The Caisson Unit is an “at-need” service provided by the NC Trooper’s Association (NCTA) and the NC State Highway Patrol (NCSHP). The NCTA maintains the horses and equipment. The NCSHP provides sworn and trained personnel to participate in carrying out the responsibilities of performing the funeral missions
The NCTA Caisson Unit
The NCTA Caisson Unit made its debut at the State Highway Patrol Training Academy for the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service on May 14, 2007.
Since then, the unit has hosted NC Trooper’s Association meetings, hosted Equine meetings for our partners, presented many educational programs, has had several visits from church youth groups, Girl Scout troops, high school 4H clubs, and has continued to build a network of support across North Carolina and its bordering states – Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
In June 2008, the Caisson Unit was called upon for the first time to perform a funeral service for Trooper David Shawn Blanton. Between late June and September 2008, the Caisson unit was activated four times with less than 24 hours notice and each time was able to respond.
Since our founding, the Caisson Unit has served in over 111 funeral services.
- We have performed services with as few as three horses and as many as six.
- We have been asked to work in small mountain cemeteries and large metropolitan areas.
- We have had processions more than one mile long and as short as two tenths of a mile. We try not to travel more than one and a half miles with the casket; due to the speed being three miles per hour.
- We have had a funeral route change road surfaces seven times in a half mile.
- We have had others make major changes in our procession literally at the last minute.
- We have had a horse slip and fall on a trailer ramp.
- We have had trucks break down on the highway while en-route to a service
- We have dealt with pasture incidents and injuries to both our uniformed and equine members.
Each time, we were able to adapt and complete our mission. These incidences are the reasons we take our training and preparation so seriously.
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.