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News from CNREURAFCENT

CACO Classes Onboard NSA Naples Provide a Lifeline to Family Members

14 February 2022

From Story by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Indra Beaufort

NAPLES, Italy --- One of the biggest losses a person can experience is the death of a loved one. In an effort to ensure that military families have the support they need when a service member they are related to is declared deceased, whereabouts missing or unknown, the Department of Defense’s casualty assistance program assigns casualty assistance representatives to assist the next-of-kin. Each military service branch has different titles for their casualty assistance representatives, but their jobs are the same. In the Navy, it’s the Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO). A CACO is the official representative of the Secretary of the Navy who provides information, resources, and assistance to families in the event of a casualty.
NAPLES, Italy --- One of the biggest losses a person can experience is the death of a loved one.

In an effort to ensure that military families have the support they need when a service member they are related to is declared deceased, whereabouts missing or unknown, the Department of Defense’s casualty assistance program assigns casualty assistance representatives to assist the next-of-kin.

Each military service branch has different titles for their casualty assistance representatives, but their jobs are the same. In the Navy, it’s the Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO).

A CACO is the official representative of the Secretary of the Navy who provides information, resources, and assistance to families in the event of a casualty.

When tasked with a CACO duty assignment, the Sailor’s full time responsibility and mission is to assist families during a difficult time and ensure they receive the benefits and entitlements they are due.

“The hardest part is knocking on that door, not knowing who is behind that door,” said CACO Regional Trainer from Commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Central (EURAFCENT) Peter Waldon.

CACO duties are varied, and their roles can include being a messenger, a resource coordinator, and paperwork administrator.

The CACO also has several responsibilities, but their initial duty is notification, followed by affirming continued support on behalf of the Navy.

The CACO is required to first locate and notify the Primary Next-of-Kin (PNOK).

The Casualty Assistance Calls Program (CACP) requires that a uniformed Navy representative be designated to assist the Primary Next-of-Kin (PNOK) and the Secondary Next-of-Kin (SNOK) of Sailors who have suffered a fatality. Separate assistance officers can also be assigned to other family members who are considered the secondary next-of-kin.

Following the initial notification, a chaplain, who normally travels with the CACO, remains available to further assist the families.

Within 24-hours of next-of-kin notification, the CACO will explain everything the military provides and all of the options available to the next-of-kin. These options and services cover the following areas: Navy or personal funeral preparations and expense allowances; transport of remains; military honors; memorial flag; personal effects of the deceased service member; death gratuity beneficiary(ies); medical and dental care eligibility; housing; and other assistance.

“Learning about the benefits was very useful,” said recent CACO graduate Chief Warrant Officer 3 Pablo Baez, assigned to Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Naples, Italy.

“Before attending this class, I always assumed that a CACO just did paperwork but I never knew about notification. That, to me, was the biggest eye opener.”

After the CACO has provided all the support they can, the families are transitioned to the Gold Star Program. The Gold Star Program is the Navy’s official program for providing long-term support to surviving families of Sailors who pass away while in service to our nation.

For Baez, learning in the classroom proved to be invaluable.

“I learned so much from attending the CACO class,” said Baez. “After receiving the training, I can say that it was by far the most informative class I have ever attended in 21 years of service.”

Waldon said that the keys to being a successful CACO are effective communication, having a checklist, and to continue learning the CACO manual and Navy resources for the next-of-kin. Adding that the job isn’t easy, but it is worth it.

“As you look back on your career, you can hold your head up high and say with pride, ‘I was a Casualty Assistance Calls Officer and served my shipmates when they needed me,’” said Waldon.

“On behalf of all of your shipmates, you have my respect, admiration and full support as you assume this critical leadership role.”

Every quarter, EURAFCENT’s CACP heads CACO trainings at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Naples for Sailors who are dedicated to assisting families during their time of need.

NSA Naples is an operational ashore base that enables U.S., allied, and partner nation forces to be where they are needed, when they are needed to ensure security and stability in the European, African, and Central Command areas of responsibility.

For more news about NSA Naples and the Sailors who serve onboard the installation, please follow us on Instagram @NSANaples and Facebook at facebook.com/NSANaples/.
 
 
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