An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : News
NEWS | March 19, 2014

'We must do this right': Army North prepares for casualty assistance duty

By Staff Sgt. Corey Baltos Army North Public Affairs

It is a no-fail mission. Anything less than perfect is unacceptable. The mission is notifying and assisting the family of a Soldier who has died while on active duty.

To prepare for this mission, U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) requires all officers and senior noncommissioned officers selected for this duty to not only receive the Department of Defense-mandated training for a casualty assistance or casualty notification officer, but also attend a rehearsal and back brief prior to the unit assuming the mission.

"You can't undervalue the importance of this mission," said Col. Keith Detwiler, chief of staff, Army North. "We must do this right."

The Army North Soldiers who may perform the CAO/CNO mission in April met March 7 to make sure every Soldier knew when he or she was scheduled and that they understood the importance of the mission.

"A brief like this should be the norm," said Johnny Gray, training coordinator, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Casualty Assistance Center. "Army North is setting the example on how to run a successful CAO/CNO mission."

Prior to the briefing, Command Sgt. Maj. Alvin Chaplin, senior enlisted leader for Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, Army North, stood outside the briefing room and casually, but attentively, observed the attendees uniforms prior to entering the building.

"Appearance and presentation are vital to the mission," Chaplin said. "We cannot separate a Soldierly appearance from professional presentation."

The Soldiers wore their Army Service Uniform to the brief, as that is the uniform mandated for CAO and CNO duty.

As a testament to the amount of detail needed for this mission, the Soldiers reviewed and verified the duty roster to make sure they knew what type of mission they had and when, as well as verifying the email and phone numbers.

One of the things driven home during the brief was the need for the Soldiers to always have their phones with them while they had the duty.

"There is a one-hour recall," said Maj. Joshua Carlisle, executive officer, HHBn, Army North. "You need to have your phone on you, and turned on at all times."

Detwiler echoed Carlisle when he stressed the importance of notifying the family in a timely manner.

"We don't need a family finding out about their loved one through some other channel because we failed our mission," he said.

The units at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston are responsible on a rotating basis for providing Soldiers to make the official notification to the next of kin, as well as provide assistance through the interment and survivor benefits process, to the families of any active duty Soldiers that pass in southeast Texas.