Sunday, July 01, 2007

Panel reviews casualty notification processes

By Karen Jowers - Staff writerPosted : Friday Jun 29, 2007 14:31:22 EDT

The Marine Corps may not be complying with a law that requires families to be notified when an investigation is being conducted in connection with the death or injury of their service member, such as in cases of friendly fire, a Marine Corps official acknowledged during a congressional hearing today.

The Marine Corps is aware of the law, said retired Marine Brig. Gen. Michael Downs, director of the personnel and family readiness division, which includes the casualty division, under Headquarters Marine Corps. He said the family is notified after the investigation is finished if a determination is made that the incident did involve friendly fire.

“Clearly, we need to look at the issue of ‘under investigation,’” Downs said, to ensure that combatant commanders put amendments into personnel casualty reports earlier, rather than waiting until the final investigation report is in.

“The existence of this regulation is well known. It’s an issue of 100 percent adherence,” Downs said.

Army, Navy and Air Force officials told the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee that families are notified when an investigation begins.

“As soon as we get information, the case is under investigation or unknown, we will notify the family,” said Brig. Gen. Reuben Jones, the Army’s adjutant general.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Anthony Przybyslawski, commander of the Air Force Personnel Center, said families are assigned an officer from the Office of Special Investigations within 72 hours of an investigation being opened in a death. Since 2004, OSI investigates every hostile incident death, he said.

The Army also investigates every hostile incident death.

The Navy also notifies families that investigations are being conducted, said Patrick McLaughlin, acting assistant deputy chief of naval operations and chief operating officer for manpower, personnel, training and education enterprise.

Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., the subcommittee chairman, described the hearing as “an unsatisfactory experience.”

“I thought this would be crisper, more clear and uniform. But I’ve got uneasiness about this process,” Snyder said. “I thought it would be laid out that all families are treated in the same way. Maybe they’re treated fairly, but they’re not getting the same information because it varies from service to service.”

--Source: The Army Times

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