By Spc. Anna-Marie Hizer, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
KIRKUK, Iraq (June 1, 2006) – Working behind the scenes, sometimes at odd hours and nearly always on call, is a group of Soldiers who work to keep our food supply safe and military working dogs healthy.
Based at Forward Operating Base Warrior near Kirkuk, Iraq, the Third Squad, 72nd Medical Detachment, deployed from Rose Barracks in Vilseck, Germany, has oversight on animal health and control issues, as well as food inspection throughout the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division’s area of responsibility.
“We work with the military dogs, food inspection and also stray animal control … public health,” said Capt. Kristie Souders, officer-in-charge, 3rd. Sqd., 72nd Med. Det.
One aspect of caring for the working dogs, Souders said, is conducting kennel inspections at FOB Warrior as well as the outlying FOBs. They also train dog handlers how to start intravenous fluids on their animals – in case of heat injury.
Souders, a South Pittsburgh, Tenn., native, said one of the hardest parts of her job is preparing redeployment certificates for the dogs, because she knows that means they will be leaving soon.
“Some of them I get attached to …” she said, “when they redeploy, it’s hard to see them go.”
Souders says that the limited amount of equipment the small clinic has at their disposal is another aspect of the job that can take some getting used to.
“We [basically] patch them up and prepare them for MEDEVAC,” she said, adding that a larger vet clinic in Baghdad performs most of the large emergency functions. “We don’t have all the bells and whistles we’re used to back home.”
In addition to caring for animals, the vet clinic staff also inspects all of the food that enters FOB Warrior.
“We inspect the food before it is cooked … to make sure it hasn’t been damaged in transport,” said Staff Sgt. Santiago Gallardo, noncommissioned officer-in-charge, 3rd Sqd., 72nd Med. Det. “And to make sure it comes from an approved source.”
The Los Angeles, Calif. native added that they monitor stateside resources and recalls to ensure none of the food at any of the FOBs is on a recall list.
Gallardo noted that one of the more difficult parts of this job while deployed is that they cannot check the food at the time of purchase like they do in the rear. Once the food reaches theater, it is simply a loss if it’s contaminated or damaged.
In addition to dining facility fare, vet services also monitors and inspects the Meals-Ready-to-Eat for broken seals and expiration dates.
Along with the animals working with the military, the 72nd Med. Det. staff occasionally has the chance to deal with other animals – strays that roam the FOB and catch the attention of service members. As Souders points out, these animals can be a health threat if not left alone.
“They could potentially carry rabies,” she said. “We work with Vector Control and Air Force Public Health … [and] monitor bite reports from the clinic.”
She added that one animal captured on the FOB tested positive for rabies, but noted that as long as they are left alone, most of the creatures pose no threat to humans.
Though not one of the better known forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the staff at vet services continues to provide a valuable service to troops and animals assigned to the military.
“Our jobs … it’s not one of those jobs that’s really noticed army-wide,” Gallardo said. “[But], if we were not here, there would be problems.”