Casualty Terminology During Deployments

Casualty Terminology During Deployments

A casualty is a member of the military unable to fulfill their duties due to death or incapacitation by injury or illness. For families of our military, the term "casualty" conjures up images of destruction and death. It's a tough term to grapple with when you've got a Marine deployed or soon to be deploying.

However, knowledge is power, and we firmly believe that educated families are better able to handle the rollercoaster of deployment emotions. So, let's dig into some terminology and procedures. All Marines are required to update their Record of Emergency Data (RED) information on MOL. RED includes the next of kin names, addresses and contact information. The following terminologies will be useful in understanding the notification process:

  • PNOK: Primary Next of Kin
  • SNOK: Secondary Next of Kin
  • RED: Record of Emergency Data

Casualty does not mean death. Casualty means anything that keeps the Marine from performing his/her duties. There are varying degrees of casualties, as defined with the terminology and acronyms below:

  • WIA: Wounded in Action
  • VSI: Very seriously ill or injured
  • SI: Seriously ill or injured
  • III: Incapacitating illness or injury
  • NSI: Not seriously injured
  • DUSTWUN: Duty status-whereabouts unknown
  • MIA: Missing in Action
  • KIA: Killed in Action

When someone is wounded in action or has an illness or disease, they will be further categorized in one of the following statuses:

  • Very Seriously Injured (VSI): the casualty status of a person whose injury/illness is classified by medical authorities to be of such severity that life is imminently endangered.
  • Seriously Ill or Injured (SI): the casualty status of a person whose illness or injury is classified by medical authorities to be of such severity that there is cause for immediate concern, but there is no imminent danger to life.
  • Incapacitating Illness or Injury (III): person whose illness or injury requires hospitalization, but medical authority does not classify as very seriously ill or injured or seriously ill or injured; the illness or injury makes the person physically or mentally unable to communicate with the next of kin.
  • Not Seriously Injured (NSI): the casualty status of a person whose injury or illness may or may not require hospitalization but not classified by a medical authority as very seriously injured (VSI), seriously injured (SI), or incapacitating illness or injury (III); the person is able communicate with the Next of Kin (NOK).
  • Duty Status-Whereabouts Unknown (DUSTWUN): A transitory casualty status, applicable only to military personnel, that is used when the responsible commander suspects the member may be a casualty whose absence is involuntary, but does not feel sufficient evidence currently exists to make a definite determination of missing or deceased.

Understanding this terminology is important but it certainly isn't necessary for you to memorize these terms.

Written by David Ogden, Sgt. USMC '11-'16.

David Ogden, USMC

David was a Sergeant with the United States Marine Corps from 2011-2016. He is a combat veteran. He has worked at Marine Parents as a writer since he left the Marine Corps. He is currently in college and writes for the organization full-time. Click here to read more about the author.


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