FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Soldiers traveled from across the gulf coast to attend the inactivation ceremony of the Gulf Coast District Veterinary Command at the United States Army Aviation Museum Dec. 16.

The ceremony kicked off with a welcoming address by Sgt. 1st Class LaShonda Young, operations noncommissioned officer.

"The inactivation ceremony is an event that is rich with tradition, symbolism and heritage," said Young. "The key to the ceremony is the casing of the units' guidon. The guidon is the commanding symbol of authority, representing responsibility to the organization. The casing of the guidon symbolizes the inactivation of the unit."

The GCDVC had command and control of three branches in Alabama, western Georgia, eastern and southern Mississippi, and the panhandle of Florida, according to Young.

Some of the responsibilities of the veterinary command included: providing complete veterinary care for all government-owned animals; providing public health services to privately-owned animals for authorized customers; and providing Veterinary Corps officer support to the U.S. Air Force Clinical Research Laboratory at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.

The inactivation of the GCDVC is a result of the merger of the veterinary command with the Public Health Command, according to Maj. Karen Weekes, commander of the GCDVC on Fort Rucker, and is a realignment in the command structure.

"With that realignment, the GCDVC will be officially inactivated and the public health command district ward will be activated," said Weekes. "We are now somewhat of a detachment unit that now falls under that command."

"The U.S. Army veterinary service personnel that made up the command will continue to proudly serve the Department of Defense of the United States, our nations Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and their Families," said Col. George Renison, guest speaker and commander of the Southeast Regional Veterinary Command. "I ask that all Soldiers of the GCDVC give the same level of dedication and selfless service to the new public health command.

"We've held inactivation ceremonies for the Southeast Regional Veterinary Command, the Great Plains Regional Veterinary Command, and the United States Army Veterinary Command in San Antonio, so it seemed only appropriate to hold another ceremony, here with the Soldiers, to commemorate the GCDVC colors at the home of its headquarters here at Fort Rucker," said the colonel.

"The GCDVC had the command and control of the three branches: Fort Rucker, the Naval Air Station and Fort Benning," said Renison, "each with missions to provide the complete spectrum of authorized veterinary services to all of the DOD agencies in Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi."

The GDVC also integrated Reserve components into the district, and employed and trained ready veterinary personnel in support for of the continued operations, according to Renison.
They were responsible for supporting four Army posts, seven Air Force bases, four Navy stations and one Marine Corps base, he said.

"The GCDVC mission was to provide animal care, food safety, food defense and public health services," said the SERVC commander. "They cared for 140 military working dogs at 17 locations, over 38,000 outpatient visits at 11 treatment facilities, and supported over 47,000 active duty, retired, National Guard, Reserve and Family members during 2011."

Weekes said that the inactivation will not affect the Fort Rucker veterinary treatment facility.

"[The veterinary clinic] will still be here and it will still be able to provide veterinary care for the pets here on Fort Rucker, as well as care and support of the military working dogs," she said. "The only changes that are coming are the command structure, which the Soldiers will answer to, but regular clients should not notice a difference at all.

"With this transformation, I want to emphasize that the level of care and dedication of our veterinary services is going to remain the same throughout our areas of responsibilities," said Weekes. "The animal care and food safety mission will press forward with the same level of loyalty that we have shown over the years. Overall, our titles are changing, but our faces will remain the same."