The 94th Engineer Detachment, with assistance from the Veterinary Treatment Facility, hosted a community engagement event Saturday at the Main Post Exchange parking lot, where families brought worn teddy bears for “surgery” and watched demonstrations by mine-sniffing K-9s.
“Interacting with the kids and showing them what the Veterinary Corps is all about, hopefully we’re making some future veterinarians, Soldiers and vet techs,” said Capt. Ashley Butler with the VTF.
Although the dogs came with their handlers, no one attended in uniform, and because of that, children were welcomed to pet and interact with the dogs.
1st Lt. Aaron Schneck, detachment commander, said he appreciates the public’s enthusiasm for animals, but he asked people to allow military working dogs the space to work when they’re on the clock.
“When you see the harness on them, that’s their working time, that’s when you should let them be,” he said. “If they’re not wearing the harness, it’s OK to pet them (with permission).”
Collaboration among service members in military working dog units and the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps is prevalent within active duty situations through animal care specialists, Butler said.
“We actually just did a training with (the detachment) a few weeks ago,” she said. “These guys can deploy without any veterinarians nearby, so really the root of it is we’re trying to prepare them for if they did deploy with these dogs, and to be the point of care there until they can get them to the vet who may be miles out in theater.”
Soldiers assigned to the 94th Engr. Det. are all combat engineers, and the training they — and the dogs — receive through their unit is unique to Fort Leonard Wood, Schneck said. Soldiers transition back to combat engineer units after their assignment with their K-9 partner is finished — a farewell which Spc. Victoria Mrasz, 94th Engr. Det., said is difficult.
“Oh yeah — that bond is pretty strong,” she said.