Fort Hood veterinary services unit sent to Haiti
Did you know that the U.S. Army still has veterinary services units? While they provide health care for working dogs and other animals used by the Army, their primary role is sanitation. They assure that the latrines are sited correctly and safely, that the water supply is pure, and that the local bugs aren’t too numerous.
The chaplain said a prayer in a dimly lit gym, and a little-known Fort Hood unit embraced its fate.
The Soldiers of the 43rd Medical Detachment (veterinary services) perform an otherwise vastly overlooked mission from day to day, but early next week they’ll spearhead Fort Hood’s support to the devastation in Haiti, paving for themselves a legacy common to few military units.
The detachment officially retired its colors Jan. 22 and accepted its assignment as the military’s only full-service veterinary detachment deployed in the wake of the Jan. 13 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. There, the nearly 50 Soldiers of the 43rd Med. Det. will work tirelessly to inspect food and water entering the country for the sustenance of American military forces, victims and responders, and will provide medicinal and surgical care for search-and-rescue dogs deployed to the aftermath of the tragedy.
The troops will test for biological contaminants and insect and rodent infestation in food and water to mitigate the risks of food-borne diseases, something Lt. Col. Cheryl Sofaly, the detachment’s commander, says could destroy a country already on its knees.
“With all that’s going on, the last thing you need is food-borne illnesses,” Sofaly said.
Despite the tendency for many to miss the importance of the unit’s mission, Sofaly is certain her Soldiers’ assignment in Haiti will prove as nothing less than critical.
“It’s critical in reducing the likelihood of non-battle, disease-related injuries and ensuring forces can do their missions,” Sofaly said. “Some of the biggest problems [in Haiti] will come from non-potable water.”
When Sofaly received a call early Jan. 18 morning that would have her Soldiers standing tall in a matter of hours, she wasn’t surprised. She explained that the unit has been on call for months to support stateside terrorist-related attacks and natural disasters within a day’s notice. Needless to say, they were ready.
“We were kind of expecting it,” Sofaly said. “We have already been training to deal with disaster response in the U.S.”
The detachment also trains and works on a weekly basis with Fort Hood’s stray animal center and with dining facilities and fellow units to ensure the food Soldiers eat is healthy.
While in Haiti, the unit will scatter itself into five separate, fully functional food inspection and veterinary teams operating in different regions. Each team will have the capabilities and manpower necessary to test food and water; provide medicine and surgical care to military working dogs; and test for diseases with the potential of transference from animals to humans.
For Staff Sgt. Earl Arnold, the unit’s first sergeant, the opportunity to help a country in shambles and overwhelmed with catastrophe is something he welcomes with open arms. In fact, he looked forward to it.
“I was hoping we would get to go there and help the Haitian people,’” Arnold said.
From a small and modest set of bleachers snug against the gym wall, sons gazed upon fathers, wives gazed upon husbands, and friends gazed upon comrades. Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Lee Roupe, the commander of the 1st Medical Brigade, his eyes fixed on a formation of 43rd Medical Detachment Soldiers, praised the detachment’s mission.
“I know this will be more satisfying and more rewarding than anything you can imagine,” Roupe said. “You’re contributing to the relief of human suffering.”
The detachment is no stranger to combat zones, and has spent years coming and going in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Its Soldiers are slated to deploy again in September.
Soldiers know better than anyone that in every departure lingers a great deal of sadness and heartbreak, but in this case, also lingering is immeasurable motivation and a desire for Soldiers to work for a cause greater than themselves; something the world will never forget.
“The morale is high, and they’re all excited to go and do their jobs,” Sofaly said. “We all watched on the news and saw the devastation, and our hearts go out to them. To go there and help them, that’s important to all of us.”
Sometimes fate works in your favor.
Story by Spc. Christopher Gaylord
Table of contents for Haiti quake 2010
- Massive earthquake strikes Haiti
- Earthquake in Haiti – aftershocks continue
- Haiti earthquake aid
- Haiti quake damages pile up
- Horror in Haiti – the morning after the quake
- U.S. quickly responds to Haiti quake
- Infrastructure hurdles to Haiti quake relief
- U.S. Coast Guard on location in Haiti right now
- Strong aftershocks continue in Haiti
- PR Guard standing by – Gitmo damaged by Haiti quake
- Paras and Marines on alert for Haiti move
- Earthquake in Haiti update for January 13 evening
- Earthquake in Haiti – January 14 morning update
- Marines ready to assist Haiti after earthquake
- Earthquake in Haiti – Update for January 14 evening
- FEMA report on Haiti relief efforts for January 15
- Out of the night sky – Air Force secures Port-au-Prince airport
- Earthquake in Haiti – January 15 evening
- Haiti Quake Relief Funding Numbers
- But people are dying – thoughts on the Haitian disaster
- Aftershocks continue to rock Haiti
- Earthquake in Haiti – Update for January 16
- Haiti Quake Relief Funding Numbers for Jan 16
- Hospital ship Comfort sails for Haiti
- Baby delivered during Haiti evacuation
- Navy is delivering supplies to Haiti victims
- Hospital ship Comfort racing to Haiti
- Country club serves as forward base for Paras in Haiti
- Situation at Port-au-Prince airport improving
- Sanjay Gupta Assists Vinson Medical Team in Haiti
- USAID Update on the Haiti relief operation January 18
- Air drop to aid Haitian victims of earthquake
- Haiti Quake Relief Funding Numbers for Jan 18
- Earthquake in Haiti – morning update January 19
- Los Angeles rescuers save Haitian woman
- Stories from Haiti – update for Jan 20 morning
- American volunteers in Haiti
- American donations for Haiti earthquake relief – Jan 21
- Haiti earthquake relief update for Jan 21
- Haitians receiving care and support aboard Bataan
- Hospital ship Comfort healing, hugging Haitians
- Brief update on Navy and Marine relief efforts in Haiti Jan 23
- Fort Hood veterinary services unit sent to Haiti
- Harbor damage in Port-au-Prince
- American giving for Haiti relief as of January 25
- Comparison of Haiti donations to Katrina and the tsunami
- Haitian Coast Guard base becomes hub for quake relief
- Comparison of Haiti donations to Katrina and the tsunami Jan 28
- High tech warbird aids Haiti relief efforts
- High-speed ferrys en route to Haiti
- Southern Command briefs on Haiti situation
- Paras opening roads in Haiti
- Aid from Dominican Republic via Kentucky National Guard
- Haitian assistance stories for February 3
- Haitian relief efforts slow
- Marine calls Leogane Haiti home
- Haiti earthquake relief update for February 7
- Army medics at work in Haiti relief effort
- Haiti earthquake relief funding update for February 14
- Keeping Haitians informed
- A tent means a lot to Haitian orphans
- Italian troops aid paras in Haiti rubble clearance
- Landslide in Haiti tests Special Ops rescuers
- Navy and Marines bridge Haitian divide from government
- Haitian earthquake relief – update for February 28
- Haitian earthquake update – March 4
- Air Guard Engineers Help Haitians
- Things are baaaaad in Haiti
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