By Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp
1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs
CAMP TAJI, Iraq -- Members of Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team Baghdad 5, attached to the 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, working alongside personnel from the 492nd Civil Affairs Battalion are bringing supplies to Iraqi veterinarians throughout the Ironhorse area of operations.
As part of a newly established veterinarian assistance program, the EPRT and 492nd Civil Affairs Battalion gave veterinarian supply kits to four Iraqi veterinarians at the Taji Modular Governance Center, Dec. 10, during a class which familiarized them with the program.
"One of the problems in this country is that there are a lot of unemployed veterinarians and what this EPRT has done is identified vets in the area who we can provide equipment through a short contract and ensure that they get back to work," said Palmer, Alaska native Maj. Kevin Wellington, a veterinarian with the 492nd Civil Affairs Battalion, attached to Multi-National Division-Baghdad. "We assist them by giving them veterinarian kits and a knowledge base of the equipment—how to use it and what it's for."
Each kit contains instrument trays for cold storage, test tube equipment for blood samples, basic microscope accessories, hoof testers to work with the hoof abscesses, nose leads for livestock, stomach tubes and a speculum among many other tools of the veterinarian trade.
"We want this to be a program that helps you make a good living for the services you provide," said Lt. Col. Harvey Fitzgerald, senior agri-business advisor for EPRT Baghdad 5, as he spoke to the vets during the class. "What's important to remember is that some of these supplies will run out, so you must charge a fee for services to buy back more replacements for this kit."
"This is a one-time gift of this equipment," added Fitzgerald, who hails from Hermosa, S.D. "Perhaps your practice will be successful and you will be able to help another veterinarian get started."
In return for the kits, the veterinarians must participate in the one-year program through which they report every three months about how they use the kits.
In each quarterly report, the veterinarians will relate how many farms they have visited, how many cattle, poultry or other animals they have treated, and the nature of their visit such as to vaccinate animals or a health check due to a disease problem. Along with that, they will also annotate in their reports the most serious health problems they have encountered.
Once they have completed the one-year program, the kits are the veterinarians' to keep.
"We would like to have your feedback which will help others in Iraq who participate in this program in the future," said Wellington as he spoke to the vets. "Techniques and procedures change so your feedback is very important in helping us make improvements."
"Also if there is a serious outbreak of disease, we need to know about it," Wellington added.
Much of the information garnered through the program will be used to help improve agriculture in Iraq with regards to things such as animal production and reproduction, according to Raad Al-Diwan, an Iraqi veterinarian who works with veterinarian operations for Multi-National Division-Baghdad.
Al-Diwan teaches an animal husbandry course for Iraqi veterinarians along with other classes which are designed to aid in improving situations for farmers who raise livestock.
"For the Iraqi farmer his animals are everything," said Al-Diwan. "When vets give a hand to helping his animals, they are initiating strong, lasting relationships with the farmer."
"Projects that help rural areas through getting vets to teach farmers how to take care of their animals will be the kind of things that will be important in helping us to sustain veterinarian operations in Iraq and reach our target of improving animal production and reproduction in the country," added Al-Diwan.
Fitzgerald said that being able to participate in the program has been a worthwhile experience.
"To have the ability to enable these Iraqi veterinarians to travel and deliver their services to farmers who need them is very important," said Fitzgerald. "We're very excited to be able to deliver the kits to them."