News: Army veterinarians improve health and morale in Sinai Peninsula
Story by Sgt. Thomas Duval
EL GORAH, Egypt-- Throughout history, animals have helped comfort war-torn Soldiers, eliminate the threat of IED’s with a single sniff, and have even brought peace in the midst of chaos.
But when these four-legged sidekicks are not patrolling the streets or supporting a Soldier in need who takes care of them?
Here in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt that responsibility rests on the shoulders of Capt. Ashley Hydrick and her team.
Hydrick, a veterinarian assigned to the Multinational Force and Observers works around the clock with other Soldiers to provide care, medical aid and routine treatment for approximately 70 cats and dogs, spread out over multiple camps and remote outposts along the Egyptian and Israeli border.
“It’s not an easy job,” Hydrick laughed. “My job is to treat any animal that walks through the door.”
And by any animal she means any! In recent months, the MFO team has provided medical treatment with continuous care for a rabbit, a pair of falcons, a camel, donkey and a chameleon.
Although it may seem like a daunting task, the Florida native knows the influence a healthy animal- often referred to as a mascot- can have on the Soldiers and their mission.
“One of the primary purposes of the mascots is to assist with improving MFO morale,” Hydrick said. “Anyone from any contingent can come and play with the mascots or take one for a walk.”
Canadian Capt. Christy Stef, a staff officer with the MFO, is just one of the many service members to take advantage of this program and understands firsthand how it improves morale.
“No matter what has happened in your day, the dogs are thrilled to see you. They make it seem like you personally have made their day better and give you unconditional love,” Stef said. “Being in a camp environment, far from our families and friends, receiving affection is wonderful.”
The animals don’t just improve morale they can also protect the Soldiers and offer a tactical advantage by alerting them of any unwanted visitors.
“The mascots are actually recognized by the MFO as force protection… they alert you when someone is coming into an area,” Hydrick said.
Many of the pets treated and housed by the MFO are adopted from a local shelter while the others are strays needing a new home and minimal medical treatment.
In the barren Sinai Peninsula fresh food and water can at times be a scarce commodity while scorching temperatures make the two a necessity for survival.
“Animals who otherwise wouldn’t have regular food and water available now have it consistently,” Hydrick added.
Food and clean water are not the only services provided by Hydrick and her team. Each mascot of the MFO receives annual vaccines, monthly flea treatments and a new companion.
Each dog remains with the MFO veterinarian staff for six months before moving to a remote outpost. Other animals like cats are temporarily adopted by members of the MFO family.
Once they’re at their final location the mascots are under the watchful eye of their handler, but the mission isn’t complete for Hydrick and her team.
In order to ensure the health of each animal, Ashley and her staff are always on call, ready to move out at a moment’s notice.
The Multinational Force & Observers (MFO) is and independent peacekeeping organization which is headquartered in Rome and based in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Created by agreement between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel it is comprised of military members and from 13 nations. Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, the Republic of the Fiji Islands, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the United States and Uruguay contribute contingents to make up the MFO's Force.