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    Training for the longest walk

    Training for the longest walk

    Photo By Sgt. Rachel Grothe | Sfc. Cody Prochaska, 88th Readiness Division multi-functional readiness team member,...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Rachel Grothe 

    88th Readiness Division

    Sgt. 1st Class Cody Prochaska’s face contorts and he fidgets as he uneasily listens to his phone ring, waiting for someone on the other end of the line to pick up during a casualty notification and assistance officer training course, held by the 88th Readiness Division, at Fort McCoy, Wisc., March 3, 2019.

    He, along with 16 other Active-Guard-Reserve (AGR) Soldiers will be on-call to perform a duty that nobody wants to be called up for.

    “That walk to the front door is the hardest, longest walk you’ll take in your life,” said David A.P. Boots, 88th Readiness Division directorate of human resources casualty notification branch lead. . “The VA automatically qualifies C-N-O duty as PTSD inducing.”

    The duty is difficult, but everyone facilitating or teaching the course agree. “We don’t leave anyone behind in any scenario, training, combat, not even after you’re gone,” said Sfc. Adam R. Bacon. “It’s comforting to know you’re part of something like that.”

    The news they casualty notification officers is life altering, so it’s important the families receive the news from Soldiers before they see it on the internet. When a Service member is killed overseas, a blackout on communication is effected, but in the age of social media, word can get out quickly. Active/Guard Soldiers stationed at U.S. Army Reserve centers in communities around the country are trained for the CAN roster to combat time.

    The Army has not always placed a high value on the delivery of this devastating news.

    The Army switched from using telegrams to telling next of kin of their loved one’s death in person during Vietnam, but there was no formal training for the Soldiers notifying next-of-kin. In 2007, after numerous articles and instances of uneven, and downright bad assistance for the families of deceased Soldiers, the Army attempted to make the terrible experience better during the longest war-time in American history.

    The casualty notification officers are given training on sensitivity, paperwork, uniforms, and other nuances.

    A casualty assistance officer begins walking families through the process of getting their loved one’s body to the funeral, and helps them with survivor benefit paperwork, just hours after the initial in-person notification.

    “At first they don’t want you there, but when you’re finishing up the process six months or a year later, they’ve become attached to you,” said Bacon.

    Soldiers practice making a phone call to begin the casualty assistance, with an unknown actor outside the classroom. The students flounder attempting to avoid jargon used in their everyday lives, along with automatic phone etiquette.

    “I thought I was prepared going into the phone call, but it can all change in an instant. I said ‘I understand,’ and it changed the whole conversation in an instant, because that nicety is offensive during a phone call like this. It was tough. It was very real,” said Prochaska.

    The practice phone calls demonstrate why training for the longest walk is so important.

    “When they answer the phone, do not say ‘good morning.” Bacon said during a sensitivity lecture. “It’s automatic, but for them it is not a good morning. It’s probably the worst morning of their lives.”

    “You can’t really make it better, but you can avoid making it worse,” said Prochaska. “I want to avoid making it worse.”



    Date Taken: 03.07.2019
    Date Posted: 05.23.2019 16:18
    Story ID: 323777
    Location: FORT MCCOY, WI, US 
    Hometown: LAKEVILLE, MN, US

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