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AFMES welcomes new director

Two military personnel wearing masks, holding onto a flag Army Brig. Gen. George Appenzeller (left), Defense Health Agency assistant director for combat support, presents the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System guidon to Air Force Col. Alice Briones, incoming AFMES director, during a change of directorship ceremony at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, Oct. 21, 2020. AFMES provides the Department of Defense and other federal agencies comprehensive forensic investigative services, to include forensic pathology, DNA forensics, forensic toxicology and medical mortality surveillance. (Photo by Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Quail.)

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The Armed Forces Medical Examiner System welcomed their new director, the first female, Air Force Col. Alice Briones, during a change of directorship ceremony October 21, 2020, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

The presiding officer and guest speaker, Army Brig. Gen. George Appenzeller, Defense Health Agency assistant director for combat support, gave opening remarks for the ceremony.

“The two leaders standing before you today represent the bold resilience of an American institution that has, through the years helped the American family heal by helping our military branches identify loved ones who gave up their lives for our freedoms and way of life,” said Appenzeller. “We should all be proud of the work that is accomplished here to serve our men and women in uniform – and their families; that kind of mission requires great leaders.”

Army Col. Louis Finelli, the AFMES outgoing director, relinquished directorship to Appenzeller with the traditional passing of the guidon. Appenzeller then designated Briones as the new AFMES director.

As director of AFMES, Briones will serve as the chief medical examiner and is directly responsible for the daily operations of the only medical examiner system authorized to support Department of Defense and other federal agencies and missions.

In addition, she will oversee operations for the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, the DoD DNA Operations and the Division of Forensic Toxicology Post-Mortem and Human Performance Laboratory.

“Thank you to the many leaders in the room – many of who I have had the honor to have worked with and for,” said Briones. “Thank you for allowing me this great opportunity to lead this astounding organization into the future.”

Also in attendance was Kelly McKeague, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency director, who presented the outgoing director with the Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest award within the agency.

“Dr. Finelli has embodied a strong partnership with the DPAA,” said McKeague. “Since assuming the role of director over four years ago, there are now close to 800 families who now have answers and whose loved ones are back where they belong because of your efforts.”

“Each of you represents different levels of government or organizations that AFMES works with, for, or supports to help accomplish our mission,” said Finelli in his farewell remarks. “It’s an honor to be entrusted with the care of our warfighters, but it’s even more so, in their final hour of service. I’m honored to be the one to pass the directorship to our first female director and I take great comfort in knowing that the future of AFMES is in very capable hands.”

Briones is a familiar face at AFMES having previously served as the deputy director of AFMES, the director of the DoD DNA Registry and as the deputy medical examiner at the Rockville, Maryland, location.

Her other assignments include, chief of lab operations at Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts; and chief of lab operations and squadron section commander at Luke AFB, Arizona.

Briones’ was also previously enlisted in the U.S. Army as a combat medic in 1990 before commission in the Air Force in 1995 as a biomedical sciences corps laboratory officer.

“With changes in leadership, things get reinvigorated, new ideas and different ways of looking at mission sets are brought forth,” said Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, DHA director. “The Armed Forces Medical Examiner System and the Defense Health Agency have reinforced the idea that it’s the best who gets selected within the agencies and Col. Briones was chosen because she was the best amongst all the services to lead this mission.”

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