By Ms. Michelle Thum (Regional Health Command Europe)April 23, 2019
CINCU, Romania - Veterinarians from Public Health Command Europe and the 64th Medical Detachment Veterinary Services Support participated in Vigorous Warrior 2019, a joint five-day multinational training exercise in Cincu, Romania.
During the NATO exercise, service members and civilians from 26 NATO allies and 13 partner countries, worked and trained together, testing their ability to provide medical response to military incidents. In particular, medical treatment facilities set up by different nations demonstrated their capabilities to provide care to injured service members as well as injured military working dogs.
Veterinarians and animal care specialists from PHCE Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and Public Health Activity Rheinland-Pfalz acted as advisors during the exercise and provided case management oversight to the Soldiers of the 64th MED DET (VSS) as well as other NATO forces as they worked through scenarios designed to test operational capabilities.
The 64th MED DET (VSS) team was led by Capt. Stephanie Tower, officer in charge of the Veterinary Service Support Team. The 64th MED DET (VSS) team has the capability to provide expeditionary veterinary support on the battlefield, which allows the team to set up and move forward with the warfighters, while maintaining the ability to provide Veterinary medicine and food protection.
Col. Anthony Bostick, Deputy Commander of PHCE and EUCOM Command Veterinarian; Maj. Joseph Eggers, veterinarian and PHCE Deputy Chief of the Biological Analysis Division; and Maj. Stephanie Kennedy, PHCE Regional Veterinary Clinical Medicine Officer and Consultant, developed the real-world scenarios that the 64th MED DET (VSS) worked through alongside counterparts from the Army of the Czech Republic as case managers.
Bostick said, "the goal of the exercise was to provide an opportunity to practice real and practical medical skills training and establishing interoperability and partnerships with foreign veterinary services."
Scenarios were specifically designed to test the capabilities of the veterinary field equipment as well as the capabilities of the veterinary team. Multiple scenarios gauged the veterinary response to battlefield trauma including blast injuries, broken bones, and chemical exposure injury. While the scenarios were designed to evaluate Role 2 capabilities of the veterinary field hospital, the team was also responsible for evacuating critical patients to higher role levels based on the injury assessment.
In one scenario, two Romanian MWDs were "exposed," to radioactive sources following a simulated spillage, and the 64th MED DET (VSS), the Czech Army and the Public Health Response Team worked together to ensure the dogs were both decontaminated and brought to a field veterinary clinic for proper care.
"Military working dogs are Soldiers, just like human beings, and therefore they are entitled to the same care," Tower said. "Communicating this message to our partners was a learning experience, since rules are different in every country."
Kennedy, who developed the scenarios, specifically designed them to test the operational response of Role 2and Role 3human medical facilities and their response to battlefield trauma of a MWD.
Kennedy said that NATO allies responded appropriately and expressed gratitude for designing this unique opportunity for interoperability.
"The overall value of this exercise was to work under pressure, as a team, in authentic scenarios and to learn how to better communicate with each other and our allies," Tower said. This was exemplified with cooperation with the veterinary Role 2 facility of the Czech Republic. The 64th MED DET (VSS) and the veterinarians from the Czech Republic were able to work together, examine unique capabilities of each facility, and discuss strengths of different methods and field hospital structures.
The Czech veterinary field facility consisted of a well-equipped container that could be used as a Veterinary Field Hospital as well as a public health laboratory. The main goal of the unit is to provide veterinary care for MWDs working in or near the battlefield and also care for search and rescue dogs.
"Participating in Vigorous Warrior 2019 provided an immense opportunity for PHCE to work closely with the 64th MED DET (VSS) and our Czech counterparts," Bostick said. "The veterinarians performed realistic and complex tasks in a real-world operational environment while strengthening their relationships and medical interoperability between allied forces."