Veterinarians Serve Four-Legged Warriors
I didn’t write this story but I believe it warrants a read. These great folks enable our working dogs to perform their life saving duties on the battlefield. They perform a vital function on the battlefield.
When we at United States Forces- Afghanistan Headquarters began flooding dogs into Afghanistan in 2010, Veterinarian Detachments were a vital part of the package. This was actually a point of contention because every boot on the ground is managed closely. The force cap is a zero sum game. We sat at 98K as mandated by the President. Bring in something new and something must go. Regardless if both assets are needed.
I know, that is a crappy way to fight a war but….. it is what is.
But in the end it was either bring the veterinarian detachments in with the dog teams or don’t increase the dog teams. Common sense prevailed and our request for an additional veterinarian detachment was approved.
Kandahar Airfield Veterinarians Serve Four-Legged Warriors
Story by Tech. Sgt. Stephen Hudson
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – When a working dog is sick or injured, the staff of the Kandahar Airfield Veterinary Medical Team is a dog’s best friend. The veterinary medical team here operates a medical clinic for canines deployed to southern Afghanistan.
Whether it is a U.S. military working dog, a NATO dog, a contractor, or Afghan National Army canine – they are all treated here at one of only two Role 3-level facilities for canines in Afghanistan. The second is located at Bagram Air Field and both can provide high-level trauma treatment to those in need.
The staff here is currently deployed for nine months from the 438th Medical Detachment Veterinary Services at Fort Carson, Colo., supporting Kandahar Airfield, as well as the surrounding forward operating bases and outlying veterinary clinics. A typical day is anything but typical for the staff here because their mission includes anything from routine care to critical care. The veterinarian office is staffed around the clock, seven days a week. While health exams and physicals are on ongoing occurrence they never know when their services could be needed for something more catastrophic.
Maj. Bryan Hux is an on-site veterinarian at Kandahar Airfield. A 1997 graduate of Mississippi State University, he completed his residency for emergency critical care in 2011 at Auburn University. That specialty is critically needed when a canine comes in with severe injuries – the team here is prepared for it. However if a canine’s injuries are too severe and cannot be stabilized by the staff here, the dog and an escort, or sent to a larger facility in Germany for in-depth care.
“They’re athletes,” Hux said of the canines. “They work a lot.”
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Gabriel Travers, a military working dog handler, brought in eight-year-old Belgian Malinois, Tora, into the Kandahar Airfield veterinary office to have a quick check-up. Tora, a patrol explosive detection dog, was dealing with bouts of diarrhea and dehydration. They flew in from the horn Panjwai where her job is to search for IEDs and IED making materials as well as weapon cashes.
“The work performed for my dog is without question most appreciated,” said Travers said of visiting the veterinarians at Kandahar Airfield. “If my dog is not healthy then that could possibly jeopardize my safety on the mission and the safety of others.
“To me, even at home station, the Vet is my best friend aside from my dog. As a handler our first action is safety and wellbeing for our dogs. Without them we lose that asset and become just another soldier.”
After being seen by the staff, Travers took Tora around to different offices as a morale boost for the people working there. Sometimes dogs brought in are taken over to Role 3 or the CASF to visit wounded warriors lifting their spirits.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Thomas Sager, an animal care non-commissioned officer with the 438th, is also deployed from Fort Carson. He is one of the on-site veterinary technicians who handle the dog’s medical needs. It takes many hands to care for one dog.
“Vet medicine is fantastic,” Sager said.
Sager added there is nothing better than having a hand in the recuperation of the dog and getting them back into the field. Outside of the care for the canines their specialties can mean the staff here deals with other animals on and around this sprawling base. The team here also manages a small portion vector control program at KAF to protect those deployed here from dangerous animals. That mission primarily deals with animals that are trapped on base.
“The vector control people bring the trapped animals by for us to evaluate,” said Hux. “If any endangered species are captured we evaluate their health and then they are released outside the wire.”
Other wildlife, like the river cats (a local feline breed that resembles a mix of bobcat and lynx) are also released.
The dedicated staff of professionals here works around the clock to care for these four-legged warriors. The care they provide keeps these canines in the fight.
“We have a really good team,” Hux said praising the staff. “They keep the hospital running and do a great job.”
No matter what the circumstance, or the reason behind the visit, this veterinarian team is fully capable of taking care of these furry heroes. Because without the vets and the technicians these dogs wouldn’t be able to do their jobs, which is saving lives.
This video isn’t associated with this article but I thought it was terrific. It is a video about the vet clinic at Bagram Airfield.
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