Led by the Trump administration, American POW/MIA insiders are surprised and pleased at the unprecedented progress made with Vietnam government officials on this issue that has lain dormant in the public eye in recent years. As the poet Elizabeth Browning wrote, let us count the ways.

After remaining reticent for nearly a year on the topic of finding, identifying and returning to America the remains of 1,601 Americans missing in Southeast Asia (SEA) from the Vietnam War, President Donald J. Trump spoke out on the issue at least twice while visiting Vietnam late last year following the Asia Pacific Economic Conference in Da Nang. He also traveled to Hanoi where he said,

Our decades-long joint humanitarian efforts with the Vietnamese people and government to account for and recover personnel still missing – so important to us – from the war, honors these horrors of this horrendous war. We want our service members’ support – and we give total support to the families, and we strengthen the foundation of our comprehensive partnership. That is so important to us.”

A few weeks after that historic trip, a U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIA Affairs (USRJC) met in Russia on Nov. 8 for the 21st Plenum of the USRJC in Moscow at the Ministry of National Defense in their External Affairs facility. U.S. Co-Chairman General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), and Russian Co-Chairman General Colonel Valery Vostrotin led the talks.

It was the first time that the director of the DoD’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) Kelly K. McKeague participated in the plenum as a U.S. commissioner. He was joined by two other U.S. Commissioners, Mr. Tim Shea, of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and Dr. Tim Nenninger, National Archives & Records Administration (NARA). After those successful meetings, McKeague told SOFREP that, “Relationships within the USRJC continue to strengthen, and the four working groups are forging increased cooperation to secure more tangible outcomes.”

DPAA European-Mediterranean Regional Director Col. Chris Forbes, USA, and Lt.Col. Maxim Alekseyev, Chief of the Russian Commission Support Office, Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., were also in Russia setting up key future work group sessions, assisted by members of the DPAA Joint Commission Support Directorate. Additionally, invited to participate as observers were VFW Executive Director Bob Wallace and National League of POW/MIA Families CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors Ann Mills-Griffiths, an MIA sister. McKeague stressed how important the support of veteran groups and families of American MIAs is to the overall POW/MIA mission – a message he echoed several times in San Diego Saturday during a DPAA Family Update meeting with families of American service members still missing in action.

Also, with little or no publicity, U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Jon Kreitz, DPAA deputy director, toured SEA last year and spent time in the field with DPAA recovery teams in Laos. Kreitz didn’t just go in and look around, he actually joined the recovery teams working on the ground as he assisted local villagers and DPAA staff at an excavation site in Xieng Khouang Province, in Lao People’s Democratic Republic in late November – a fact which impressed not only the indigenous people in Laos, but also DPAA staff members. During a DPAA Family Update in San Diego Saturday (Jan. 20), one insider noted how impressive Kreitz’s actions were in Laos: “How often do you see a rear admiral getting his hands dirty, working with team DPAA staff in the field, in the jungle?”

Earlier this month National League of POW/MIA Families CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors Ann Mills-Griffiths — a sister of an MIA Vietnam War Navy pilot, and key League staff flew to SEA for a series of meetings with key government officials in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. In addition they traveled to Hanoi where they met with DPAA staff, U.S. Embassy staff, Stony Beach staff from DIA and U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David J. Kritenbrink.