US Army Veterinary Service
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. On military bases, the Veterinary Treatment Facility provides service members' pets with veterinary preventive medicine, contagious and zoonotic disease control, and outpatient care. In 2008, the Army maintained three mobile, self-contained and deployable veterinary clinics for field care.
US Army Veterinary Corps COL Poppe and MAJ Murphy examine a patient.
Modern History of Veterinary Services in the U.S. Military
This veterinary leading apparatus was a Quartermaster Corps item of supply during WW II, listed as costing more than $200 each, intended for evacuation or movement of pack animals when they can't be moved as a herd. At a U.S. port of embarkation, a so-called floating picket line was improvised by stretching the leading apparatus between two trucks.
Since World War I, the participation of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps has been an essential element in the maintenance of the health and well being of both animals and Soldiers. The highly technical education obtained by veterinarians has continued to prepare them for their changing mission requirements since the early 20th Century.
As a result of passage of the National Defense Act of 3 June 1916, veterinary officer commissioning became a reality and the Army Surgeon General began the work of organizing this new Corps within the Regular Army. When World War I was declared in April 1917 there were 57 veterinarians working for the Army, primarily in the area of equine surgery and medicine. Within 18 months the newly established Corps grew to 2,313 officers.
Wounded animals being loaded on a Fifth U.S. Army animal ambulance truck for evacuation to a veterinary hospital, Costel De Rio, Italy, 30 September 1944.
In the interwar years, the Veterinary Corps was reduced along with all elements of the U.S. Army, but World War II brought a re-expansion. Even though mechanization reduced the dependence of Army operations on horses and mules, 2,116 veterinarians served in the Veterinary Corps of the Army, in locations all over the globe where horses and mules were used during World War II.
Following the establishment of an Air Force Veterinary Corps in 1949, the Army shared military veterinary responsibilities with its sister service. However, in 1979 Congress directed changes to the Department of Defense (DoD) veterinary missions. Effective 31 March 1980 the Air Force Veterinary Corps was disestablished and the Army became the Executive Agent for all DoD veterinary services.
U.S. Army Veterinary Command
As the DoD Executive Agent for Veterinary Service, the Veterinary Command (VETCOM) provides veterinary service to the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines. The U.S. Army Veterinary Command provides food safety and security inspections for all of the Armed Services. Veterinary unit commanders and their personnel are critical in effecting remarkably low food borne illness rates. This is in great measure a result of veterinary inspection of subsistence in the United States as well as the approval of safe food sources around the world.
In 2009, the Veterinary Service was composed of approximately 700 veterinarian officers, 80 warrant officers, and 1800 enlisted Soldiers in both active duty and in the Army Reserves. They are organized into six Regional Veterinary Commands and 19 District Veterinary Commands. US Army Veterinary Command is headquardered at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, TX.
VETCOM was activated on 2 October 1994 as a major subordinate command of the MEDCOM after a year as a provisional command, created out of the former Directorate of Veterinary Services, U.S. Army Health Services Command.
Army Veterinary Corps Officers practice in four primary areas to carry out the responsibilities of the Veterinary Command: animal medicine, veterinary public health, food safety, and research and development. Approximately one-third of Veterinary Corps Officers are involved in Research and Development in an incredible range of focus areas, from basic breast cancer research to vaccine development.
Veterinary Civil Action Programs (VETCAP)
SSG Christine Roy, a veterinarian technician embarked aboard USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) for a multi-nation humanitarian aid program, vaccinates a horse at the medical clinic in Yulu, Nicaragua, 20 Aug 2008.
Army Veterinarians deliver public health programs around the world, another reason for maintaining expertise with horses, mules and other working or farm animals. VETCAP, the Veterinary Civil Action Program, delivers these services in support of strategic military objectives. Often U.S. forces must assume care of local animals to contribute to establishing order, and to gain the confidence and support of local populations, in a foreign combat zone. Just as medical clinics are set up for the same reasons (MEDCAP), parallel efforts to set up animal clinics are essential.
VETCAP has been deployed around the world by Joint Services teams, among others in Thailand, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Djibouti (Horn of Africa region), Kenya, Ethiopia, Morocco, Panama, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Haiti.
SSG Tony Vinas, Civil Affairs Specialist, 413th Civil Affairs Team 2, Manda Bay, Kenya, pushes a cow after it was vaccinated during a VETCAP project in Kashmere, Kenya, 11 Dec 2006.
The VETCAP teams typically assist with livestock that are often the only way the local farmers can make a living. VETCAP will treat diseases, vaccinate livestock, train local personnel in modern veterinary and management techniques, and support Foot and Mouth Disease eradication efforts. The need is great. People come from miles around even with no advertising of VETCAP events. A single VETCAP will treat thousands of animals per day.