4th SB Conducts Casualty Notification Drill
Story and Photo by Pfc. Naveed Ali Shah
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs
Two Soldiers walk solemnly up to the front door, dressed in polished black shoes and crisp green uniforms, medals adorning their chests, shiny brass gleaming in the sun, they barely tap on the door before it swings open.
One of them speaks up, “Ma’am, we regret to inform you…” Uttering the words that no spouse ever wants to hear when a loved one is deployed to combat.
This is the scenario upon which the 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), based their Casualty Notification training November 20 at the Killeen Convention Center.
The training consisted of classes and panel discussions for both Soldiers and Family Readiness Group volunteers on how to handle casualty notification, how to conduct a memorial ceremony, and care team operations, followed by a Rehearsal of Operations Concept so that the Soldiers and civilians could implement what they learned.
“We wanted to walk away from here with a brigade plan on how handle casualty notification and take care of the family” said Maj. Alaana Cook, commander, 4th SB Rear Detachment, 13th SC(E). “We’ve been lucky because we haven’t had to do this, but it’s something we need to be prepared for.”
The 4th SB has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom for several months, so the FRG volunteers and rear detachment Soldiers took this training very seriously.
“It’s important to be prepared because we’re going to have a lot deployments and, unfortunately we’re going to have casualties,” Corinne Hermans, 4th SB Senior FRG Spouse, wife of 4th SB commander, Col. Terry Hermans. “I want the spouses to feel comfortable in their volunteering roles, so we can help the families.”
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the training was finding the time to gather all those who would be involved and pooling resources to make the training practical.
“Rear [Detachment] rarely has time for training so it was a challenge to set aside time, but finding people to help out was not hard at all, we had so many people willing to help out,” Cook said. “We got so much support from our sister units at the 3rd [Armored Cavalry Regiment], 3rd Brigade – 1st Infantry Division, the 1st Cavalry Division, 13th ESC, Army Community Service, and the Casualty Assistance Center.”
Family separation is the toughest part of any deployment for the spouses and families of deployed Soldiers, said Julia Duncan, wife of a 4th SB Transportation Officer.
However, a strong support network of relatives and friends helps the families of deployed Soldiers cope with their absence.
Overall the training was a success in that both the FRG volunteers and rear detachment Soldiers learned more about the process of casualty notification and established their own guidelines in the event of a loss.
Cook said, “This is an area where we cannot accept failure and we cannot make any mistakes.”
Becky Townsend, Brigade Troops Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Senior Spouse, Julia Duncan, Headquarters and Headquarters Company Family Readiness Group Leader, Sgt. 1st Class James Yuras, BTB Rear Detachment senior noncommissioned officer, and Capt. Kristin Doneth BTB Rear Detachment commanding officer, conduct casualty notification training November 20 at the Killeen Convention Center.
Corrine Hermans 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Senior Spouse, Sandy Frey 4th SB Senior Spouse, and MAJ Alanna Cook 4th SB Rear Detachment Commanding officer, conduct casualty notification training November 20 at the Killeen Convention Center.