Army Veterinarians Pt 2

April 21, 2008 at 6:00 am | Posted in Military | Leave a comment

I recently posted about the role of veterinarians in the US Army and the different duties veterinarians and soldiers in the Veterinary Service fill. Most people are surprised at the variety of jobs and duties that are part of the daily responsibilities of the US Army Veterinary Service. This article at Defend America is something I found after writing the original post. It describes the responsibilities of a veterinarian deployed to the Anbar province in Iraq. It’s a little old (from 2005), but still has good information plus some nice pictures.

One of the comments on the post was from Gypsy at Heart. She asked about the involvement of veterinarians in the care of animals in the local populations. While definitely not the primary responsibility of the Veterinary Service, this is also part of the job for Army veterinarians. In some cases this is part of ongoing military action (e.g. in Iraq or Afghanistan) and in other cases it is through Humanitarian missions conducted by the military.

In Iraq, veterinarians have provided care for donkeys used to transport materials and the finished product at a local brick factory through the actions of a Civil Affairs team.

Carolan, senior veterinarian and agriculture adviser with the civil affairs team, G9, 3rd Infantry Division, specializes in treating equine species – horses, ponies and donkeys. After a briefing from Baker, Carolan traveled to Narhwan to hold the clinic.

“This Narhwan clinic was unique, given the number of donkeys to be examined and treated,” he said. “Many of the donkeys were malnourished and obviously mistreated. Some suffered from pressure sores, hematomas and neglect. Some collapsed of exhaustion and died before our eyes.

“Others were well-cared-for, well-fed and well-groomed by owners who respected their worth,” he said.

Carolan, with the help of soldiers from 1-10th FA, examined, wormed, measured and weighed the donkeys. More donkeys by the hundreds are waiting to be treated in follow-on clinics.

“The vet clinic was the right thing to do before an increased volume of brick orders kicked in,” Carolan said. “In our clinic, we were able to examine and treat donkeys in need of care. We were able to encourage owners giving excellent care to their donkeys. We were able to teach the best way of care and feeding donkeys.

“That is where we can have the most impact, teaching the owners how to properly feed and care for the animals,” he continued. “Higher production at the factories will be achieved with the improved standards of care employed.”

Army veterinarians and members of the Veterinary Corps have also provided care for sheep and cattle whose owners don’t have access to regular veterinary care. The services provided will help to maintain the health of the existing herds and ensure that the animals are able to fill their role (e.g. food source, wool, etc.).

Humanitarian missions involving US Army Veterinarians have occurred both internationally and within the US. The USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy provide veterinary care as part of their humanitarian missions. The veterinarians for these missions are largely drawn from the US Public Health Service, but have also included Army veterinarians.  Veterinary technicians, mostly, from the Navy (who work with Army veterinarians at their “regular” duty stations), are the backbone of these efforts. In the US, the 248th Medical Detachment Veterinary Service was deployed to New Orleans to assist in recovery efforts following hurricane Katrina. This was in part to provide veterinary care for stranded animals, but also was a direct result of the capabilities of the Veterinary Service in Public Health.

The Veterinary Corps has also aided the public health effort for relief workers. The corps provides inspectors who ensure the safety of food supplies. And in a region flooded with stagnant and contaminated water, the veterinarians make sure that drinking water standards are met and maintained. Their field laboratories are used in the prevention and diagnosing of contagious diseases that can appear in disaster zones like New Orleans.

In most cases, the care provided to animals on international missions would be considered routine care in the US.  Simple actions like de-worming and vaccinating that can have a huge impact on the health of animals, but are often not available in other countries.  When you depend on your livestock for your livelihood and/or your food, even basic veterinary care can make a huge difference in your personal survival.  Often the international missions will combine direct provision of veterinary care with teaching activities.  This article at Defend America describes a medical mission to Benin in West Africa that was a learning experience for both the Beninese Army Veterinary personnel and their American counterparts.

So, Yes Gypsy at Heart.  Veterinarians do work with animals in the local populations.

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