Face of Defense: Honor, Love and Care, Every Step of the Way

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The journey a carry team makes at Dover Air Force Base is short, but sacred — just steps on the flightline. Military personnel move the transfer case of a fallen service member from an aircraft to a waiting vehicle to continue the fallen’s final homecoming. 

For Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Osborne “Ossie” Barnard, reflecting on his work at the Delaware base inevitably brings him to another momentous journey — one led by his grandmother, who guided family members out of war-torn Liberia.

Job Title:

Departures Specialist

Hometown:

Alexandria, Va.

Stationed:

Dover Air Force Base, Del.

Unit:

Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations

His relatives’ survival through that harrowing experience is “everything” to Barnard, he says, propelling him forward and shaping his attitude on the things he cares about, from sports to the military to his civilian job as a deputy sheriff. “That’s what keeps me motivated and keeps me going.” 

Talk about your path to becoming an airman; at what stage in your life did you join, and why?  

I became an airman at, I believe, 22 going on 23 years old. I always wanted to serve; it’s just I went and played college football for a little bit out of high school, for a semester and I hurt my Achilles [tendon].  

So, when my life went a certain direction, I decided to join enlisted and do the reserve route because at the time I really wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. And I had the opportunity to get to the 512th Memorial Affairs Squadron. I really wanted to do the memorial affairs portion.  

Do you come from a military background?  

My parents aren’t from the military, but my two uncles — one went from enlisted to a captain and retired two years ago, and the other one retired last year, enlisted to a major. When they came from Liberia back in the ’90s, those two went into the military and they were two of my closest uncles, and they kind of guided me. Both were Army.

Tell us a little bit about your time at Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations. 

I’ve been at AFMAO since Jan. 7, 2022. My time at AFMAO has been great. My contract’s almost done with the military — my six years, and I’m thinking about reenlisting because of my time here. That’s how much I’ve loved it. The people are great; it’s the best supervisors I’ve met, the best coworkers.  

So AFMAO’s been great and I’m doing something honorable, and I feel like I’m actually doing what I came into the military for as a reservist.  

Can you talk a bit about your specific job there? 

I’m a departures specialist. I’m in the departures section, so we do a lot of the final processes, the casketing, things with the remains and I am also on the carry team. I’ve been on the carry team since the second day I came here, they got me spun up and I joined the carry team as one of the leaders on that team. It’s a big role for all of us and it’s a great team atmosphere. 

What do you find most rewarding about it?  

Definitely most rewarding is finishing up the whole mission. When a fallen comes to us — which you never want a fallen to come, but we understand it happens.  

When they come and we can do everything from … fix the flag to carrying them off the plane. …  And then from the whole process and making sure the remains go home as best as possible, and the family knows that there are people who care for them and that the military takes care of everything.

So, I think the rewarding aspect is knowing that — unfortunately, this family has lost a loved one — but their loved one was honored and treated every step of the way with the most love and care. 

Can you talk about the role your own family plays in your life?   

My family’s huge. I was born here in the United States, but my parents are both from Liberia. They came in the ’80s.  

My parents got me into soccer, basketball; they loved watching me play. They just wanted us to have all the opportunities. And big on school — sometimes like, too much. Like we couldn’t go outside if we had a “B.”  

They came here, and then the rest of my family was there for the civil war. My grandmother was there with so many kids, my uncles and aunts literally wouldn’t be here. They all were able to survive thanks to her. …  

My two uncles, they were already in the military here as I was growing up, so I saw what they were doing and their experiences from enlisted to officer and the respect that they had because they did that. Their troops were like their friends.  

My uncles went to Afghanistan multiple times. They were really impressed that I was able to come here to AFMAO.  

My uncle, the last tour he had before he got out, he had a few troops that had to come here, unfortunately, because they lost their lives. So, he knew everything about it. That’s the connection my family had. That’s why I’m so close to my two uncles especially; they knew the military experience. They knew what was going on here.

How important is your heritage to you? 

Huge. It’s everything. Because I feel like my grandmother, they all could have been killed easily at any point. … They were fighting for their lives, and they didn’t quit so if I’m going through a workout or I’m having a long day or we’re doing a lot of carries and I’m tired … I’m not getting shot at, though. They were. Legit they were. So, the fact that they’re here, it’s the reason that I gotta keep going. 

You’ve got a really demanding job at AFMAO, and then you have a really demanding job as a deputy sheriff in Fairfax County, Virginia, not just in terms of time, but also mental commitment. How do you balance your civilian and military jobs? What is a typical work week like? 

Definitely family and friends get me through it. Family, friends, God. My brother’s like my best friend, so I’m really close to him — definitely gets me through it, in terms of always having multiple people to go to. Work week is sometimes busy. I work a lot of overtime. 

The mission is heavy on the mental — and same with the job back home, but I feel like you just have to have a good support cast and don’t be scared to talk to people. 

How do you unwind? What do you like to do when you’re not working? 

Sports. I love sports; I’m sometimes too competitive, but I love sports. Hanging out with friends. Especially being here — I like to have alone time too, but I like to get out and just relax, enjoy the sun, things like that. 

Any words of wisdom for prospective airmen or reservists?  

Stick with it. Be positive. Show your light at all times because the right people will see it. Listen to your heart; you know what’s best for you. And if you want to make the military a career, go for it. If you just want to do four years, understand that you still served; a lot of people can’t say that, and you’ve made a difference. And whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability. 

Barnard was deployed to AFMAO as a departures specialist at the time of this interview; he has since returned to the 512th Memorial Affairs Squadron, where he works as a food services specialist.  

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Ranger

Ranger Leads The Way!

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