Veterinary leaders from across the state of Rheinland-Pfalz came together April 25 at the Public Health Activity-Rheinland-Pfalz headquarters to discuss veterinary issues and continue to develop partnership opportunities.

The meeting, which was comprised of U.S. Army veterinarians from Public Health Command Europe; Bundeswehr Veterinarians; Kaiserslautern County Veterinarians; the Kaiserslautern deputy commissioner; and staff from the Rheinland-Pfalz Ministry and Environment, Energy, Food and Forestry; was the second of its kind.

The goal of these meetings, according to Maj. Scott Chamberlin, PHCE Veterinary Medicine and Surgery Operations Chief, is to bring these separate groups, with shared interests, together to discuss concerns and ensure that "we are meeting [European Union] regulations. As part of our host nation partnership, we want to make sure we obey our host nation laws."

The group hadn't met in about a year, with the first meeting taking place after the evacuation of military families from Turkey.

"Families and their pets were going back to the states, for the most part," Chamberlin said. "However, some families got waivers from the Secretary of State so their children could finish the school year in a DoD school at Ramstein Air Base. The pets of those families did not meet EU pet import requirements so they had to be quarantined."

But after what these families had been through, Chamberlin said putting their dogs in a warehouse to quarantine them "would not be taking care of our families."

"So instead, we quarantined these pets in Ramstein lodging, with their families," he said.

This raised concerns with the German government, which prompted the group to form.

"The German host nation civilian vets had a concern, Chamberlin said. We worked together with them, and we figured it out. We want to comply with the rules of our host nation."

During this particular meeting, the discussion focused around Military Working Dogs, their travel, vaccine and paperwork requirements and EU pet passports.

"After discussing some of these concerns with the German lawyers, the Bundeswehr veterinarians and our host nation veterinarians, it turns out there were a significant amount of things that we were told a year ago we couldn't do, but we actually could," Chamberlin said. "There was a breakdown in communication."

He went on to say that getting all of these people in the same room allowed them to voice and work through concerns.

PHCE conducts interoperability engagements regularly, and because of that, they have built a strong partnership with their counterparts from the Bundeswehr Medical Services.

"We don't go more than a month or six weeks without doing an interoperability engagement with the Bundeswehr," Chamberlin said.

These engagements aren't just meetings, "they are going on inspections with us, we are doing food audits and treating cases together," Chamberlin said. "And so we go in to each other's facilities and we want to continue to expand that."

Building interoperability is important because of the complex operating environment within Europe. Col. Steven Greiner, PHCE commander, said that these events foster a climate of trust and understanding between allies.

"The U.S. military will never fight another engagement alone, thus it is absolutely critical to learn how our allies' military forces operate, and for them to learn how we operate, to create shared understanding and synergy," Greiner said. "In these times of constrained medical resources, this is equally true for Army Medicine, to include Public Health."

Chamberlin said engagements like this meeting build interoperability because maintaining these relationships is key to continuing to be effective. But he also emphasized that this is about more than a written down partnership.

"Building the relationship with people -- that is the best resource and that is how we succeed," he said. "This was an absolutely critical engagement,"

The group hopes to continue building this partnership and is planning to meet again in about six months.