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AFDW&You: Meet Master Sgt. Stasia Takara Smith

Woman in uniform poses for photo.

(Courtesy photo)

Woman in uniform in front of flag speaks to a group.

(Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --

The Air Force District of Washington encompasses more than 30,000 Airmen in 1,758 units stationed at 500 locations in 108 countries. AFDW Airmen execute varied missions around the world alongside service members and civilians from different Air Force major commands, joint units and international organizations. AFDW highlights Airmen in these unique missions in its series, “AFDW and You.”

The Airman: Master Sgt. Stasia Takara Smith is the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations division section chief at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Smith's hometown is Newburgh, New York.

The mission: My job is to guide and mentor more than 120 Airmen deployed to Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations while fulfilling our nation’s sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor and respect to our fallen and care, service and support to their families. There are five distinct sections within the Operations Division that I am assigned to. Command, Control and Communication, serves as a 24/7 operation center that tracks the fallen from in theater to their final resting place. Additionally, I oversee the Departures, Dress and Restoration, and Uniform sections that assist with preparing our fallen for return to their loved ones. The final area is the Fisher House for Families of the Fallen, where families stay while at Dover for a Dignified Transfer of their loved one. Each area plays a vital role in our mission. Additionally, I’m the lead for training the volunteers from the 436th Airlift Wing who support us with the reverse dignified transfer mission.

The highlights: I am one of 15 enlisted personnel permanently assigned to AFMAO to assist with caring for our nation’s fallen and their families. AFMAO has global responsibility for all Air Force mortuary matters for current and past conflicts, operates the nation's sole port mortuary and provides global contingency mortuary response teams in support of Air Force and combatant command requirements. This mission is responsible for the return of all personnel from overseas contingency operations and other overseas deaths with mortuary entitlements. We provide around the clock availability to Headquarters Air Force, Air Force Major Commands, and installation mortuary officers and technicians to ensure immediate and continued support is provided to fallen Airmen and their families. AFMAO has total force support consisting of active-duty Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines as well as Guardsmen, Reservists and civilians.

The challenges: Taking a break is needed, and getting a day or two for mental wellness is paramount. I started out overseeing the Fisher House that provides care, service and support to families of fallen Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen. That was a big task that I realized was taking a toll on me mentally. I am not afraid to go to mental health and to talk with wingmen I trust as needed, because what we do isn’t always easy. In my current position the learning curve has been difficult, but what I always tell myself is that I must always keep in mind that nothing is about me. I must always think of the fallen and their family in order to do things correctly.