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NEWS | June 19, 2015

Caring for our military working dogs

By Story by U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Butcher 63rd Regional Support Command

FORT MCCOY, Wis. - When service dog casualties occur on the battlefield, Army veterinarians are usually a great distances from their patients. 

Veterinary units worked to educate U.S. sister service members and our British military counterparts on critical life-saving skills needed to care for military working dogs and their handlers during 2015 Global Medic. 

Global Medic is the premier medical portion of the 78th Training Division’s Combat Support Training Exercise (CSTX) 78-15-02, which is the largest U.S. Army Reserve exercise, with more than 10,000 service members to include British and Canadians forces conducting training throughout the United States. 

U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Robert Miller, who is currently serving with the 994th Veterinary Detachment out of Round Rock, Texas, gave a class on Forward Operating Base Liberty, teaching a multinational audience how to render aid to injured working dogs. 

When asked about the more common injuries to working dogs, Miller stated that, “Out there, we are seeing gunshot wounds, as far as trauma, and dogs in these other countries have a tendency to overheat, so they are prone to heat exhaustion. They can experience heat injury if they work too much. Those are the main things that we orient our trainers and our military service working dog handlers to take care of and address.”

“The chances of military working dogs finding immediate care from a veterinarian are low,” Miller said. “It's going to take a little while to find those assets, so we want our combat support hospital to be able to take over and care for the military working dog until we get there, because they are going to be the most available form of support.” 

U.S. Air Force Reserve Capt. Tammy Rush, a nurse with the 59th Aeromedical Safety Squadron based out of Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, commented on the value of the training she received during Global Medic/CSTX 78-15-02.

“It was extremely valuable, I really enjoyed it,” Rush said. “We are all Army Reserve Soldiers, so we want to do what we love to do and that’s why we joined the military.”

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Jesus Martinez, a medic from San Antonio, Texas, with Company B, 228th Combat Support Hospital, related his experience after he attended a briefing presented by Miller about rendering aid to the military working dog.

“Today, we are having a class on the military working dog,” Martinez said. “To my understanding, in theater, it is quite common for the military working dog to enter into a combat support hospital, so it’s important for us to realize how to initially treat the dog and provide life-saving intervention as the first point of contact.”

Martinez said the training has helped him be prepared for the likely event of having to care for an injured military working dog.

“Capt. Miller has been able to express the needs of the military working dog and the many similarities between human and canine anatomy,” he continued. “Overall, Capt. Miller stressed that biology is biology. I’m very happy with the instruction that we got. I feel it’s really useful.”

The value that these working dogs add to the Army can be seen in the efforts that Soldiers invest in life-saving training missions.