The NCTA Caisson Unit

Caisson Webpage at http://www.nctacaisson.org

The Caisson Unit: A Partnership of Compassion

The mission of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol Caisson Unit is to serve North Carolina and its bordering states of Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee during a time of loss of a fallen Law Enforcement Officer or Fire Fighter, North Carolina Governors and other Incumbent Members of this State.

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. Applicants must have equine experience, but 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.

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 stands approximately 16 to 17 hands high and weighs approximately 1400 to 1800 lbs. They range 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. Two of the horses on this team were also on the team that carried President Ronald Regan’s casket. We are proud to own that small piece of American history.

In June of 2008, the Caisson Unit was called upon for the first time to perform a funeral service for Trooper David Shawn Blanton. A few weeks later, we were again called by the North Carolina Forest Service to perform the service for Forest Ranger Curtis Lloyd Jessen. Just eight days later, in September of 2008, we were called on for the funeral service of Trooper A.J. Stocks. Again in September, we performed the service for Caldwell County Deputy Adam Klutz. All services were fro line of duty deaths.

The Caisson Unity is a partnership between the North Carolina State Highway Patrol and the North Carolina Trooper’s Association. At this time, it has received no state funds to operate on. Instead, it depends entirely on grants and donated funds. To keep the Caisson Unity ready to travel with twenty-four hours notice costs $16,000.00-17,000.00 annually. This among covers all examinations and vaccinations, feed and hay, power and water, routine barn and fence repair, tax, tag, and insurance on our vehicles and much more.Consistent with our application for tax exempt status, services and materials may also be donated. Each donation is fully tax-deductible under 501 (C) (3) of the I.R.S. rules. Although the equipment is owned by the North Carolina Trooper’s Association, when on assignment, the Caisson Unit is under the control of the State Highway Patrol.

Caisson President: Timothy Jay Miles