Red_Cross_LogoGRAFENWOEHR, Germany — American Red Cross connects family members with service members in the event of an emergency, such as a sudden illness or death in the service member’s family.


But confusion remains over the emergency communication piece commonly known as the Red Cross message, as well who authorizes emergency leave and who funds it. In short, what is the overall role of the American Red Cross?


Understanding the process and requirements helps service members speed up the process of getting where they need to be in a family emergency or crisis.


“We verify emergencies and — in the rare cases that the Soldier is unaware — notify the service member by providing accurate, factual and complete  descriptions of the emergency,” said Kelly Clark, field office coordinator for the American Red Cross here at U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria.


“Emergency communication is certainly the most important service we provide, but there are some misconceptions of what we do. Under no circumstances are we the approving authority for emergency leave. We are the middleman,” Clark said.


 “While the American Red Cross is a valuable source in the emergency request process, the units S1 (personnel office) is the subject matter expert and point of contact when it comes to leave approval and funding as outlined in Army Regulation 600-8-10,” said Hollon M. Oliver, a human resources specialist with USAG Bavaria’s military personnel division.


So who can initiate a Red Cross message?


Family members back home can initiate one online or call 1-877-272-7337. Locally, service members, family members and DOD Civilians at USAG Bavaria may visit or call their local American Red Cross office at Tower Barracks at DSN 475-1760, CIV 09641-83-1760, Rose Barracks DSN 476-1760, CIV 09662- 83-1760 or Hohenfels DSN 466-1760, CIV 09662 – 83-1760, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4.30 pm. For after-hours assistance, call toll free 1-877-272-7337 or submit an emergency assistance request online.


The American Red Cross is authorized to provide emergency communication assistance for immediate family members of a sponsor or spouse as outlined in Army Regulation 600-8-10. Immediate family members include:


  • (1) Parents, including stepparents


  • (2) Spouse


  • (3) Children, including stepchildren


  • (4) Sisters and brothers, including step siblings


  • (5) Only living blood relative


  • (6) A person in loco parentis


Specific information is required when initiating the message. When a family member or service member initiates a Red Cross message, the American Red Cross begins what is called “case intake process,” Clark said.


Required information includes full name, rank, branch of service, social security number, military address  and for deployed Soldiers or Civilians information about the deployed unit and home base unit.


“The key is to provide information on where to verify. Often this information is missing, which slows down the verification process significantly,” said Clark, adding that “in cases of illness, we have to have the patient’s permission to send a Red Cross message.”


In case of illness, Red Cross contacts the patient’s doctor for information on the patient’s current condition, a diagnosis and prognosis, life expectancy and the doctor’s recommendation on being with the patient . In case of death, date and time of death, cause of death, and funeral information is verified by the Red Cross. 


“After the case intake is completed and verified, we release the message per phone to unit’s staff duty. They are trained on how to take and deliver a Red Cross emergency message and take it from there,” said Clark, adding that “this information helps the unit commander to make a swift and appropriate  decision on emergency leave.”


For more on emergency leave, contact your unit S1. If you have questions about Red Cross, contact USAG Bavaria Red Cross at DSN 475-1760, CIV 09662-83-1760, find them on Facebook at or visit American Red Cross at


Myth and Facts                                                                                    


Myth: The American Red Cross approves or disapproves emergency leave.

Fact: The unit commander is the approval authority for emergency leave.


Myth: Soldiers must provide an American Red Cross emergency message to request emergency leave.

Fact: Emergency leave can be requested with or without American Red Cross verification.


Myth: Only family members may seek emergency communication for service members though the American Red Cross

Fact: The service member, family members, friends or relatives  may seek emergency communication for a Soldier through the American Red Cross.


Myth: American Red Cross helps offset costs of emergency travel

Fact: The American Red Cross facilitates emergency financial assistance on behalf of Military Aid Societies but does not offer financial aid. However, emergency leave travel at government expense is authorized in accordance with the Joint Federal Travel Regulation and DODI 1327.06.


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