FORWARD OPERATING BASE LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2011 -- Keeping Soldiers in the fight is always a priority and the 401st Army Field Support Brigade's adopted unit. The 358th Medical Detachment, Veterinary Services, does that in an extraordinary way.

The 358th Medical Detachment, Veterinary Services, is an Army Veterinary Services Reserve unit from Alabama whose mission includes keeping improvised explosive device detection dogs healthy and in the fight.

After visiting the unit, at Forward Operating Base Leatherneck in January 2011, Col. Richard B. O'Connor, 401st AFSB commander, wanted to assist the unit in accomplishing their important mission. He decided to 'adopt' the unit and linked them with the 401st AFSB's Logistics Task Force Leatherneck.

Responding to O'Connor's primary concern of obtaining an ambulance, 401st AFSB personnel located a Humvee ambulance from a Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services yard and refurbished it. The 401st was also able to obtain a Humvee for use as a secondary ambulance, explained Lt. Col. Robert Roy, 401st LTF Leatherneck commander.

"We had no way to receive a patient [military working dog] from the airfield," said Capt. Bradley M. Fields, veterinarian. "The ambulance lets us transport litter-bound patients."

Fields has completed more than 400 surgeries in what is now a level 3 trauma deployed hospital, but recalled using duct tape on the first dog he cared for. He said injuries to the dogs include shrapnel wounds, hernias, sucking chest wounds and post traumatic stress. The only injuries that cannot be cared for in theater are long-bone fractures due to the lengthy recovery time.

"Our job is to keep the dogs healthy and in the field," Fields added.

The dogs, all Labrador Retrievers, live adjacent to the clinic in a kennel that had no heat or air conditioning until the 401st worked with Army Sustainment Command's Logistics Civil Assistance Program to install a generator to heat and cool the kennel. Fields said the temperatures are controlled enough to keep the dogs comfortable, but still keep them acclimated to the conditions they work in every day.

Col. Michel M. Russell Sr., 401st AFSB commander since July 17, visited the clinic and kennel Aug. 2 and pledged to continue the relationship between 401st and the Army Veterinary Service units assigned to Leatherneck. His first concern is to provide a back-up generator so the staff will not have to rely on battery power during surgeries in the event of a generator failure.

"Keep up the good work," Russell said. "We will continue to support you."

Page last updated Wed August 17th, 2011 at 07:52