Agency data still solving mysteries

By Tim Hoyle DLA Disposition Services

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There are millions of items no longer used by the Defense Department that still have some value – that is the data about them still serves a purpose.

For personnel at the Defense Personnel Accountability Agency based at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, it is sometimes a piece of an old aircraft, vehicle or equipment no longer in use that offers clues to whose remains they may have just located. When that happens investigators can reach out to the Defense Logistics Agency experts whose logistics data systems still store valuable information on inactive items as well as those still in use.

Recently, a DPAA staff member reached out to DLA Logistics Operations employee Roger Klaren for help researching a data plate that could have come from a Phantom jet lost in the Vietnam. Klaren, who works in the Department of Defense Demilitarization Coding Management Office confirmed that the part investigators discovered was from a Martin Baker ejection seat component from the rear seat for the radio operator and only used on an F-4C/RF-4C version of the Phantom aircraft.

“We were able to confirm with drawing and tech data from the plate,” Klaren said. “I hope this helps bring two more boys home.”

DLA experts have a long history of helping teams from Pearl Harbor research artifacts to help narrow down what open cases might involve material like the items found. Two members of Joint Task Force - Full Accounting, DPAA’s predecessor, spoke at the July 1999 Logistics Information Users Workshop sponsored by part of DLA that was known then as the Defense Logistics Information Service. As he introduced Air Force Maj. Joseph Davis and Air Force Master Sgt. Keith Williams, the head Air Force, Navy and Defense Logistics Agency cataloging for DLIS, Glenn Holmwall, talked about how agency personnel had been “detectives” for the JTF since its inception in 1992.

More than 8,000 aircraft were lost in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, “so aircraft parts are found all over the area,” Davis said. “What we need are serial numbers and data plates, but when we do find those numbers you folks can tell us what they mean.”

Williams told workshop attendees about another Phantom that DLIS personnel helped identify. From one piece, DLA employees helped the JTF staff confirm with the manufacturer that it was part of a Phantom. A fuel data plate later provided a tail number for the aircraft belonging to a missing F4C. Other pieces found from the plane also included part of the same type of ejection seat identified by Klaren.

Marine Col. Robert Songer told attendees he wanted the JTF speakers to attend the workshop because “everyone in the room plays a part. No one knew 30 years ago that the cataloging data we create would be this important.”

DDCMO members have also been recognized for assistance to inspectors general, Government Accountability Office auditors, state government investigations and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service. An example of such support was DDCMO’s assistance to the GAO in preparing a report commissioned by the House Government Oversight Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs. The report noted a number of stolen military items that have appeared in the public through online marketplaces thanks to the research DDCMO members provided auditors on what the sensitive items were and what their demilitarization codes should be based on the threat to national security or public safety posed by their public sale.