WASHINGTON, D.C—U.S. Army Veterinarians and Animal Care Specialists from the 218th Medical Detachment (Veterinary Service Support) from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, traveled to Washington, D.C., January 23-25, in support of the 59th U.S. Presidential Inauguration.
The team, consisting of two Veterinary Corps Officers and two Animal Care Specialists, supported 125 Department of Defense and Secret Service working dogs and 25 U.S. National Park Service working horses. As part of Joint Task Force-National Capital Region, their number one priority was providing veterinary medical care to the working animals.
Upon arrival, the team quickly identified both physical and administrative barriers that had reduced access to care for working animals in the past. Working with the Secret Service, they launched an innovative approach to ensure the animal teams received care when and where it was needed most.
“During previous inauguration missions, treatment was performed inside federal buildings for limited hours, creating a barrier to access of care. Handlers needed permission to leave their post and then had to find a way to communicate with and get to the aide station,” explained Maj. Miles Looman-Nelson, Veterinary Team Officer-in-Charge. This year rather than wait for the patient to come to the aide station, the team chose to be mobile, using a golf cart to travel to the point-of-injury.
“Animal handlers were given direct lines to the veterinary on-call phones and told to call immediately for any issue, big or small. Our veterinary teams then traveled to the injured dog, without requiring the handler to ask for permission or leave their post,” said Looman-Nelson.
During inauguration day, the team was unable to use the golf cart to travel due to increased security, but this did not derail their commitment to getting to the dogs that needed care. The teams strapped on 40 lb. veterinary medical packs and traveled by foot to wherever they were called. Maj. Looman-Nelson reported his team walked over 11 miles that day.
With the support of their Animal Care Specialists, Spc. Michele Castro and Spc. Victoria Albanese, U.S. Army Veterinarians, Maj. Looman-Nelson and Capt. Racheal Pollard were able to provide 24-hour support. The team delivered point of injury care to 14 working animals; care ranged from paw injuries to allergic reactions to insects.
Col. Dale Beebe, U.S. Army Forces Command Veterinarian, described the support provided by the 218th MDVSS “Viper Vets” as the model for future operations and units assigned to these missions. “The Viper Vets executed this plan to absolute perfection and seamlessly integrated and supported their U.S. Secret Service Agency and Capitol Police partners,” said Beebe.
The mission of the 218th MDVSS is to provide role 1-3 level medical support to Military Working Dogs and Government Owned Animals, veterinary public health, food procurement and sanitation support, and food laboratory diagnostics in support of areas of operations.