Story by Capt. Martha Petersante
TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan - For most, the childhood dreams of becoming a firefighter, police officer, doctor, astronaut or some other "cool job" may not come true and have shifted to something else.
For one Army Reservist here she is living her dream, which begun as early as 5 years old, every morning when she wakes up, puts on her scrubs and goes to work as veterinarian.
Capt. Angela Demaree, who is deployed with the 422nd Medical Detachment Veterinary Services at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and visits the Transit Center at Manas on a quarterly basis, always "wanted to be a veterinarian from the time I was little and took our family cat to the vet's office. This is one of those childhood dreams that actually came true."
The captain did not initially raise her right hand to join the military directly after completing her studies at Purdue University. She found the calling to serve her country during an early morning run while working in Washington D.C., as a lobbyist for the American Veterinary Medical Association.
"When I was running by the [Lincoln] Memorial, I thought of the Gettysburg Address, which calls on every citizen to serve their country in some form. As I reflected on those words, I felt a patriotic duty to join the service."
Taking care of animals
Demaree is charged with oversight of the health and welfare of military working dogs. She handles issues ranging from emergency care to routine medical treatment such as wellness checkups, health certificates and dental exams.
It is a passion and true love of her job that drives her to ensure the dogs receive the best possible care available.
Our MWD are susceptible to many of the same aliments as our service members, she said. They can be affected by stress, experience dehydration or hypothermia, or sustain injuries such as sprain or tendinitis from a strained or overworked muscle.
MWD Celo, a 4-year-old German Shepherd, deployed from the 355th Security Forces Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., and his handler, Staff Sgt. Robert Beaudoin, had "first-paw" experience in this recently when Celo came up lame after completing training, immediately causing Beaudoin to seek medical care for him.
"Celo is my teammate in everything we do. I trust him fully - to the point that my life is in his control and the same goes for him," he said. "That kind of bond only comes from time and experience with each other."
As a service member would be put on medical profile in order to heal, so was Celo when he was put on light duty and given extra time to recuperate. Arriving at the proper diagnosis and achieving the balance between ensuring the animal's health and meeting the mission needs is something that Demaree works hard to maintain.
Capt. Demaree is incredibly knowledgeable, Beaudoin said. She understands the bond between handler and dog, and along with asking the right questions, this allows her to glean as much information as she can to help the dog.
Taking care of service members, training providers
However, her job also takes her out of the exam room and into the local community where she audits approved food and beverage sources. Part of the military veterinarian mission, which some may not typically associate with a vet, is food safety, Demaree said. In this role, she visits approved sources to ensure they are following the quality and sanitation standards outlined in their contracts.
Although this may not be as exciting as working directly with patients, I enjoy this type of work, she said. I know that my actions are directly contributing to the immediate welfare of the airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines, both stationed here and those transiting through.
Training is another part of the veterinary corps' mission. During the quarterly visits to the Transit Center, the veterinarian on staff teams with members of the 376th Expeditionary Medical Group by training the medics to be able to handle a medical emergency with one of the MWDs.
"They are used to dealing with two-legged patients; we work to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge and training to react, should the need arise, to assist in the event of a medical emergency with one of our working dogs. Overall, the medical team here has been great in a reach-back, support role," she said.
Recently she was able to team with the Transit Center's dentist and dental technician to evaluate a dog with a fractured canine tooth. The medical group has the tools, training, and necessary facilities to support, and together, our efforts ensure the dogs are receiving high-quality care in a deployed environment, she said.
It's one team
Our military veterinarians are a big part of our kennels and security forces team, Beaudoin said. "Not only are they providing health care to our MWDs, as needed, but by inspecting the kennel facilities they ensure a safe, healthy living environment for our partners. Additionally, by training handlers in life-saving first-aid skills for our [canine] partners, similar in nature to the combat lifesaver course or self-aid and buddy care training we all receive, we are better equipped to complete each mission.
"Plus, [military veterinarian] first-hand knowledge of how the military operates, by living and working in that type of environment, allows for them to have a better understanding of what is expected of a MWD team and the fast pace of our deployments," he said