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DOD News Briefing with Lt. Gen. Jones from the Pentagon

Presenters: Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services Lt. Gen. Darrel D. Jones
December 08, 2011

            BRIGADIER GENERAL LES KODLICK (director of public affairs, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force):  Good afternoon, folks.  I'm Brigadier General Les Kodlick, the United States Air Force public affairs director, for those who don't know me.  I appreciate your attendance today. 

            This afternoon we're here to talk about Dover Port Mortuary of the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.  Our featured speaker is Lieutenant General Darrell Jones.  He's the deputy chief of staff for manpower, services and personnel. 

            Most of you are familiar faces and names, but if you would just indulge us with, you know, your name and affiliations, we'd get started.  And with that, folks, we'll get started. 

            General Jones. 

            LIEUTENANT GENERAL DARRELL JONES:  Good afternoon. 

            It's a pleasure to be with you today.  I'll open with a brief statement and then take questions. 

            The mission of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations is to provide dignity, honor and respect to our fallen heroes as well as to provide care and service and support to their families.  The professionals who perform this mission on a daily basis take this as a solemn obligation and their responsibility to America's fallen.  We're here today to address the disposition of subsequently identified portions of remains of our fallen heroes. 

            Because of the nature of the conflict today and the widespread use of improvised explosive devices, the remains of many of our fallen are fragmented.  We strive to return these fallen to their families as intact as possible.  If the armed forces medical examiner determines that the remains are incomplete, the person authorized to direct disposition of the remains, usually a family member, must sign the disposition of remains election statement. 

            The family determines how the services proceed if additional portions of remains are identified.  Upon receipt of the information, the services ensure that the remains of the fallen are handled in accordance with the family's desires.  Throughout the entire process, we treat the fallen with dignity, honor and respect while carrying out the instructions of the family. 

            Prior to 2008, in cases where the family elected not to receive notification or to take possession of subsequently identified portions of remains, the mortuary affected appropriate disposition in lines in industry standards.  These subsequently identified portions of remains were taken to a local funeral home for cremation.  They were under escort at the funeral home and returned under escort, and then the cremated remains were released to a private contractor for incineration.  The military escort was present and witnessed this event. 

            In 2008, the director of the port mortuary reviewed these processes and recommended to the Central Joint Mortuary Affairs Board that the services implement a retirement-at-sea option that was more fitting for subsequently identified portions of remains where the family chose not to be identified or to take possession. 

            Our obligation is to treat our fallen with reverence, dignity and honor and provide the best possible support to their families.  That's the solemn mission at the mortuary and the solemn mission of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who work there. 

            We regret any additional grief to the families that past practices may have caused.  We are proud of the Dover mortuary and the employees in their unfailing dedication.  It is their commitment to the mission that resulted in the changes to these processes in 2008. 

            I'll be happy to take your questions at this time.  Yes, ma'am. 

            Q: You say you regret additional grief to the family members. Are you reconsidering notifying the 270-plus families that their loved ones' remains were placed in a landfill? 

            GEN. JONES:  These families made a very tough decision not to be notified of subsequently identified portions of their remains.  To go back now and notify them would be going against their wishes.  We have opened up a hotline, we have opened up an email account, and any family that contacts us, we are more than happy to address any question they have and answer their questions in the fullest, because our obligation is to that family and try to relieve any anxiety, any concerns, any distress that we may have caused. 

            Q:  So all of the 274 families, every one of them asked not to be notified if there were additional remains found? 

            GEN. JONES:  Exactly.  Every one of them asked, if subsequently identified portions -- and we're talking portions.  In most cases we are talking small pieces of soft tissue or bone fragments.  In each case, those families said if you subsequently identify portions of our loved one, we do not want to be notified. 

            Q:  Charlie Kai (ph), CNN. 

            Getting back to what you just said.  Weren't the families under the impression that there would be a dignified disposal of the remains?  And possibly might some families not think -- that being bundled with medical waste and buried in a commercial landfill did not comply with that? 

            GEN. JONES:  At the time of the -- before 2008, we -- let me start over, excuse me; I misspoke.  Prior to 2008, we took the unidentified portions under military escort, in a dignified manner, to a local funeral home and they were cremated.  The cremated remains were then, with a military escort, turned over to a contractor for incineration, as was the industry standard.  If there was any residual matter, it was handled in accordance with the processes at the time. 

            In 2008, our own inspection, not driven by any outside force, took a look at the process and said we can do better than that; here's a better way to provide dignity and honor to these families and to our fallen heroes.  And we developed the retirement at sea process, using a sea-salt urn, for our loved ones. 

            Q:  Prior to 2008, though, isn't it -- are you hearing from some families that they do not feel that the disposal of their loved one's remains was what they wished or what they understood? 

            GEN. JONES:  We've had nine calls to the hotline since we started -- since we started articles about the mortuary at Dover.  We obviously know of one or two cases where people have concerned recently, but we have only had one call since the most recent revelation of the practices prior to 2008 to the hotline. 

            Q:  (Off mic.) 

            GEN. JONES:  They were asking of the disposition of their loved one and what year they were there.  I don't have the -- I didn't talk to the person, so I really can't tell you exactly what they were after. 

            But I do know we answered their question immediately on the spot. 

            Yes, sir. 

            Q:  How confident are you that the number is limited to 274?  Do you think that number is -- is that the right -- is that final number that -- 

            GEN. JONES:  We're very confident in that number starting in -- starting in -- with the tracking system that we have for the mortuary dating back to 2003.  We are comfortable with that number between 2003 and 2008. 

            Q:  So you don't think there's any possibility one or more cases will turn up? 

            GEN. JONES:  Between those periods of time, no.  Prior to -- prior to 2003, before we had the official tracking system, if you will, for the mortuary, we are -- we can't track those cases as well. But from 2003 to 2008, that's the number.  We're very confident with that number. 

            Yes, sir. 

            Q:  I'm sorry, I'm a little confused.  You say the process prior to 2008 was to cremate the remains, release them to a private contractor for incineration. 

            GEN. JONES:  Yes, sir.  It was a two-step process in accordance with industry standards at the time. 

            Q:  OK.  But what has been reported is that they weren't -- I mean, they've already been incinerated.  I don't know if I'm using the right terms here, but they're been cremated and that -- were taken to a landfill.  Is that -- is that -- 

            GEN. JONES:  That's not accurate. 

            Q:  What is accurate? 

            GEN. JONES:  They were cremated.  The cremated remains were then incinerated.  If there was any residual material from the incineration, then it was taken and disposed of according to industry standards. 

            Q:  I mean, what -- so cremated, and then what happens to the cremated remains? 

            GEN. JONES:  The cremated remains prior to 2008 were then incinerated.  Only for those -- those people -- 

            Q:  So you can -- (inaudible) -- I'm sorry; I'm a little -- 

            GEN. JONES:  Yes. 

            Q:  I'm not an expert in this.  You can incinerate cremated remains, and they -- and they are -- they disappear, presumably.  Is that -- 

            GEN. JONES:  You know, we're into the science now of how much that reduces the cremated remains.  But certainly, the cremated remains, the intent of the incineration is to reduce them as far as possible. 

            Q:  But there was still some residual material that you -- that was -- and that was taken and put into a landfill? 

            GEN. JONES:  And that was turned over to the contractor. 

            Q:  And put in a landfill? 

            GEN. JONES:  The contractor -- that was not our -- we did not direct the contractor to do -- to put any residual material in the contractor -- in the landfill, excuse me.  That was not part of the contract.  But they were disposing of them according -- 

            Q:  You were aware -- 

            GEN. JONES:  -- of it -- 

            Q:  (Off mic.) 

            GEN. JONES:  (Inaudible) -- standards. 

            Q:  I'm sorry.  You were aware that it was being put in a landfill? 

            GEN. JONES:  That was the common practice at the time.  Who was assigned there that knew, you know, that they were going to a landfill, I can't really speak to.  But that was the common industry practice at the time.  But in 2008, that process was improved significantly. 

            Q:  But, General, you keep talking about the common industry practice.  Everyone we've talked to -- funeral home operators, trade associations -- they all talk about, when dealing with cremated human ashes, they would never incinerate them, and certainly never then take those remains to a landfill.  Why do you keep saying -- what industry standards are you talking about, when dealing with cremated human remains from dead humans? 

            GEN. JONES:  The contract we had with the company was to dispose of -- to make final disposition of this material.  You know, the -- they were in the business of how to do -- of how they were going to dispose of that material. 

            The point here to focus on, though, was in 2008, when the Air Force realized what was happening, the Air Force stepped in and said: There is a better way to do this; we can do -- we can have a better process.  And we developed a burial at sea process, in partnership with the Navy -- it's really "the retirement at sea process," is the  proper term -- in conjunction with the Navy.  And we internally, through our continual internal processes to make improvements to better serve -- to better honor our fallen, changed the way we did our processes. 

            Q:  I understand, but can you point to any other incidents in the industry in which -- I mean, you said this was in accordance with industry standards.  Can you point to any other example in the country where somebody died, (all ?) their remains were cremated, and then somebody took them to an incinerator and then a landfill?  Because we can't find any other example of this. 

            GEN. JONES:  How you dispose of medical waste -- at the time, how you disposed of medical waste at the time, I believe that was being done in concert with industry standards.   

            Q:  But this wasn't medical waste. 

            GEN. JONES:  The military disposition, whether it was medical waste -- I mean, these are terms commonly referred to, once you've gone through the cremation process and the individuals, the families, chose not to have the small portions of unidentified -- of unidentified portions of remains returned to the family. 

            Q:  But you understand the families' concerns, and they've been quite vocal, especially on the Internet, that they -- that their -- that their loved ones remains are, as you just deemed them, "medical waste"? 

            GEN. JONES:  Absolutely, I can understand their concerns, and our concern is we don't want to do anything to increase the angst or reopen a wound of a family that said, you know, we have come to closure.  We have the remains of our loved one.  We have buried our loved one or interred them, in -- according to their family traditions, and we don't want to do anything to open that wound.   

            Can we understand their concerns?  You bet we can.  We all serve in the military.  We have friends that serve in the military.  No one understands that better than we do.   

            Q:  And can you say how many or even roughly -- ballpark -- how many have been retired at sea since 2008?  How many remains?   

            GEN. JONES:  We've had 14 -- we've had 14 instances of retirement at sea.  I can't give you the exact number of -- that's gone into right now.  I can get that number right afterwards.   

            Q:  (Off mic.)  

            GEN. JONES:  Let me get (Dan to do that ?). 

            Q:  (Off mic) -- state for the record where these incinerated remains ended up and did the Air Force know that's where they were ending up?   

            GEN. JONES:  I think when Air Force leadership -- when Air Force leadership discovered -- the mortuary leadership at Dover discovered where they were being -- where the final disposition was, they took action immediately.   

            Q:  So they didn't know anything until 2008?  That stuff was just being turned over to the contractor, and they didn't have the slightest idea where it was going? 

            GEN. JONES:  I can't say what every person in the Air Force knew. I can say when the leadership of the Air Force, the leadership of the mortuary at Dover, identified this -- the -- identified this process and said, you know, we can do better at this, they took steps to improve the process to better serve and better honor the families. 

            Q:  (Off mic) -- saying they could do better, was the disposition in landfills deemed to be disrespectful? 

            GEN. JONES:  It is certainly not the way we would have done it looking back.  That's why in 2008 when we saw that practice, we changed that practice. 

            Yes, sir. 

            Q:  Yes, the 274 instances that our colleague exposed this morning is a greater number than had been discussed before.  Did the Air Force know of this number, and it didn't come out?  Or is your education part of this reportorial process as well? 

            GEN. JONES:  Not at all.  When we were asked the question the first time, it took us a while to gather the information, to get the right number so that we would be giving an accurate number.  It wasn't that we knew the number.  We were trying to make sure we had the accurate number because certainly we want to be forthright and accurate in giving you the information.  And it took a significant amount of effort to get that number and to make sure that number was correct. 

            GEN. KODLICK:  (Off mic.) 

            Q:  Kevin Baron with the National Journal.  If the Air Force leadership found out about this in '08, knew it was a wrong thing, instituted all these studies, made these changes, why did the public not care about it also in 2008?  Why has it taken three years now and, like, this -- you know, Craig's reporting to get this out to the open? 

            GEN. JONES:  As I said, the families had -- the families had told the Air Force that they did not want to be notified if any subsequent portions of the remains were identified.  In keeping with the families' wishes, we did not go back to the family and identify them, because they have closure. 

            To open up that wound would be cruel. 

            Q:  So to protect the families, nobody -- that's --  

            GEN. JONES:  Yes, that's why we didn't go back to the families in 2008, and we haven't today, because these families have told us -- they have made the tough decision.  It is not an easy decision to -- when somebody comes to you and say -- and says, you know, what do you want us to do if we identify any subsequent portions of your loved one?  Once they struggle with that and they make that very tough decision, we want to honor that decision. 

            Q:  What I -- what I think his question is, is why was the decision not to come forward if this is -- why didn't the Air Force think this is a matter of public interest and then to say, you know, we're -- and then 2011, three years later, say, oh well, you know, we knew at the time it was -- it was -- it was wrong? 

            GEN. JONES:  We believe we were -- we were -- believe the process was being carried out in -- prior to 2008 in accordance with industry standards. 

            Yes, ma'am. 

            Q:  But you just said that you knew what the industry standards were beforehand.  So if they were being followed out according to industry standards, then you knew before 2008 what was happening with the leftover incinerated remains, right? 

            GEN. JONES:  I'm not sure I'm following your question.  In 2008, when the new leadership of the mortuary was examining their procedures internally, they said, you know, what?  We can come up with a better process than this, and they developed the much better process that they have today. 

            Q:  Right.  But earlier you said that it's industry standard, if there were any other leftover remains, that it would be mixed with medical waste or put into a landfill.  So if that was industry standard and you knew it was operating to industry standard then --  

            GEN. JONES:  Why would we change? 

            Q:  No, then you would have known before 2008, right? 

            GEN. JONES:  Yeah, I'm not sure I'm following where you're trying to go with the question.  OK. 

            Q:  I have another question then. 

            GEN. JONES:  OK. 

            Q:  What did the Air Force tell the families would happen with the leftover remains if there were unidentified remains later? 

            GEN. JONES:  They told the families they would be appropriately -- they would be -- they would -- they would have appropriate disposition. 

            Yes, ma'am. 

            Q:  Was there -- was there like a form or something they filled out?  It seems like there's always a form in the military.  And what was the language when it -- when they signed this consent, or whatever the term is, not to be notified about additional remains? 

            GEN. JONES:  There -- 

            Q:  What was the language that -- 

            GEN. JONES:  There is a form.  I don't have a copy of the form or exact language here, but we can get you a copy of the form. 

            Yes, sir. 

            Q:  General, just to -- so some families opted to receive remains, correct? 

            GEN. JONES:  Yes, sir. 

            Q:  So what -- when we're talking about these -- and in that case, they would be presented to the families and the families would be responsible for taking care of them according to their traditions or whatever. 

            GEN. JONES:  Yes.  We would -- we would -- every time we would go back to the family and return their remains to them. 

            Q:  OK.  And these 274 families said no. 

            GEN. JONES:  Said, we do not want to be notified. 

            Q:  At all. 

            GEN. JONES:  At all. 

            Q:  And that has not changed because of this, I guess, revelation. 

            GEN. JONES:  No one's come -- none of those 274 families -- I think what you're asking -- have come forward and asked us to -- they want to -- that they want to change their -- that they now want to be notified, they want to be told.  If they do, we will certainly be forthright.  We will tell them everything we know about the dispositions of their loved one. 

            Q:  But you said you (had ?) nine calls. 

            Q:  (Does ?) this go back to 2003? 

            GEN. JONES:  There were nine calls that started a week ago. Since this most recent discussion there's been one additional call. 

            Q:  So -- I'm sorry, but 10 total?  So there's 10 families who have said I was unaware that this was the setup? 

            GEN. JONES:  No. 

            Q:  OK, what do they say? 

            GEN. JONES:  We stood up -- a few weeks ago we stood up a 24-hour hotline for people who had concerns about operations of the Dover mortuary based on accounts in the press of the overarching issue. Just recently, when this most recent -- when the most recent issue came to light -- there has, since that time, been one additional phone call to the -- to the hotline.  It was answered today very quickly and we don't have any follow up that was required from that phone call. 

            I didn't take the call, so I can't tell you the exact details of it. 

            Q:  Maybe I'm being dense, but are these people who are calling people who signed the form and -- 

            GEN. JONES:  The hotline is open to anybody who calls, anybody who calls.  The calls have mainly been from family members whose loved one came through Dover and they had a question about, you know, when they came through Dover, what happened with their family members, and they were answered very quickly. 

            Q:  So they might or might not be among these 274 -- (off mic). 

            GEN. JONES:  Exactly. 

            Q:  Do you know if any of them are? 

            GEN. JONES:  The one call we've had since this most recent issue came to light, I don't know if they were one of those 274.  I know that we had one call today, they said it was a very simple question, they answered it quickly and there were no follow-up issues. 

            Q:  The previous nine you don't -- 

            GEN. JONES:  The previous nine I would assume were not.  I would assume they were responding to other stories about the mortuary. 

            Q:  What is the hotline number? 

            GEN. JONES:  I have the hotline the number for you.  The hotline number is 1-855-637-2583.  Or they can send an email to dover.pm@pentagon.af.mil . 

            Q:  Are you going to go back prior to 2003? 

            GEN. JONES:  Since we didn't have a system of record prior to 2003, it is very difficult to reconstruct those records.  Many of those records reside with the services, have been turned over to the services, so there's not a central repository of those records.  And the information in those records is not as accurate -- I don't mean the information's not accurate; it may not have information that would tell us everything we need to know to delineate the question you're asking. 

            Q:  Do you know when this process of incinerating and having it taken away as medical waste and having it end up in a landfill began? 

            GEN. JONES:  I really can't go back and tell you how far that process began.  I can tell you that our records indicate that we have documented records from 2003 forward that are very accurate, and that's what we pulled. 

            Q:  There's no institutional memory that knows whether it was done before 2003? 

            GEN. JONES:  You're asking if we go back and identify records. Institutional memory wouldn't identify by name. 

            Q:  (Off mic.)  Does anybody know -- I mean, the people at Dover, many of them worked there for a long time. 

            GEN. JONES:  They have.  And we've -- 

            Q:  Does anybody know -- 

            GEN. JONES:  And we've asked the folks at Dover.  Some say they remember that the process was going on.  They can't remember how far back.  Others say they didn't realize that was the process.  We certainly asked everyone who works at Dover. 

            Q:  Charlie Keyes again of CNN. 

            Why did the Defense Department tell Congressman Holt that the exact number of these dispositions of remains could not be determined back in November?  Because I think that's part of -- part of the issue, isn't it, that there has been these various stages of releases of information that do, as a matter of fact, reopen some wounds among the families and others. 

            GEN. JONES:  There have been many questions asked about the issue with varying capture dates, if you will, some dating back as far as the Vietnam War.  The further we get back, the less accuracy we have in the -- in the electronic record, so the more difficult that we have reconstructing the history before that. 

            Q:  But I think Congressman Holt is asking about this particular period at Dover that's been focused on in recent weeks following The Washington Post's stories, and he was told that it would be impossible to get those numbers. 

            GEN. JONES:  When we first looked at going back and trying to reconstruct the history, we thought it would be more difficult than it was.  We were able to go in, spend well over a hundred hours to get the numbers we're talking about today, to pull out this data.  And our goal is not to make this a science project of asking the right question; our goal is to provide the right information so that we are servicing our families in the best way, because that is the mission of the mortuary at Dover. 

            It is today, and it was many years ago, and it will be tomorrow. 

            Yes, sir. 

            Q:  Why didn't you get back to Congressman Holt and tell him what the -- that you'd made these new discoveries after a hundred hours of research? 

            GEN. JONES:  Sir, I think this -- I can't -- I can't address what information was passed to the congressman.  I'll have to answer if that was -- when that was passed on to him.  I know that we -- as soon as we got this information, this information is being passed out to the appropriate officials who are asking for it. 

            Yes, sir. 

            Q:  Sir, Richard Sisk from War Report Online. 

            GEN. JONES:  Richard. 

            Q:  To be clear, cremated then incinerated remains to the private contractor -- and somehow that -- from the private contractor, it's in a landfill.  The Air Force -- somebody in the Air Force knows that the final destination is a landfill, but the leadership does not know.  Is that what you're trying to convey here? 

            GEN. JONES:  I'm trying to say in 2003 (SIC) [2008] the leadership of the Air Force -- excuse me, the leadership of the Port Mortuary at Dover examined their processes and realized what was happening and said, we can do better than this.  And they established the procedures we have today with the retirement-at-sea option, which is a much better option for dealing with the fallen heroes we have in today's conflict. 

            Q:  Before the leadership realizes that something can be done better, somebody at the -- the Air Force does know -- someone in the Air Force does know that it's going to a landfill. 

            GEN. JONES:  I -- you know, I can't go back and recreate who at Dover knew that things were going to the landfill, since I wasn't assigned there back then.  And it's difficult to really pinpoint a date of, you know, when this thing started because people have moved; people have come and gone.  We have certainly asked the questions. 

            Q:  Sir, from Mr. Whitlock's reporting, it seems as though the landfill was unaware that these remains were being accepted, were being disposed of in their place.  Shouldn't that have been done? Shouldn't someone have made the landfill itself aware? 

            GEN. JONES:  I can't speak to knowledge of what the -- what the landfill company or what the private contractor knew and didn't know. 

            You know, I just don't have that knowledge.  I'm sorry. 

            Yes, ma'am. 

            Q:  (Name inaudible) -- with the Air Force Times. 

            I just thought I'd ask -- you were talking about your current process.  How are you ensuring that families know for certain how the remains -- any additional remains are being handled?  Do you give them something that's explicit?  Because it seems like in these other incidents people had no idea what happened after they signed off on the paperwork.  But now when they sign off on the paperwork, how do they know exactly how their family member's remains are handled? 

            GEN. JONES:  We explain the process to them when they -- when they're at the mortuary, through the service representatives.  The mortuary has service representatives from all of the services who deal with their fallen and the families of their fallen.  And they explain the processes and they explain the options and help the family come to the decision of which -- of which options they want to choose in various situations. 

            Yes, sir. 

            Q:  Just one more.  There was -- in the reporting that kind of made note that the timeline of when this was -- all came to light for leadership, around '08, was around when the media ban on Dover arrivals also was lifted.  In anything you of your research or looking back, did that have anything to do with making leadership able to be aware of what was going on? 

            GEN. JONES:  No, there was really -- everything I've read, everything I've talked to, there is no -- there is no connection between those two incidents whatsoever. 

            Yes, ma'am. 

            Q:  Amy McCullough, Air Force Magazine. 

            Just to make sure that I understand the process now, so they're cremated, they're still incinerated.  And then the burial at sea, does that happen every time that there's a left over remains?  Because you're talking about very, very small -- 

            GEN. JONES:  Let's not use the -- let's not use the word "left over."  The subsequently identified portions of the remains are today cremated.  They're placed in sea salt urns.  And then we coordinate with the Navy on an appropriate time for the Navy to take them out and retire them at sea. 

            Q:  Do you know when the first one -- after the 2008 policy became into affect, do you know when the first one went to sea?  And it is a -- 

            GEN. JONES:  The first one was 2011, the first time that we had a retirement-at-sea option. 

            Q:  Why the delay between 2008 and 2011? 

            GEN. JONES:  In 2008, they approached the joint mortuary board and made the proposal.  The board said, yes, we agree with that.  In that period of time, they developed the processes, they worked with the Navy, they procured the sea-salt urns for this appropriate ceremony, and then it was carried out for the first time in 2011. 

            Q:  But General, this is like a burial at sea that -- from a Navy warship? 

            GEN. JONES:  The burial at sea is a much more formal ceremony. It's a solemn ceremony conducted by the Navy, and it's referred to as a retirement at sea, as opposed to a burial at sea, which is, I think, much more akin to a funeral service. 

            Q:  But it's off of a naval warship.   

            GEN. JONES:  Yes.   

            Q:  It's not --  

            GEN. JONES:  No, it's a -- you know, the Navy warship is a specific term to the Navy, and I don't want to -- you know, I don't want to address what type ship it was with the Navy.  But it was a normal ship on a normal mission with the Navy. 

            Q:  And what happened to the remains between 2003 in that first -- I'm sorry, 2008 and the first retirement at sea in 2011?  In that three-year time frame, what happened to all those remains? 

            GEN. JONES:  It's less than that.  It's about a two-year process. They were collected.  They were held until the appropriate time, and 14 sea-salt urns were taken to sea on the same day. 

            Q:  So there were only 14?  Does each individual remain get its own sea-salt urn or -- 

            GEN. JONES:  I think that speaks to -- and I think that speaks to what we're addressing here.  We're talking about small portions of unidentified remains that are subsequently -- excuse me, small portions of subsequently identified remains that later, you know, only took up 14 sea-salt urns.  We're talking what is most commonly small pieces of soft tissue and fragments of bone. 

            Q:  So when you say -- so there's really been one -- 14 sea-salt urns have gone on one time.  So there's been one ship going out with the retirement -- for the retirement -- 

            GEN. JONES:  Yes. 

            Q:  -- since 2008? 

            GEN. JONES:  Yes. 

            Yes, sir. 

            Q:  What happens to remains that aren't identified, like, you know, portions of remains that aren't identified?   

            GEN. JONES:  They are -- we treat them the same way, with the sea-salt urn process, and they're retired at sea also.   

            Q:  And my other question was, you said before to David's question that it was unclear how far back the process was in place to dispose of the remains that way.  Do -- are we talking decades or -- (off mic)? 

            GEN. JONES:  You know, I really don't think so, but you're asking for a very definitive question -- 

            Q:  No -- (off mic). 

            GEN. JONES:  -- as we said, to -- yeah -- you know, I don't think the -- the process for dealing with remains has changed over the years.  It has made significant strides with the -- with the conduct of DNA and things like that.  So I can't tell you how far back, before 2003, this process went.  I can tell you that in 2003 we had very accurate records.  We have great faith in those records. 

            Yes, sir. 

            Q:  Luis Martinez with ABC News.  Can I just clarify?  You said there have been -- since 2008, there have only been 14 instances where there have been burials at sea or 14 urns -- 

            GEN. JONES:  Fourteen urns were retired at sea. 

            Q:  Is there -- it sounds like -- how does -- how long as the process does that take?  In other words, do you wait until a ship is available?  Do you keep the urns there until they gather -- until you gather enough for them to be -- I mean, dropped in a -- to the ocean?   

            GEN. JONES:  You work the process with the Navy to, when they have a ship going out that, you know -- so they can accomplish the mission at the same time that they're doing their normal duties.   

            Q:  But they are commingled?  This is not an individual -- each -- not -- each urn is not an individual -- the remains of an individual, but they are several individuals.  Is that correct?   

            GEN. JONES:  I can't -- I can't tell you that, to be honest with you.  So I'll have to get you -- I'll have to get you that answer.  I don't want to misspeak on that one. 

            Q:  Because -- the reason I ask is because there are instances at Arlington where you will find graves of commingled remains, where, let's say there's been a plane crash, and there are portions of the remains that can -- not been able to identify it down to the proper individual. 

            And so all -- they have, like, a group burial. 

            GEN. JONES:  Right.  And we also do that -- that is also one of the methods that happens at the mortuary at Dover. 

            Q:  So is there -- with these remains, is it only -- if a family member chooses not to waive or to give their consent to this, are those remains then commingled for -- let's say, for burial at Arlington? 

            GEN. JONES:  A group burial decision is made usually when it is difficult to differentiate the remains, when there's been a crash and the remains have been tainted by fuel or something else that makes DNA testing, you know, not practical because you can't get the result. And in those cases, if the families consent, then that's usually the practice for a group burial. 

            Q:  They consent first to a group burial, not for the destruction or -- not for the disposition? 

            GEN. JONES:  Right, the family gets -- the family gets -- you know, we are there to serve the family.  And so the family gets to make the call on how they're disposed of. 

            GEN. KODLICK:  Yes, sir. 

            Q:  If a family were to call the hotline, what information are you prepared to give them at this point?  Is it simply to describe what you've described for us?  Are you prepared to tell them where the subsequently identified remains ended up?  Are you prepared to apologize? 

            GEN. JONES:  We're prepared -- absolutely, we're prepared to apologize.  It causes us great pain to think that we have brought suffering to a family.  I mean, that's -- you know, my father wore the uniform.  I wear the uniform.  My son wears the uniform.  We know more than anyone else the pain that a conflict causes when you lose a loved one.  If we have done anything to add to that pain, you bet we're willing to apologize. 

            Q:  Listen, are you also willing to tell -- 

            GEN. JONES:  Tell them everything we know. 

            Q:  OK. 

            GEN. JONES:  And that's the purpose of the hotline -- so absolutely everything we know. 

            Q:  How is that hotline publicized -- hotline and the email publicized? 

            GEN. JONES:  We've put it out in press releases, we've put it out basically in all the standard ways that we can publicize things today. It's been on the Internet.  It's been -- it's been widely circulated. 

            Yes, sir. 

            Q:  Do you have any stats on how many calls you've received? 

            GEN. JONES:  I talked about that before you came in.  We've had nine calls to the hotline since the first information appeared about Arlington (sic) a few weeks ago.  I mean, excuse me, about Dover a few weeks ago. 

            Q:  Thank you. 

            GEN. JONES:  Thank you very much.

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