As a direct response to the World Trade Center disaster of September 11, 2001, Dr. Richard Gould organized Forensic Archaeology Recovery (FAR) in 2001. Initially his vision was to use archaeological and scientific skills to assist in the recovery of human remains in order to help the families and friends of mass-casualty disaster victims achieve some sense of closure.
In order to prove archaeology is a viable method to use in the location, recording, and recovery, of human remains personal effects, and other materials of importance, on March 1, 2002, Dr. Gould lead a small group of volunteers on a forensic recovery exercise 7 blocks from ground zero in New York. This exercise was at the approval of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Upon the return to Rhode Island, Dr. Gould created a group of volunteers that would go on to train with Providence Police and Fire departments along with numerous other first responders and disaster response experts, including agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A variety of realistic field exercises were developed training FAR members for both land and underwater situations. He also developed a working relationship with the Rhode Island Medical Examiners Office, and the State Crime Lab, and established, Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with the Rhode Island Salvation Army and Society for American Archaeology (SAA) in order to ensure compliance with existing legal authorities, and increase FAR’s membership nationwide. With protocols in place and associations established, FAR received its 501C3 status as a non-profit, strictly volunteer organization.
On February 20, 2003, “The Station” nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island became the largest fire in Rhode Island history killing 100 and injuring an additional 200. This was the first time FAR was officially activated as a group, this by invitation of the State Fire Marshal’s office. Soon after the beginning of the recovery, FAR was tasked by the Fire Marshall to locate and document materials and possible evidence that could be used in court in the eventuality of a criminal investigation.
Although never forgetting its original mission of assisting in the repatriation of human remains and personal effects to aid the families and friends of victims, it was now apparent FAR could also become a valuable asset in providing assistance in criminal investigations. To this end, individual FAR members have worked with other forensic organizations including RCLO Mass Graved Investigation Team in Iraq, the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DEMORT) for recovery operations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina), and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), recovering the remains of fallen service personnel.
In 2009, Dr. Gould retired, naming Dr. Ann Marie Mires as the new director. Under her leadership, the FAR has now taken on an additional role of assisting in the investigation of missing persons, focusing on lost children and the elderly.
Though FAR will always be available to assist any federal, state, or local agency in the event of a natural, man made or any other type of mass casualty event, the new role FAR has taken on has opened a wide range of possibilities for assisting victims and their families while still conforming to its original mission.