Army Veterinarians

April 13, 2008 at 7:17 pm | Posted in Military | 7 Comments

I think I’ve mentioned before that my sister-in-law is an Army veterinarian currently stationed far far away. Usually mentioning this to anyone results in a lot of questions. Not about being stationed far away- people seem to understand that this happens from time to time with the military. Actually, a majority of the questions are variants of “What does the Army need veterinarians for?” . Most people have no clue what military veterinarians actually *do*…including a surprising number of people in or associated with the military.

Part of my SIL’s job is providing care for Military Working Dogs (MWD), but there is a lot more to it. This description from the website of the US Army Veterinary Command sums it up rather succinctly:

The mission of the United States Army Veterinary Command (VETCOM) is: Conserve the fighting strength through coordinated, full spectrum food safety and defense, veterinary public health, and veterinary medical care supporting all DOD organizations and other federal agencies while ensuring our Soldiers are fully trained and mission-ready to deploy in support of worldwide operations.

As you can see, military veterinarians work in a lot of different areas. I guess I really should say Army veterinarians work in a lot of different areas. The US Army is the only branch of the military that has a Veterinary Corps and they provide veterinary services for all branches of the military. My SIL has yet to be stationed at an Army post during her career.

The food safety part of the duties seemed a bit odd at first, but if you think about it for a minute it’s not that strange. Veterinarians are trained to identify healthy and diseased animals. This translates into knowledge that assists in identifying contaminated food sources. Suppliers who want to provide food to the military must be inspected for health and safety by military food inspectors. Army veterinarians are responsible for overseeing this aspect of public health and have soldiers/airmen/sailors/marines under their command whose primary responsibility is food inspection. They even inspect the Commissaries and any other military food suppliers- including the fast food restaurants on post! All of these places are also inspected by the state health department (if in the US), so you’re doubly protected when buying food on post.

Veterinarians have public health responsibilities within the military, both because of issues related to food safety and due to the fact that so many contagious diseases are spread through either direct contact with animals (zoonotic) or start with an infected animal and spread through an intermediary such as a tick or flea (vector-borne). Avian (bird) flu is probably the disease most talked about in the news that could be classified as a zoonotic disease. However, people in the US are undoubtedly at greater risk of Lyme disease and the West Nile Virus, both spread through animal vectors. Several vector-borne diseases are of particular concern to the military, including malaria and leishmaniasis. Neither of these diseases pose a large threat to servicemembers in the US. Servicemembers stationed or serving in the Middle East are a different story though. Preventative measures for both malaria and leishmaniasis are routine in these areas.

I’m on the third paragraph about duties of Army veterinarians and I haven’t even touched on the “traditional” veterinary duties yet. These are definitely a part of the job, but with a little twist (like having your patients routinely muzzled during the exams so they won’t be able to bite you) . Army veterinarians do provide the same types of veterinary care as the neighborhood veterinarian. This description is from the US Army Veterinary Services:

The US Army Veterinary Service is responsible for providing care to Military Working Dogs (MWD), ceremonial horses, working animals of many Department of Homeland Security organizations, pets owned by service members, and animals supporting Human-Animal Bond (HAB) programs at military hospitals. The Veterinary Treatment Facility provides service members’ pets with veterinary preventive medicine, contagious and zoonotic disease control, and outpatient care.

The ceremonial horses are at very few places (the horses who pull the caissons at Arlington National Cemetary are cared for by Army veterinarians and soldiers in the Veterinary service). My SIL has had canine patients with Army, Air Force and Marine handlers (she never mentioned Navy, but it’s possible she’s worked with some of them as well) in addition to Customs, DEA and Department of Agriculture dogs. Quite a bit of variety in fact! One really cool sounding assignment is with the US Navy Marine Mammal Program. The homepage of the US Army Veterinary Services also has some great information about Army veterinarians and what they do. There is even a picture of my SIL on one of the pages.

My SIL loves her job and the people she works with. She has been highly complimentary of the skills and professionalism of the NCOs she has worked with. I am very proud of her and love spreading the word about what veterinarians and the servicemembers they work with do in their jobs. I actually had planned to include some information on MWDs in this post, but it’s gotten so long that I think I’ll save it for a separate write-up. I hope you found this at least mildly interesting.

Happy Sunday everyone!

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7 Comments »

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  1. I found it more than mildly interesting! I had no idea the veterinarians’ work was so diverse. D o they also help native populations with their animals?

  2. Yes they do. I will work on a follow-up post for you about it later this week Gypsy at Heart. Right now though, I need to write a post and ask for some advice!

  3. This is a really good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere.
    Brief but very precise info… Thank you for sharing this one.
    A must read post!

  4. Fabulous, what a website it is! This webpage provides helpful data
    to us, keep it up.

  5. I am planning on going to vet school and am looking into becoming an army veterinarian, both because it would pay off my vet school bills and also because it would be a really rewarding job to have, I want to give back to these animals who have given us their services. The one reservation I he is that I don’t want to be deployed to some high risk area like Afghanistan or something, I’m not really cut out for that. Do you know if army vets are deployed to areas like that?

  6. Hello just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading correctly.
    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both
    show the same outcome.


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