Keywords: tragedy in the unit, Leadership, Crisis
|No one wants to face the fact that a unit could experience injuries or casualties during a deployment, but being prepared for such a crisis is very important. A crisis is tragic enough, but when chaos follows, the situation is worsened. It is important to develop a plan for dealing with trauma in the organization so that Family Readiness Group (FRG) members know what to do to support each other and those affected by the tragedy better. The way to approach any kind of trauma in the unit training is to promote it as preparing the FRG for the worst-case scenario. The same training can help the FRG deal with other crises – such as the death of a family member outside the unit or perhaps an injury or illness affecting a Soldier’s family in the unit. The basis for a plan includes things like having a list of volunteers who might be willing to prepare meals for the affected family or who may be able to provide child care on short notice. Perhaps you have members who might be willing to provide transportation to and from the airport for visiting relatives. It is also a good idea to know what community resources are available to you (e.g., chaplain, Army Emergency Relief, American Red Cross, etc.).
Families should be aware of the casualty notification process and have an idea of what happens to the Soldier and family following notification. There are official procedures in place for handling a casualty in the unit that involve the chain of command, the chaplain, and the Casualty Assistance Office. Although the commander may ask for the FRG leader to coordinate a meeting to inform the other spouses of the tragedy, the FRG’s support would be in the form of assistance to each other. Gestures and assistance to the grieving family as noted above may be provided, but should only be done with the grieving family’s consent and at their request.
It is also important for families to know whom to contact (and who their extended families should contact) in the event of an emergency in order for the deployed Soldier to be notified. The American Red Cross provides emergency communication services to notify military personnel of a death or serious illness of a family member or other important events such as the birth of a child. In order to facilitate the notification, you should have complete identification information for your Soldier prior to contacting the Red Cross such as his/her full name, rank/rating, branch of service, social security number, unit address, and any other information about the deployed unit (e.g., attached to another organization). Your rear detachment commander can provide assistance.