WIESBADEN, Germany – After three years of hard work and dedication, a U.S. Army animal care specialist assigned to the Wiesbaden Veterinary Treatment Facility successfully graduates from New Mexico’s San Juan College with honors with an Associates of Applied Sciences Degree in Veterinary Technology.
According to U.S. Army Veterinary Corps leaders this was an endeavor that most animal care specialists in the Army rarely achieve.
Sgt. Courtney Jimenez enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2014 as an animal care specialist, and almost ten years later she is preparing for her certification exam.
“I enlisted for the job and experience,” said Jimenez. “I just love animals and wanted to become a veterinarian so joining the Army was a great opportunity.”
As a veterinary care technician in the U.S. Army, Jimenez has worked at the Wiesbaden Veterinary Treatment Facility in Germany since 2019.
U.S. Army animal care specialists provide a variety of care for military working dogs and pets of service members and other beneficiaries. They also collect the patient’s history, vital signs, and prepares various therapies including vaccinations, prescription medications and preventives. Additionally, they assist the veterinarian with ultrasounds, x-rays, surgeries and conducts physical examinations of the animal, including checking temperature, checking their mouth/teeth and feeling for any abnormalities in their skin. Any abnormalities are reported to the veterinarian for further treatment.
“After working in the veterinary field, I decided to pursue my veterinary technician degree and get licensed to be able to take better care of our military working dogs,” said Jimenez.
According to Jimenez, she enjoys her hands-on role at the veterinary treatment facility. Every day she is able to learn something new and improve her skillset.
Providing excellent care to the military working dogs is one of her top priorities.
“I love medicine, and as a vet tech we provide the patient care, we draw blood, and check vitals,” said Jimenez. “Based on our care, the veterinarian can focus on their expertise like reading laboratory results. The better we [animal care technicians] are able to prepare for the vet, the easier it is to provide the best care possible for the patient.”
In the U.S. Army, animal care technicians go through eleven weeks of advanced individual training to prepare them for the job.
“I wanted to do, know, and learn more,” said Jimenez. “Going the extra mile and having additional veterinary education was important for me.”
Jimenez’s associate degree in veterinary technology is a two-year online program.
“It was very challenging, but I was lucky to have the leadership and the staff at the veterinary treatment facility to fully support my goals, it truly was a team effort,” said Jimenez.
“I work fulltime at the VTF, was in school and did the regular soldier things that come with being in the Army, such as missions, going to the range or the ten day long annual training exercise,” said Jimenez. “I still had to meet my school deadlines and juggle it all at the same time.”
Jimenez indicated she could not have done it without her support system.
“We were all in this together, my husband, my dog, my coworkers,” Jimenez added. “We sought out patients that I could use for exams, stayed for hours after work and recorded training videos again and again to submit to my school.”
According to veterinary leadership, throughout the entire process, Jimenez did not give up. Her dedication is truly inspiring.
“Her tenacity for this goal, which only makes her more ready for the clinical mission, is truly commendable,” said Lt. Col. Diane Collette, Reginal Veterinary Clinical Consultant at Public Health Command Europe. “Sgt. Jimenez is an exceptional technician and a true leader in this field.”
“For the videos, I had specific requirements and every small detail was graded,” said Jimenez. “Because school was online and my teachers didn’t see me in person, they had no idea if I had done it a million times before and knew how to do it or not. In the videos it had to be perfect.”
A licensed veterinary care technician directly impacts the quality of care and improves income into the clinic. Earning the license also requires the CE to maintain it, so this means that up to date practices are trained.
In 2022 the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America conducted a study and found that utilization and education is linked to job satisfaction and retention in the civilian sector.
The American Veterinary Medical Association reported that adding a vet to a clinic staffing increased revenue by 6% but adding a licensed veterinary care technician increased revenue by 18%.
“This is because when utilized correctly, a tech is able to allow the vet to focus on their scope of practice…,” added Jimenez. “A licensed veterinary technician has the education to help prevent medical mistakes and understand medications.”
This spring, Jimenez was asked to speak at the International Military Veterinary Symposium in Garmisch in front of international military veterinarians from more than twenty countries.
“I presented on the utilization of our military occupational specialty, a 68T, in a military clinic and resources available to 68Ts in regard to education opportunities and credentialling pathways,” said Jimenez. “I spoke about my experience and some issues, such as the funding, that I had experienced and compiled a list of free continuing education resources and resources for credentialling.”
According to Collette, “her presentation encouraged other 68Ts to pursue the path for becoming a certified veterinary technician, no matter the challenges.”
Sgt. Jimenez is still facing the challenge of having to pay for and fund her own travel back to the United States to sit her exam,” added Collette. “For leaders, this presentation highlighted the lack of process and support provided to 68Ts to pursue further certification in this field.”
Army Credentialing Opportunities On-Line, the Army’s credentialing program, lists all the certifications eligible for Credentialing Assistance. For the 68T MOS, three programs are listed, and one of them is the Veterinary Technician National Exam. However there currently isn’t a vendor approved. The process is estimated to take about six months to be approved, meaning that her July – August testing window likely won’t be covered by that route.
“This exam is required to be eligible to hold a license in any state but in order to sit for the exam, all but three states require at least an associate from an AVMA approved college,” said Jimenez. “Credential assistance is requested through the ArmyIgnitedED system but in order to request funding for the exam, the test must have an approved vendor to process the payment.”
“For years, AVS leaders have encouraged animal care specialists to pursue certification; however, the support does not extend beyond the VTF,” said Collette “Within the VTF, individual leaders who recognize the passion and potential in a soldier spend additional hours during and after work to see these soldiers succeed in their respective school’s programs. Additional attention is needed to set up systems or leverage current programs to make this process easier for motivated and talented soldiers, like Sgt. Jimenez, to pursue veterinary technician certification. Their efforts will directly and positively contribute to the readiness and care for MWDs.”
Jimenez is an inspiration for her leadership and fellow soldiers.
“Sgt. Courtney Jimenez is the only soldier I have served with that has completed the veterinary technology degree while serving,” said Public Health Activity-Rheinland Pfalz First Sgt. Casey Cole. “She definitely went above and beyond to achieve this goal and is an outstanding role model for other soldiers in the brigade and career field.”