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Those searching for a mortuary career in the military will find limited opportunities. Although various jobs may involve occasional aspects of mortuary science, only the Army offers a specialty in mortuary affairs. The position of mortuary affairs specialist is available to qualified enlisted personnel. The training provided by the Army helps prepare those with this specialty for civilian careers in forensic medicine or funeral services.
Mortuary affairs specialists recover and evacuate deceased personnel and their personal effects. This may involve searching for unburied bodies or locating temporary graves and disinterring the remains. Mortuary affairs specialists establish tentative identification, prepare the deceased for shipment, inventory and safeguard personal effects and may provide transportation to an evacuation point. They also advise civilian funeral directors on the protocol for a burial with military honors. Mortuary affairs specialists may review contracts between the military and civilian mortuary services providers.
The Department of Defense requires all enlisted personnel, regardless of branch, to take a series of pre-enlistment tests to determine qualifications for specific jobs. These tests, known as the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery, measure knowledge and ability in nine areas, such as mechanical comprehension and general science. Scores from each area are converted into 10 composite scores, or line scores. One line score determines whether the applicant is eligible to enlist for any job. The other nine scores determine eligibility for specific jobs. To qualify, enlistees must meet the minimum line score designated for the job. Mortuary affairs specialists must achieve at least 88 general maintenance line score. General maintenance line scores are composed of scores in general science, auto and shop information, math knowledge and electronics.
Training for newly enlisted soldiers begins with basic combat training. This 10-week program teaches military protocol and etiquette, self-defense, weapon proficiency and the other basic skills needed by all soldiers. After basic, recruits attend advanced individual training, where they learn the skills specific to the jobs they will be performing. The length of AIT varies by job. For mortuary affairs specialists, AIT lasts approximately seven weeks.
Each year, the Department of Defense establishes a pay table for all members of the Armed Forces. Basic pay is the same for all service members of the same rank with the same years in service. Most mortuary affairs specialists start at grade E-1 on the pay table. Basic pay for this grade, as of 2013, is approximately $1,402 per month for the first four months and $1,516 thereafter. Upon reaching pay grade E-2, basic pay increases to approximately $1,700 per month. The Army provides housing and subsistence for soldiers who live on-base, and it pays allowances for those who live off-base. These allowances are based on rank, location and number of dependents. At pay grades E-1 and E-2, housing allowances range between $487 and $649 per month, and subsistence allowances range from $352 to $1,100 monthly.
Jeffrey Joyner has had numerous articles published on the Internet covering a wide range of topics. He studied electrical engineering after a tour of duty in the military, then became a freelance computer programmer for several years before settling on a career as a writer.