Vet command changes leaders
Maj. Robert Dole passes the guidon to Col. George Renison at the GCDVC change of command ceremony July 11. Maj. Karen Weekes will assume command of GCDVC.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker’s Gulf Coast District Veterinary Command changed leadership in a ceremony July 11 at the Army Aviation Museum when Maj. Robert Dole relinquished command to Maj. Karen Weekes. The command is both diverse and dispersed.

GCDVC has command and control of three branches in Alabama, western Georgia, eastern and southern Mississippi and the panhandle of Florida.

“When you think of a veterinary command, it’s certainly not the traditional unit. I don’t know many units in the military that are as dispersed as a veterinary command,” said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Samuel, GCDVC 1st Sgt.

“Maj. Dole is very resilient and resourceful, and he did it for two districts. He is very patient and is a no-nonsense commander.”

Samuel explained that some of the members of the unit are stationed up to six hours away.

“A lot of things that come easy for a traditional unit, can really challenge a veterinary unit.”

Pet owners on post probably know they provide public health services for authorized customers, Samuel explained.

“The best way to look at it is if you go get your medical treatment at Lyster Army Health Clinic, you can take your pets to the vet clinic.” But they also provide complete veterinary care for all government-owned animals, including military working dogs, mascots and laboratory animals.

“We do inspections of the military working dogs, keep up with their records, give advice on workload compared to age, cleanings and grooming. They really take care of the working dogs,” Samuel explained.

Another major aspect of their mission is food safety.

The Army is the only service that handles food inspection. So when a Navy aircraft carrier is replenished at sea, the food was inspected by a veterinary command Soldier.

“We actually have a ship-ride program where a food inspector will be assigned to a carrier group and they will accompany the ships. They will be the only one on there; and they will be solely in charge of inspecting the food on the ship or group of ships,” said Samuel. “We actually have food inspectors stationed at MRE assembly plants. They monitor the assembly of rations, doing particular inspections of the packaging to make sure that they meet standards.”

Veterinary commands even have food inspectors monitor warehouses where MREs are stored, either heading downrange or back home, to make sure that storage conditions are correct to keep the food safe.

Samuel said they also work closely with Preventive Medicine, “Our lines sort of cross; and here shortly we will have a new command. We will be known as the Public Health Command.” The process of making the U.S. Army Public Health Command fully operational has already begun and on July 11 officials moved one step closer as U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine was formally reflagged as U.S. Army Public Health Command in Maryland. USAPHC, as the single point of accountability for public health, has the mission to promote health and prevent disease, injury and disability of Soldiers and military retirees, their Families, and Department of Army civilian employees; and assure effective execution of full-spectrum veterinary service for Army and Department of Defense veterinary missions.

Samuel looks for the transformations to take full effect in January.

Page last updated Wed July 13th, 2011 at 00:00