JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii - Under bright blue Hawaiian skies, Public Health Activity-Hawaii hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Nov.1 for a new veterinary treatment facility.
The new VTF will unite the various mission sets of the U.S. Army Veterinary Service under one roof to increase readiness capabilities throughout the Pacific.
“Today is a big day for all of us,” said the Veterinary Corps Chief, Dr. (Col.) Deborah Whitmer. “A milestone for not only JBPHH VTF or PHA-H, but for JBPHH and the entire Department of Defense.”
Once completed, the new VTF will be measure approximately 12,000 square feet, double the size of any of the four VTFs currently operating on Oahu.
“This facility will greatly enable our Army Veterinary Service team’s capabilities to medically enable our joint warfighter to fight, deploy, and win, anytime, anywhere,” added Whitmer.
The new VTF will provide ample space for PHA-H soldiers and staff to perform preventive care, diagnostics, surgeries, and care for military working dogs and pets of service members and retirees.
“Few facilities in the DoD contain the Veterinary Corps food safety and defense requirements and animal health capabilities in one building,” said Dr. (Capt.) Caitlin Conway, JBPHH VTF officer in charge. “This new facility is going to provide care in a more quick and efficient manner- especially since Hawaii is the gateway to the pacific theater.”
Efficient care is critical, especially for government owned Military Working Dogs whose handlers place their trust in Army Veterinarians to care for the military’s four-legged warfighters.
“The support of Army Veterinarians enables MWDs to conquer missions at garrisons and internationally,” said Staff Sgt. Ashley Boren, JBPHH MWD trainer.
In addition to animal care, the new facility will provide a dedicated space for Veterinary Food Inspectors across PHA-H to carry out their continuous and critical food safety mission.
“This new building is so important for our food safety and food defense mission,” said Sgt. 1st Class Guillermo Jaramillovaldes, JBPHH VTF noncommissioned officer in charge. “It’s going to streamline the food inspector team responsible for taking care of all visiting U.S. Navy ships, Rim of the Pacific Exercise, and the largest grossing commissary in the armed forces.”
The JBPHH veterinary food inspection team is responsible for 123 installation support facilities, 12 submarines, 15 ships within the Pacific Area of Responsibility, and a total of $150 million worth of food sustenance annually.
“This joint base runs on partnerships,” said Col. Michael Staples, JBPHH deputy commander. “These Veterinary Corps professionals play a big part in supporting the 93,000 people that rely on the services of the installation,” Staples said.
The current VTF sees approximately 300 appointments a month for military families’ pets, in addition to the care they provide to MWDs, food protection, and defense to the joint warfighters and their families.
Lt. Col. Johnnie Robbins, commander of PHA-H, reiterated the impact this new facility will have on the joint force warfighters, MWDs, and beneficiaries.
“The most important part of this new VTF will be when the professionals, like our veterinarians, food safety officers, veterinary technicians, food inspectors, and NAF teammates, walk through that door to serve you,” said Robbins. “Everything starts and ends with you - the warfighters, animals, and beneficiaries.”
The new facility, being built by a civilian firm in conjunction with Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Pacific, is expected to open in fall 2024.