Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Jiang

BREMERTON, Washington – A USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Sailor returned from a mission to search for the remains of a Vietnam War pilot in Laos, April 8.

Information Systems Technician 1st Class Jaeson Estomo, from Oak Harbor, Washington, was selected for temporary assigned duty (TAD) to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) from Feb. 8 to April 8.

The DPAA’s mission is to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing U.S. service members. Estomo’s team was searching in Laos for the remains of a pilot who crashed in 1967 during the Vietnam War. His job was to set up and maintain communication equipment used by the team during the recovery work.

Estomo was selected from 70 service members from multiple military branches who volunteered for the position. He believes that his previous experience at a U.S. naval construction battalion command, where he worked with the same type of radios used by the DPAA team, gave him an edge in the selection process.

Estomo’s TAD began at DPAA headquarters in Hawaii with 10 days of communications equipment training before continuing onward to his final destination in Xepon, Laos.

“Laos is a beautiful country,” said Estomo. “The people were friendly and welcomed us out there.”

The team worked for over a month at the excavation site in the wilderness outside of Xepon. Around 60 Lao people from a nearby village aided the 20 person DPAA team in their search.

In addition to his primary duties of setting up the communication systems and performing communication checks were completed, Estomo participated in the excavation work by digging, sifting dirt, and searching for plane parts, bone fragments, and other evidence of the pilot’s fate.

This experience was Estomo’s first time working at a joint command with multiple branches of the military.
“Being able to interact with a lot of people from all the different branches at the base camp was a lot of fun,” said Estomo.

In the end, the DPAA team was unsuccessful in their search, but for Estomo, the chance to work together with service members from other branches and the people of another country was an unforgettable opportunity.

John C. Stennis is conducting a planned incremental availability at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, during which the ship is undergoing scheduled maintenance and upgrades.

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