Today, I had the opportunity to visit the Forensic Science Academy at JPAC’s Central Identification Laboratory, which is the largest skeletal identification laboratory in the world. Though I’ve attended JPAC events before, such as the arrival ceremony for American remains, this was my first extensive time in one of the labs, giving the attendees a crash course in forensic anthropology.
As I’ve blogged before, the mission of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command is “to achieve the fullest possible accounting of all Americans missing as a result of our nations past conflicts.” The command was created in 2003, and consist of more than 400 joint military (all branches) and civilian personnel. The Forensic Science Academy was opened in the CIL in 2008, and is a very competitive and advanced 5-course program where students of forensic anthropology receive a variety of training in the lab, as well as spending five weeks on a military search and recovery mission in Southeast Asia.
We started off with a presentation given by Dr. Robert Mann, the director of the Forensic Science Academy, which covered the basics of JPAC’s mission techniques and processes. He told us an interesting story of how they identified a bunker in Vietnam based on a survivor’s memory of throwing down a sardine can and spoon near the bunker’s door just as a battle began – years later, after excavating the bunker they found the sardine can and spoon right where the survivor said it would be.