The blame for an Army spouse learning of her husband’s combat death via text last week rests squarely on the shoulders of other spouses within the unit, not on a failure of the Army notification process, a Fort Stewart official told SpouseBUZZ today.
“We stress to families and to spouses that there is an official process, and to be careful with information and operation security and other things like that – we stress that,” said Kevin Larson, a public affairs officer at Fort Stewart. “Truth can grow legs and change into rumor, and information is shared improperly before the Army can do the right thing.”
Megan Born, 22, learned Thursday first from a text message and then from a Facebook post that her husband, Sgt. Joshua Born had been killed in action earlier that day. Although her husband was stationed at Fort Stewart, Ga., Megan had moved home to Olive Branch, Ill. for the deployment.
A casualty notification team was on their way to deliver the news in person per Army protocol when the messages reached her through social media. After seeing the rumors Megan and her mom frantically phoned Fort Stewart officials looking for more information. Rather than deflect her questions, the Major in charge of her husband’s rear detachment confirmed the information to her over the phone.
Larson said that the unit was under a communications blackout downrange, meaning that no calls or communication was to go out until Megan and Sgt. Born’s other next of kin, such as his parents, had been notified of his death. He declined to speculate as to just how the information was leaked. He said an investigation is being conducted downrange and within the unit at Fort Stewart over the inadvertent KIA notification text and Facebook posts.
So here’s the problem with this whole thing: the Army’s casualty notification process relies on a combination of trusting spouses who do have privileged information (whether rightly or wrongly – and sometimes they get it through no fault or action of their own … I know because I’ve been there) to keep their mouths shut, and those that don’t have information to not speculate when something is clearly amiss.
People are smart. … too smart to not wonder why their Soldier didn’t call at his “normal” time, and too smart to not put two-and-two together when two other friends’ Soldiers did the same thing. The situation screams “communications blackout” – then the rumor mill goes into action and people end up getting hurt. As we’ve seen in the comments over here, this isn’t the first time this has happened – just the first time it’s been so widely publicized.
So what’s the solution? Can we trust emotionally exhausted spouses to keep information to themselves? Can we hope that jumping up and down about OPSEC will get the job done? Jacey suggested Saturday that the DoD should come up with a faster way to deliver the news – but is there really a faster way that includes the proper dignity and respect that the “dark sedan” and “the knock” bring with them?