There are many things Soldiers need when training for a deployment -- good boots, uniform, weapon, ruck sack, meal ready to eat -- but goats and donkeys just don't usually come to mind. Not unless, you're at Fort Polk, Louisiana's Joint Readiness Training Center where a herd of 50 goats and 10 donkeys become part of the training environment.

"These animals are utilized in 'the box' at JRTC to simulate real-life situations for our military who are preparing for deployment," said Capt. Katherine Roe, Louisiana Veterinary Branch chief, which is a part of Public Health Command District -- Hood. The animals run free to provide a more realistic environment.

Roe and a team of seven Soldiers from the LAB, took their work to the farm to provide exams and vaccinations to the herd. Five Soldiers and the farm manager herded and restrained the animals while two others drew the vaccines, recorded animal numbers and any important findings from the exam. Roe examined and administered the vaccines to each animal.

According to Roe, the team arrives prior to the animals' morning feeding. This makes it easier for the team to confine the animals because they are heading to the corral to eat. The Soldiers place halters on the donkeys while Roe goes around quickly drawing blood, giving vaccinations and doing a physical exam.

"The donkeys are quite wild and it's important we work quickly and quietly around them," said Roe.
Once done with the donkeys, the team focuses on the goats. They are restrained one by one for their vaccines and physical exams.

"The majority of the goats are easily handled," Roe said, "but there are a few that give us a run for our money."

The health of the herd, which is government owned, is important for many reasons.

"The animals wander free during this time and must be up to date on vaccines and deworming in order to prevent them from getting unnecessary parasites or illnesses, but also to prevent disease spread between wildlife and humans," Roe said.

Care for farm animals isn't in a usual day for the team. The Soldiers' regular military occupational specialties are 68R, food inspectors, and 68T, veterinary technicians. Typically the 68Rs are in commissaries and dining facilities ensuring there is wholesome food and addressing any risks that may arise, while the 68Ts are running the veterinary treatment facility and the Fort Polk Stray Animal Facility, according to Roe.

Spending the day at the farm breaks up the routine and gives the group new experience.

"The Soldiers are great sports when pushed outside their comfort zone," Roe said. "They never disappoint when it comes to hard work and being a team. We were able to work through the herd in record time with no mishaps and lots of laughs along the way."

The team enjoyed the experience and the adventure.

"It's hard to beat a day outside working with animals," said Staff Sgt. Colin Taylor, "I always look forward to going out to the farm."

Staff Sgt. Zachary Wright found another perk to the day's event. "Rustlin' goats and donkeys is a great way to get a good workout," he said.