The North Carolina Troopers Association Caisson Unit was the idea and vision of Trooper Ernie Ramsey; after he observed the Caisson funerals of North Carolina Troopers Calvin Taylor and Anthony Cogdill. Our goal with the Caisson Unit is to be ready on twenty-four hours notice. Only trained personnel are permitted to work with the equine members of this unit. The State Highway Patrol plans to keep ten to twelve uniformed members trained for this duty. All interested members go through an application and evaluation process and are approved by both the Highway Patrol and the Trooper’s Association. Obviously, requirements are high. The original six Caisson members had to have equine experience. Those members participated in a train the train session with the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry of the Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery. The members selected for Caisson now have an average of three times that they have rode a horse before being selected for the Caisson Unit. Most important, they must have a desire and understanding of what this unit does and its meaning to the family of slain members. All members understand that they will be asked to give of their time and talents to make this unit the best possible. All members of Caisson are assigned to work districts within the state and willingly volunteer a tremendous amount of time to complete Caisson Missions.
The Caisson Wagon
The Caisson wagon is Amish built. The Trooper’s Association purchased the wagon in September of 2006. The Caisson wagon arrived with a flat black finish, and then was taken to the State Highway Patrol body shop in Asheville, NC where it was disassembled, sanded and refinished to a museum quality finish.
The Caisson wagon is pulled by a team of four horses, preferably black in color. A team of white horses are also acceptable. At this time, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol and North Carolina Trooper’s Association agree to only use back horses for this mission.
The Caisson wagon measures seven feet wide and twenty-four feet long. When loaded with a casket, the wagon weighs approximately 1500 pounds.
The first team of horses that came to us was a beautiful foursome of Friesians. The Friesians were donated by Jay and Janet Stingel of Arden, NC. Our Friesian team stood approximately 16 to 17 hands high and weighed approximately 1400 to 1800 lbs. They ranged in age from 20-26 years old. The Friesians have a very long arching neck and are usually black in color; they have a very long and thick mane and tail and are widely considered one of the most elegant of all breeds. We feel that makes them perfect of this mission.
Our second team of horses came to us from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry at Arlington Cemetery. They are also special. On July 3, 2008 the Caisson Unit and the State Highway Patrol took possession of five beautiful Percheron/Morgan horses. These horses range in age from 8 to 16 years old. They are all black in color and stand between 15-17 hands high. Grant and Danny on this team were also on the team that carried President Ronald Regan’s casket. We were proud to own that piece of American history. 20 May 2015 Grant and Danny were retired to a farm in Johnston County, North Carolina. 27 May 2015 Caisson members traveled to Troup, Texas to take possession of Waylon and Willie as replacements for Grant and Danny.