Assumption of Command

18 April 2005

My Second Biggest Fear

I ran across an article today, describing my second biggest fear as a commander of troops. My first biggest fear would be if I lost one of my troops. But this one is almost as bad.

Woman with husband in Iraq dies in fire:
MILL CREEK, Wash. (AP) β€” A woman whose husband is serving in Iraq died in a fire at her apartment Sunday morning in this suburban city.

The woman, whose name and age have not been released...
When a tragedy like this happens, the news comes through the Red Cross. It in turn comes down the chain of command to my desk. It seems all Red Cross messages come in the middle of the night. It is my job, along with the First Sergeant and probably in a case like this case the Chaplin, to officially notify the soldier that they have a "Red Cross Message" and that their loved one has passed. Soldiers know that a Red Cross message is never good. They know it isn't good news when I knock on their door at 0200. It sucks. But at that time they need told by someone who cares. I have seen big bad soldiers break and cry when they receive news. There is no way to sugar coat the news, but a compassionate tone helps. It is part of the job that is not fun. This is when the Chaplin earns his pay.

The one thing I do know is that everyone in the unit will be so supportive of him. They are trying to do anything they can to help him out. Although these efforts won't bring his wife back, it does help to know that your battle buddies and chain of command are there with you.

I can only imagine what this soldier going through. It will probably be 72-96 hours before he makes it home. That will be the longest 72-96 hours of his life. He will be put on the first flight out of everywhere he stops, but it still takes time. He will fly commercial from Kuwait. He might even get bumped up to first class if it is available.

I am very grateful to hear the names have not been released. The last thing this trooper needs is to be bombarded by the media in his private time of grief.

I don't know who we should be praying for but we should be doing it anyhow.