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Congress members tour Offutt lab used to ID missing military

Posted at 6:28 PM, Feb 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-25 19:52:04-05

BELLEVUE, Neb. (KMTV) — On Tuesday, members of Congress got a peek at the DPPA Lab, which serves as one of two facilities in the country tasked with identifying fallen servicemen and women who are unaccounted for since World War II.

It was seemingly all a bit overwhelming for Congressman Jim Baird of Indiana, a Vietnam vet and Purple Heart recipient.

"It's really reassuring to know that in those cases, where you might not have been able to get a friend or a buddy, to know someone is still there, gonna bring 'em home," says Baird.

Baird was hosted by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, who brought along a bi-partisan group of congressman to see the lab, as well as the base, including STRATCOM.

"You're taken to STRATCOM and you see this simulation, the training simulations, on what a nuclear exchange would look like. That makes you take your job seriously," says Bill Foster, Democratic congressman from Illinois.

During the tour the four congressmen could see all the different compartments of the lab, which identifies over 200 military men and women annually who were previously missing.

It gives closure to their families, often decades later.

"I have two young children, I have a spouse, I have a brother, and I know what those people mean to me. And I can understand what those people mean to everybody else," says Dr. Franklin Damann, lab director.

This is the first time Fortenberry brought a congressional delegation to Offutt and he plans to do it again.

For one, he wants to make sure STRATCOM and the lab remain properly-funded.

Fortenberry would also like to make the tour mandatory.

"You're elected just because you get more votes than the next person and then suddenly you are put in charge of our nation's military infrastructure. You go to zero to 75 real quick,” says Fortenberry, a Republican from Lincoln.

All four left the state Tuesday with a better idea of the importance of Offutt, and saying Congress will continue to fund it.

"This today we have seen is a tremendous investment,” says Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, Republican from Tennessee.