Mobile veterinary services reach rural South Africa citizens
August 6, 2013
U.S. Army and South African Military Health Service members joined forces offering mobile veterinary services as part of a Humanitarian and Civic Assistance (HCA) operation during Shared Accord (SA) 13 near Bhisho, July 30.
Shared Accord is a biennial training exercise involving in-depth cohesion between U.S. and South African military forces during training scenarios designed to promote regional relationships, increase capacity and further cross-training and interoperability.
HCA events provide health services including dental treatment, HIV screening and optometry aid; however, another crucial element of the HCA is mobile veterinary services including rabies vaccinations and tick treatments, said South African Military Health Service Capt. François Van Huyssteen, veterinarian with the Military Veterinary Institute.
Members of both militaries work together to assist the Eastern Cape Veterinary Services in administering medications to hundreds of animals daily.
"No matter where we go, we try to make sure that we're not here to receive credit for the U.S. Army," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dickie Vest, executive officer and veterinarian with 176th Medical Brigade, 809th Medical Command from Seagoville, Texas. "We're just here to reinforce the civilian, government-run veterinary services. We're complementing, supporting and funding programs and procedures that they have in place."
BoyBoy Ngcayishe walked 14 cattle from his nearby home to take advantage of the free vaccines because he said, "the medicines are very expensive."
The event makes expensive treatments available to Eastern Cape citizens at different locations during a five-day period.
"We have exceeded our expectations every day," said Van Huyssteen on the second day. "It's not even 10 o'clock, and I think we are close to treating 100 animals."
This fast start follows a successful first day of treating more than 860 animals to include cattle, sheep, dogs, horses, pigs and donkeys, said U.S. Army Maj. Mike Adams, commander of Able Company, 82nd Civil Affairs Battalion from Fort Stewart, Ga.
Soldiers from Able Company helped with the setup, vaccine preparations and applied some of the topical parasite treatments to keep the event running smoothly.
During SA 13, both militaries hope to improve veterinary skills while learning from one another and the HCA's mobile veterinary services is no exception.
"Anybody can learn from anyone," said Van Huyssteen. "We definitely learn from each other and can contribute our expertise to these exercises."