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Former Joint Forces Commander to Head Columbia Panel

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2003 – Retired Adm. Harold Gehman, the first commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, will head the Space Shuttle Mishap Interagency Investigation Board to look into the cause of the Columbia shuttle tragedy.

The panel will hold its first meeting at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Feb. 4. Gehman also chaired the panel that examined the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, in 2000.

Other board members are Rear Adm. Stephen Turcotte, commander, U.S. Naval Safety Center, Norfolk, Va.; Maj. Gen. John L. Barry, director, plans and programs, Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Hess, commander, U.S. Air Force Chief of Safety, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.; James N. Hallock, chief, Aviation Safety Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, Cambridge, Mass.; Steven B. Wallace, director of accident investigation, Federal Aviation Administration, Washington,; and Brig. Gen. Duane Deal, commander, 21st Space Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

Several senior NASA leaders also will be a part of the panel.

"Once again, this country has taken it on the chin, and once again we'll get up off the floor," said DoD Comptroller Dov Zakheim at the start of a Feb. 3 press briefing. "The (astronauts) were from multiple races, multiple creeds, sharing a common vision. We all grieve for them and pray for their souls, and we pray to the Lord that this is the last time for something like this."

Numerous active and reserve component units across the United States are responding in the aftermath of the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy. They are supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is the lead federal agency.

In addition, the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center in Colorado, which tracked the shuttle as it orbited the Earth, will turn over all relevant information to the investigation board.

The remains of the seven astronauts will go to the military's mortuary affairs center at Dover Air Force Base, Del., for identification and preparation for burial.

All pieces of the shuttle, which broke apart over North Central Texas on Saturday killing seven astronauts, will be brought to Barksdale for storage and further study.

For the days and weeks ahead, U.S. Strategic Command will continue to be the DoD focal point for the NASA investigation of the mishap. U.S. Northern Command will focus on recovery operations.

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Related Sites:
Space Shuttle Columbia and Her Crew (NASA Web Site)

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