SEMBACH, Germany — Most of the work of the European and African Installation Command’s Victim Assistance Center Europe and Africa, or CAC, takes place behind the scenes. Training, reporting, tracking medical statuses, arranging travel – the team is available day and night to ensure loved ones of injured and deceased soldiers receive the support they need from the military during times difficult.
The team recently saw its efforts in a more public light with the internment of United States Air Force Second Lieutenant William J. McGowan, who was laid to rest at the Normandy American Cemetery nearly 80 years after he was was killed during operations in France during World War II.
This case is unique, said Alonza Royal, head of the ACC. “Given that it’s a WWII soldier, it’s very high profile, and we’re going to have a lot of moving parts that we’re responsible for. Mr. (Jermaine) Sanders and Mr. (Sean) Osborne, they’ve been working on it for about three months now, putting everything together – a little longer.
Sanders and Osborne not only worked with the local U.S.-based Family Casualty Assistance Officer, but also worked with the American Battle Monuments Commission and other Army units to coordinate a guard of honor and a flyover to commemorate McGowan’s sacrifice and the long road to his final. resting place in France.
It’s about taking care of the soldiers and taking care of the families,” Osborne said. “I know that if I was still on active duty, that’s what I would expect from the people around me. And it is an honor to take care of soldiers and their family members, retirees and civilians, who are often also former soldiers. That’s exactly what we do.
Wanting to help others is a common trait of CAC team members.
“This work is not cookie-cutter,” said Tamas Filippi, CAC casualty aide and former police officer. “Each case is unique and different, so they give you the opportunity to do your best every time.”
CAC’s eight-member civilian team covers this responsibility for soldiers, family members and civilians in an area of 86 countries, including countries in Europe, Africa and parts of Asia .
“As you can imagine, we have no way of managing this area on our own,” Royal said.
Outside of IMCOM-Europe garrisons, which each have a casualty assistance officer, the CAC team coordinates with army personnel in embassies and casualty and casualty assistance officers. victims of the unit to provide notification and assistance to families. For injured service members, the team works with Army hospital and host nation personnel to ensure timely updates are provided to families. If necessary, they also ensure that family members can come to the soldier’s bedside.
Extended team training
Ensuring that garrisons and units have sufficient numbers of officers trained in casualty reporting and casualty assistance is the job of CAC trainers, who travel across IMCOM-Europe to provide the training of three days to qualified soldiers. Trained NOCs notify the next of kin of the death of a family member, while CAOs provide assistance until all benefits and survivor rights are established. Families are then introduced to the next level of care, Survivor Outreach Services, which is part of Army Community Services and their Army Support Service for as long as they wish.
“We ask them to do it, but they are never alone,” said NOC and CAO Soldiers head coach Diane Hamlette. “The casualty assistance center is their main source of support… Performing this task places a heavy burden on the individual. It’s something they will never forget. »
In 2016, Hamlette said, a bereavement and bereavement component was added to the training to ensure support and notification workers also looked after themselves and were at a place in their own lives. to fulfill their duty.
“When it comes to being certified as a NOC/CAO, you have to be ready for that role to be there for that family,” Hamlette said.
During training, Hamlette encourages trainees to talk to their own families and make sure their own papers are up to date. Time permitting, she also provides training for young soldiers and their spouses to emphasize the importance of preparation and talking with loved ones.
“The more you prepare your family, I think it empowers them.” said Hamlet.
Soldiers are required to update two forms a year or whenever there is a significant life event such as a marriage, divorce or the birth of a child. These two documents are very important in the event of the death of a soldier: the SGLV 8286 form (choice and certificate of military group life insurance) and the DD 93 form (emergency data record).
Take care of each other
In addition to ensuring that families are taken care of and that notification and assistance agents are put into service, CAC team members also take care of each other.
“When I walk through the door, I try to leave it there on the desk and come back the next day,” Sanders said. “I’m not trying to take it home with me and dwell on it because you start to dwell on it, that’s when these things start to take effect.” Although he said he quits his job at work, Sanders was recently recognized for his concern for others when he helped a community member in distress.
Along with encouraging her team members to take time for themselves, team activities are also important for keeping the lines of communication open, Royal said. Barbecues, office decorating contests, walks and chaplain visits encourage team members to communicate.
“We’re doing this to try to distract ourselves from the very, very important role that we have to play,” Royal said. “I would be kidding if I said some of the cases don’t crawl under your skin.
“We try to keep the work environment as light as possible, even with the heavy load we carry,” Royal said. “I think it’s very, very important. The work environment is number one when it comes to casualty operations.
Assistance to the injured
Hold on! Army Wounded Program
Survivor Outreach Services