FORT KNOX, Ky. – Army Casualty Assistance Center chiefs from across the globe attended the annual training conference at Fort Knox April 24-27.
Army Installation Management Command casualty manager Michael Main, who oversees funding and resources for all centers Army-wide, coordinates the training event each year. He said because U.S. Army Human Resources Command is home to the Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division, Fort Knox offers the ideal location for the event.
“All of the case managers and subject matter experts are here at CMAOD,” said Main. “Those are the people CACs coordinate with on a day-to-day basis.”
Main said there are 26 CACs within the continental United States, as well as six additional centers overseas. He explained the annual training provides a unique opportunity for such a widespread service.
“IMCOM is continually working with CMAOD to improve processes and provide better support,” said Main. “This training is designed to bring all 32 CAC chiefs together because the face-to-face interaction with the subject matter experts [at Fort Knox] is just so valuable.”
Casualty assistance covers a wide variety of services that include notification procedures, funeral honors and help with benefits, according to Main. He said CMAOD provides guidance in all aspects of supporting Family members of fallen Soldiers.
“There are so many new initiatives to improve processes,” said Main. “The training provides an opportunity for the CAC chiefs to share best practices and dialogue with one another.”
In addition to briefs from CMAOD, Main also invited Kentucky Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army retired Brig. Gen. Jim Iacocca to address the CAC chiefs and explain the way he and his counterparts across the country can provide additional assistance.
Speaking to everyone in the room and those watching live online, Iacocca said he recognizes that the involvement of a CASA adds another layer of support – but may not always be essential.
“Every family is different. Every situation is different,” said Iacocca. “You all are the experts. The bottom line is we take our lead from the [casualty assistance officer].
“We’re here to help if you or the Family needs it.”
Iacocca commended the CAC chiefs for the difficult jobs they often face. He said although the CASAs are available to provide further aid, it’s those who serve in the role every day who are credited with making the biggest difference.
“In your business, you get one shot; one time to get it right for a Family on the worst day of their lives,” said Iacocca. “Thank you for all that you do in this no-fail mission.”
Fort Knox Casualty Assistance Center chief Dave Marcum helped organize the event while also participating in the training. He spoke after Iacocca, sharing the positive experience he’s had with his CASA and encouraging other CAC chiefs to utilize theirs.
“We want the CASA there if the Family does,” said Marcum. “When they hear ‘Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army,’ it means something to them. It means their loved one is being taken care of and the Secretary of the Army has representation there.”
Marcum said the main goal of the training is to ensure every CAC chief knows the resources available to them and takes away as much knowledge as possible.
“This allows us to come together and meet our brothers and sisters and learn best practices,” said Marcum. “It’s a tough job because no matter where you work in the CAC, you feel [the effects] 365 days a year, 24/7.”
The CAC chiefs in attendance left Fort Knox April 28 to take everything they learned back to their respective offices and apply their expanded insight. Marcum said their shared experiences this week will allow them to better perform the duties they each hold in such high regard.
“It’s all about the Families of the fallen and providing a service to them that’s everlasting and represents the Army’s gratitude,” said Marcum. “It’s an honor and a privilege, and everyone here feels that way.”