HONOLULU - Veterinary Corps food inspection Soldiers assigned to Public Health Command-Pacific are ensuring the health and safety of United States’ warfighters during Rim of the Pacific, the world’s largest international maritime exercise.
“Our main priority during RIMPAC is food defense which means our eyes are on every food product going to U.S. personnel,” said Sgt. Elizabeth Currie, food protection non-commissioned officer assigned to Public Health Activity-Hawaii and RIMPAC food protection non-commissioned officer in charge. “We’re all guaranteeing no food is contaminated or tampered with intentionally or unintentionally.”
Soldiers from PHA-San Diego and PHA-Fort Lewis traveled to Oahu to support PHA-Hawaii and the Air Force 15th Medical Group’s RIMPAC food defense efforts with the influx of U.S. personnel. In addition, Currie and her team are conducting daily food and facility inspections on Army, Marine Corps, and Navy installations across Oahu.
“Our regular mission doesn’t falter because of RIMPAC,” added Currie. “PHC-P food inspectors across the island are playing a critical role both at the piers contributing to RIMPAC and in other facilities like the NEX or Commissary.”
Food defense is a full-time job, critical to mission readiness. The value of food inspection ranges from protecting Soldiers and their families at home to reducing disease related injury in combat environments.
“Our efforts enable the warfighter, regardless of service, to truly focus on the exercise and build relationships with like-minded nations,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Elizabeth Thompson-Watson, food safety officer assigned to PHA- Hawaii. “They can truly maximize their training over the next five weeks during RIMPAC, so when they’re called to support our allies overseas, they’re prepared.”
Oftentimes this job happens behind the scenes, separate from the more noticeable parts of an exercise. The efforts of food specialists and safety officers ultimately supports our Soldiers’ fundamental health and is critical to sustaining the force.
“We’ve seen throughout history that without food defense, disease and non-battle injury rates could potentially be a lot higher,” added Thompson-Watson.
The 28th iteration of RIMPAC will include twenty-six nations, 38 surface ships, four submarines, nine national land forces, more than 170 aircraft, and approximately 25,000 personnel scheduled this month in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.
For more information on RIMPAC, visit https://www.cpf.navy.mil/rimpac/.