FORT POLK, La. –
Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital celebrates the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps for 106 years of support to the nation and their dedication to the health and welfare of the Soldiers, Families and pets who live and work at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Capt. Aaron Judson, doctor of veterinary medicine at the JRTC and Fort Polk Veterinary Clinic, serves as chief for Louisiana Branch Veterinary Services.
Judson said Army veterinarians can be found on every military installation around the world.
“I became a veterinarian because I was always interested in healthcare, and this allows me to do a lot of things without specializing in one area,” he said. “Being a veterinarian gives me a lot of freedom. For instance at our clinic we can do everything from internal medicine, surgery, dentistry or radiology. We have the ability to expand our services and help whoever comes through the door.”
Judson said the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps is comprised of commissioned and warrant officers within the U.S. Veterinary Services. In Louisiana his team serves the JRTC and Fort Polk, Camp Beauregard, Barksdale Air Force Base, Naval Station Belle Chase along with Louisiana National Guard and reserve units throughout the state.
“Working at the Fort Polk Veterinary Clinic is just a small part of our jobs. Taking care of service members’ pets is a way for us to support the warfighter and as a readiness platform for us,” he said. “As Veterinary Corps officers, we have to keep up our clinical skills in order to provide care for military working dogs. By conducting routine exams, giving immunizations and performing minor or emergency surgeries for family pets, we are able to keep our skills up in the event we are called to deploy.”
Judson said there are four pillars of the Veterinary Corps.
“The first pillar is animal health for our working animals; working dogs, working equines and aquatic animals,” he said. “There are actually goats at Fort Polk that we get to take care of, too. These animals enhance the village atmosphere and create realism in the scenarios for our rotational brigade combat teams who train at the Joint Readiness Training Center. We treat the goats the same as government owned animals with general husbandry care. We work with the farm manager to keep them up-to-date with immunizations, address health issues and make sure they are well taken care of.”
Judson said the majority of military working animals are dogs, followed by horses and then marine animals.
According to the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific, bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions are trained and used for locating and recovering objects in harbors, coastal areas and at depths in the open sea. Both dolphins and sea lions are used to assist security personnel in detecting and apprehending unauthorized swimmers and divers that might attempt to harm the Navy’s people, vessels or harbor facilities.
Judson said the marine mammal program has been around for several decades and it’s a unique opportunity for U.S. Army Veterinary Corps officers.
“The second pillar is food protection,” he said. “Everyone needs to eat so it’s the part of our job that affects the most people. We ensure everything that comes on the installation is wholesome, safe to eat and free from contamination.”
Judson said everything at the commissary has been inspected at its source by a Veterinary Corps officer.
“We are responsible for food inspection from farm to fridge,” he said. “The Department of Public Health, Environmental Health folks do the fridge to fork inspections.”
Judson said veterinary public health is the third pillar of the corps.
“That is everything from our rabies bite report program to zoonotic diseases such as skin infections, parasites or viruses,” he said. “We advise and assist the garrison on every military installation, and in a deployed environment as well.”
Judson said if someone is bit by an animal they should go to the hospital, not the vet clinic and the hospital will work with his team who will provide more background on animal borne diseases to ensure proper treatment of the patient.
“Our fourth pillar of veterinary service is research and development,” he said. “The Department of Defense Food Analysis and Diagnostic Laboratory is where we send off any samples that need testing.”
According to their website the mission of FADL is to provide force health protection through innovative, adaptive, timely and accurate testing of all food, water and diagnostic submissions for the DoD. The lab consists of four testing sections and two administrative departments.
Judson said FADL takes care of all the food and animal samples from around the world in support of the DoD.
“FADL is a diagnostic laboratory at Joint Base Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas. They do all the rabies testing, food testing; different bacteriological, serological, viral and blood testing,” he said. “For instance Soldiers who PCS overseas need a health certificate for their pet. Some overseas location require Fluorescent Antibody Virus Neutralization (FAVN) test (or a live virus test which determines whether the animal has adequate levels of rabies antibodies following vaccination); those are done at the FADL.”
Judson said they are a very small corps with a large impact.
“We couldn’t do what we do without all of veterinary services, including our enlisted Soldiers, vet techs and civilian teammates,” he said. “We have a unique job; we provide a unique service to the Department of Defense because the Army is the only branch with a Veterinary Corps.”