Veterinary Corps celebrates 101st birthday Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 June 2017
By Capt. Chris Magee
Special to GUIDON

The Army Medical Department accomplishes amazing things every day around the world, but what’s their best kept secret?

I may be a bit biased, but I’ll contend that it’s the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps.

From humble beginnings in 1776, when Gen. George Washington directed that a “regiment of horse with a farrier” be raised, to the official commissioning of the Veterinary Corps on June 3, 1916, the Corps has evolved into a Food Safety, Public Health, Research and Veterinary Health force that serves all branches of the Department of Defense.

We work to conserve the fighting strength of not only our valued four-legged warriors, but also support the remainder of the upright forces.

Why does the Army have a Veterinary Corps?

The obvious reason is animal care. While our top priority is the Military Working Dogs, we also care for the personal pets of Soldiers and retirees. Horses are less numerous in the military these days, but we are responsible for our ceremonial cavalry and caisson horse units throughout the country.

At Fort Leonard Wood, we have almost 3,000  active patient records and see an average of 25 to 30 appointments each day.

We conduct wellness exams, health certificates for travel, vaccines, sick call visits, X-rays, ultrasounds, and a variety of laboratory tests.

We also conduct reproductive surgeries, mass removals, dental cleanings and a variety of other procedures as needed.

We mainly see dogs and cats, but we’ve also had goats, llamas, chickens, ducks, ferrets, rabbits and other critters visit us, as well.
Capt. Chris Magee performs a routine puppy exam at the veterinary clinic at Fort Leonard Wood. Courtesy photo

If you have a pet, we are here for you.

What may be less known is our responsibility in food safety and defense.

If you’ve eaten at a dining facility on post, grabbed a snack at the Exchange, or bought groceries at the Commissary, rest assured a veterinarian and a veterinary food inspector has played a huge role in ensuring the safety of that food source and its handling and storage before it gets to your plate.

Ever wondered who made sure those MREs are safe to eat in the field?

Yep, we do that, too.

Over the years, veterinarians have played an increasing role in public health and safety.

After realizing the importance of collaboration among various medical and environmental sciences, a new initiative of “One Health” was born.

This initiative recognizes the vital connection between human health, animal health, and the health of our environment, and promotes the further study and advancement of the well-being of those three intertwined aspects.

A very tangible way you might see us involved here at Fort Leonard Wood is our partnership with the hospital and the Preventive Medicine department in rabies virus prevention. We are in constant contact when a human patient is bitten by an animal, either a wild animal or a pet, to ensure that the victim is not at risk for rabies or to advise on further steps if they are at risk.

But it doesn’t stop at rabies — there are many diseases that threaten our health that directly involve animals. Diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans are known as “zoonotic,” and those actually account for about 60 percent of all human diseases and more than 70 percent of all new diseases.

The “One Health” initiative’s slogan states, “One World, One Medicine, One Health,” and the Veterinary Corps is proud to be at the forefront.

As you can see, we have a wide-ranging, important and rewarding job in the Veterinary Corps across the globe, as well as right here at Fort Leonard Wood.

The Veterinary Corps is made up of some of the finest, most professional Soldiers in the United States Army, and I’ve been blessed to be part of the team here at Fort Leonard Wood for the past two years.

I am proud to have served with such a dedicated group.

As the Veterinary Corps celebrates its 101st birthday, I consider the storied history, and can only imagine what lies ahead. Serving to heal, honored to serve.

(Editor’s note: Magee is a veterinarian at Fort Leonard Wood’s veterinary clinic.)
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 21 June 2017 )