in order to enhance the selection process and to ensure Marines stay prepared. These requirements will be similar to the requirements of the body bearers and modified to suit the necessary standards.
“People trying out for [the transfer team] are usually guys who are in the gym six days a week,” said Lance Cpl. Raymond Vasquez.
Marines on the dignified transfer teams commit free time to conduct the ceremonies and train with available time to spend.
“To have the honor to bring back and transfer one of our brothers or sisters home, really means a lot,” said Lance Cpl. Tyler Camp, who is also on the dignified Dover transfer team.