SPANGDAHLEM, Germany – U.S. Army Cpl. Ricardo Blancarte, an animal care specialist assigned to the Spangdahlem Army Veterinary Treatment Facility, works closely with Air Force 52nd Fighter Wing military working dog kennel master, Tech. Sgt. Christopher Fitchett, to provide hands on training opportunities to MWD handlers with the 52nd Fighter Wing Security Forces in Spangdahlem.
Blancarte, a Chicago-native, decided to enlist in the U.S. Army simultaneously with his younger brother who joined the Marine Corps in 2017. Blancarte wanted to become a military police officer since he was a child, but when he started talking to his recruiter’s wife, a veterinary care specialist, his plans took an unexpected turn.
“I got an associate’s degree in criminology and thought I was certain about my career goals,” Blancarte said. “But my recruiter encouraged me to explore different opportunities, so I did.”
Blancarte finds value and satisfaction in life by helping others.
“I wanted to be a cop because I wanted to help others,” Blancarte added. “I don’t care if it’s humans or animals as long as I do good in the world and make a difference. I thought, why not giving something else a try.”
After much thought, he enlisted in the Army as an animal care specialist. When he arrived at his first duty station at San Antonio, TX. In March 2018, he had the opportunity to work with exotic animals alongside Air Force and Navy personnel.
“This job is very diverse, you never know what animal you’ll be working with,” Blancarte said. “At San Antonio we were responsible for the care of non-human primates, swine and rodents.”
Blancarte is currently serving as the non-commissioned officer in charge at the Spangdahlem VTF.
“My duties and responsibilities might not be vastly different than my duties in Texas, but this time,” Blancarte said. “I get to take care of military working dogs which is really cool.”
The main mission of the Spangdahlem VTF is to provide care to the military working dogs and food safety.
“I work closely with the Air Force kennel master and train dog handlers as much as possible,” Blancarte said. “Whether it’s in a formal training environment or when they are seen at the VTF with their military working dog.”
In the hands-on training he goes over how to read vital signs, distress, treat heat casualties and how to draw blood on a MWD which is vital for the health of the MWDs.
“Most often, the dog handlers don’t receive any animal care training, but in deployed locations, they are the ones who provide crucial first aid to their injured dog until they are under the care of a veterinarian,” said Blancarte.
Blancarte frequently hosts trainings to provide the lifesaving skills to groups of around ten dog handlers at time. In the trainings the handlers learn with a simulated dog mannequin.
“As a vet technician it is fulfilling to know that the handlers will go above and beyond to provide care to their dogs,” Blancarte said. “Seeing this comradery and bonding between handler and dog, Army and Air Force is satisfying.”
Recently, Blancarte used an opportunity to teach valuable lessons to a new MWD handler after his dog underwent surgery.
“Tina, an eight-year-old Belgian shepherd, had spine surgery at our VTF and needed overnight care,” Blancarte said. “I stayed with her and her handler for the night and the following days to show him how to properly read her vital signs, change her bandages and provide post-surgery care.”
In the future, Blancarte and Fitchett are planning on joint training events with host nation partners.
“Early next year, we are hosting Belgian and German military police handlers and their dogs, to exchange expertise and knowledge on MWD care and training,” said Blancarte.