MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Since the war on terrorism began in March 2003, there has been a steady increase in the use of military working dogs, according to Army Col. David Rolfe in an article by Donna Mills, the American Forces Press Service.
More than 500 military working dogs are trained each year to serve alongside Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines, to guard military installations and detect drugs and explosives.
The health and care for these assets to America’s fighting force is vital, and is a duty assigned to the U.S. Army and their veterinarians.
Maj. Greg Taylor, an Army reservist from South Dakota, is activated for two weeks, each year, and travels to military bases in Southern California to provide veterinary services.
He makes a stop at the Combat Center to provide care for the 10 military working dogs stationed here with the Provost Marshal’s Office Military Working Dogs unit.
“Military working dogs are proving to become more and more useful as time goes by,” said Taylor. “They’re able to go ahead of the troops to detect explosives, and this is saving the lives of our service members.”
Records show the use of dogs in battle since World War I and more so in World War II, but their abilities are broadening as technology is advancing, he said.
“They’re starting to train dogs in the military to track down snipers and the people who plant [improvised explosive devices],” Taylor said. “This makes them more valuable to our troops.”
Although military working dogs are on top of his priority list, there are other duties veterinarians and their staff performs with just as much care.
“We monitor the safety of all the food and drink resources aboard the base,” explained Staff Sgt. Chad Baker, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of food inspections at the Combat Center Animal Clinic.
This includes the commissary, the main exchange, the fast food facilities, the mess halls and the food shipped into these facilities.
“We make sure the contracts are fulfilled,” Baker said. “We make sure the military is getting what they paid for.”
Veterinarians aboard military installations also provide care for the pets of active duty, reserve and retired service members.
Although the animal clinic isn’t a full-service clinic, the facility is able to give vaccinations, referrals and minor injury analysis.
With a new full-time veterinarian scheduled to come in late October, full services including neutering, spaying, and various surgeries, will be available for PMO’s working dogs and service member’s pets throughout the base, said Taylor.
Until then, Taylor recommends several measures to take for keeping pets healthy:
• Give pets all necessary vaccinations, including rabies, distemper and parvo viruses. The clinic is able to provide these vaccinations.
• In the summer heat, provide a shady area for pets or keep them inside the house, and always have cool water available for them.
• Don’t over-feed pets. An overweight pet is more likely to experience heat exhaustion or illness.
• Feed pets a guaranteed nutritionally balanced brand of food. Less-expensive, no-name brands are like junk food to a dog, said Taylor.