Members of 742nd MI trained to better care for one another in event of tragedy
June 6, 2013
After Lt. Col. James Walker returned from Afghanistan last winter, he recognized an opportunity to prepare his unit to better care for one another in the event of a tragedy.
Walker, commander of the 742nd Military Intelligence battalion, 704th MI Brigade, established a Casualty Response team within his battalion. A CARE team is a group of Soldiers and civilian volunteers trained to assist families in the event of the death or serious injury of a Soldier.
Though this task is covered at the installation level with volunteers from every unit, Walker said he wanted his unit to take care of their own.
"We are all one big Army family," he said. "But members from a Soldier's own unit take that one step further. We already have established relationships, and I don't want strangers to be taking care of one of our families if a tragedy should happen."
The battalion has about 12 CARE team members who attended a four-hour class taught by Army Community Service. The all-volunteer team consists of not only Soldiers, but several family members.
Walker and Maj. Timothy Blanch, the executive officer for 742nd MI, planned a training exercise May 16 with the help of Blanch's wife, Marie, and their children to ensure team members were prepared and understood what was expected of them in the event of the death of a Soldier.
Four CARE team members were presented with a realistic scenario that a male Soldier was killed and his family needed support.
"After the [Casualty Assistance officer and Casualty Notification officer] and command team visit with the family, they will offer the assistance of the CARE team," Blanch said. "If the family accepts, the CARE team will arrive and care for children, cook meals, answer phone calls and help with anything the family needs."
The team members, who had no prior knowledge of the scenario, met at Blanch's home in Laurel and were briefed on the situation. They knocked on the door and introduced themselves to Blanch's family, who acted as the family members of the deceased Soldier.
Throughout the morning, the Soldiers provided emotional and practical support to the wife of the simulated casualty and interacted with the children.
Walker said the training went well and revealed some opportunities to adjust the CARE team's standard operating procedure.
"This was a great exercise that I plan to continue on a quarterly basis," Walker said. "Next time, we'll change the format a little bit by adding some additional challenges. But it will be helpful to put other CARE team members through this exercise."