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The Veterinary Food Inspector (VFI) has one of the most important and rewarding service support jobs in the Army. VFIs are assigned to unique locations across the world on all Army, Marine, and Navy installations. Whether you are eating a scrumptious meal at the chow hall, enjoying your favorite MRE while deployed, cruising aboard a navy ship, or enjoying a nice burger and fries at the bowling alley, rest assured your food and beverages have been inspected and verified as safe for human consumption.

The importance of ensuring safe and wholesome subsistence is vital to the war fighter since the Army’s purpose is to fight and win our Nation’s wars anytime and anywhere. The need for Soldiers to consume safe and wholesome subsistence not only ensures nutritional needs are met, but that Soldiers stay healthy and mission ready.

The Public Health Command' s Ship Rider program deploys an Army sergeant or staff sergeant Veterinary Food Inspection Specialist to select Military Sealift Command (MSC) Combat Logistics Force ships that store food to resupply vessels while at sea. The VFIs help prevent potential foodborne illnesses that can reduce mission capabilities aboard a ship. Assigned to a ship for up to six months at a time, food inspectors work and live alongside 160 Sailors and merchant mariners.

The critical support they provide serves to protect the health of the Sailors and sustain mission readiness. VFIs conduct receipt inspections of delivered goods before they are loaded aboard the ship, reviewing the quality of delivered food, verifying storage temperature compliance with regulations, ensuring the sanitation of the trucks, and safeguarding the government’s financial interests by ensuring the Navy receives the appropriate quality and quantity of purchased goods. In addition, while at sea, the VFIs play a key role in the resupply efforts as food is moved from one ship to another, and conducting surveillance inspections of the food in storage.

In the current COVID-19 pandemic, such inspections and food defense measures have become even more integral to the mission. If there is evidence of subsistence that does not meet the contractual or Department of Defense standards, VFIs recommend rejection of the product and receipt a new order of the product.

The ship rider program is such a unique mission in Army Veterinary Services. Very few missions emphasize the strength of the partnership we have with our sister service, the Navy, and give our VFIs an opportunity to directly impact potentially thousands of Sailors out at sea, defending our great nation, as well as the ship rider mission.

Sgt. Monika Maynor, a 68R Veterinary Food Inspection Specialist, assigned to the Public Health Activity – Fort Bragg, volunteered to support the USNS Robert E. Peary from February–August 2020. In support to the US Navy’s 5th and 6th fleet, Maynor inspected $10 million dollars’ worth of subsistence and over 10,000 pallets of subsistence received from various foreign ports. She also shared her food inspection expertise with the food service personnel aboard the ship, broadening their awareness.

While being a Soldier is Maynor’s primary commitment, she also had the opportunity to learn some “sailoring” skills. She routinely participated in the vessel’s crew drills, Navy training, and other special duties that any Sailor on the ship carried out.

Her diligence, professionalism, and technical competence contributed to the ship’s capability to provide exceptional logistical support and ensured that all subsistence received were wholesome and of the highest quality for all the fleet’s Sailors. Maynor did an outstanding job in the performance of her duties and her efforts reflect favorably upon herself, the Public Health Command, and the United States Army.