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    Army veterinarian serves animals, country

    VETRETE mission serves animal needs in Belize

    Photo By 1st Lt. Kali Gradishar | U.S. Army Capt. Brian Joseph, veterinarian from the 149th Medical Detachment at Joint...... read more read more

    COROZAL, Belize - For someone to go through basic officer training at 57 years old, he must have a fairly compelling reason to join the U.S. armed forces.

    That reason for U.S. Army Capt. Brian Joseph, now a veterinarian in uniform, was one former military work dog named Ringo.

    From meeting Ringo to wearing a uniform

    Seven years ago, Joseph attended a Continuing Education Veterinary meeting in San Diego, Calif. While perusing the exhibitors' hall on break during the meeting, he came across a U.S. Army Veterinary Corps booth. There, he met Ringo, a retired U.S. Marine Corps Belgian Malinois.

    "If Ringo wasn't there, I might not have stopped; but I stopped to talk to Ringo, and I heard about his experiences," Joseph recalled. "Ringo had done four tours in Iraq with the Marines, and he had retired and lived with an Army veterinarian."

    Joseph reasoned that if this dog could deploy to a warzone, then he could do the same, he said.

    "I thought, 'That sounds like a really great thing to do, a really great way to pay back for the life that I've had. I'm not a wealthy person, but I've gotten to do a lot of really interesting things -- more than most people ever even think about doing," Joseph said.

    So, the veterinarian called his wife to ask her to meet Ringo and the recruiter. She met them both and was fully supportive of the decision to join the military, regardless of age. Joining the military would require great determination. It would also require an age waiver for Joseph; he was nearly 15 years past the U.S. Army Reserve cut-off age.

    "I turned in my paperwork, (then) after 15 months, they said I was too old," Joseph said. "I really wanted to do it, and I'm really not good with people telling me I can't do something."

    "They don't know what they've got themselves in for now that they've told you 'no,'" Joseph recalled his wife saying.

    He greatly desired becoming a part of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, so he called in a favor. He called Ross Perot, the famed U.S. Navy veteran, politician and businessman.

    "I called Ross Perot's office because I had done him a favor involving leopard sharks a few years before, and Ross Perot is the greatest patriot I've ever met, as well as the most gracious human being I've ever met," Joseph said. "He knew I was applying, so he (made a few calls on my behalf)."

    Two weeks later, Joseph received a call.

    - Army rep: Are you sure you want to do this?
    - Joseph: Yes. I do.
    - Army rep: Would you be willing to join as a captain instead of as a major?

    "I said, 'Sure, I don't care,'" Joseph recalled. "So, that was how it started."

    Helping animals, helping people

    He went to the Basic Officer Leaders Course in 2009 at the age of 57. At 58, he deployed to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, then Operation New Dawn.

    There, he not only cared for the military working dogs ensuring security at the installation, but he also assisted the deployed public health physician, worked with the host nation military with disaster relief logistics and taught biology to University of Maryland University College students.

    "The reason I'm in the Army, and the reason I do these things, is because I want to make the world a better place," Joseph said.

    This sentiment was able to shine through during Joseph's humanitarian mission experiences.

    He supported the Beyond the Horizons 2012 humanitarian mission in villages near Coban, Guatemala. In April 2013, Joseph traveled to Kotzebue, Alaska, with a team of approximately 40 veterinarians and animal care specialists, serving 10 rural villages above the Arctic Circle in support of Arctic Care 2013.

    "It was very grueling work, but it was also very rewarding," Joseph said.

    After his third humanitarian mission with the military, and most recently, Joseph departed Belize after operating as the officer in charge of a veterinary readiness training exercise, or VETRETE, with New Horizons Belize 2014. The VETRETE was included in the overall medical readiness training mission, or MEDRETE.

    New Horizons is a multi-faceted exercise geared toward providing mutual medical, veterinary and engineering training opportunities for Belize Defence Force, Canadian and U.S. military members.

    In Belize, Joseph and a duo of animal care specialists worked with the Belize Agricultural Health Authority and Belize Public Health representatives to care for animals in the Corozal region.

    The primary goal was to "increase meat production and increase the quality of life for the population," Joseph said. But an additional goal included training the enlisted animal care specialists since they had worked mostly with military working dogs and didn't have much experience with livestock.

    "I really want to mentor our young Soldiers -- turn them into leaders, turn them into contributors -- so they're able to go any place in the world and do good things," he said.

    According to U.S. Army Spc. Megan Ladesh, an animal care specialist from the 149th Medical Detachment, Veterinary Services out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Joseph is one of the best veterinarians she has worked with.

    "We worked amazing together. Captain Joseph is very hands on. He makes us do so much, and teaches us along the way," Ladesh said. "He just has so much knowledge."

    Even with extensive knowledge, Joseph has found something meaningful to take away from each mission he has supported.

    "I have loved all three of my MEDRETE missions," Joseph remarked. "Working with the local people, be it Inupiat leaders above the Arctic Circle or folks like Dr. Joe Myers of the Belize Agricultural Health Administration, is the best.

    "The seamless nature of working with other services is really impressive," he said. "We're all on the same team."

    Out of uniform, in the civilian world

    When he is not acting as the veterinary field officer with the 149th MDVS, Joseph holds many roles in the international veterinary community.

    The San Diego, Calif., native and San Diego University alum currently resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and is the director of zoological operations at the Assiniboine Park Zoo there. He is also the North American lead veterinarian for each one of the five Sea Life Centers in North America.

    "For me, it is about paying back for the good life I have had, trying to make the world a better place and serving as a positive role model to help shape young leaders," Joseph noted.

    "I like to push the youngsters to be the best that they can be by serving as a good example of working hard, doing your very best and never, ever giving up," he added. "I have thoroughly valued all of my Army experiences. My only regret is that I didn't join earlier!"



    Date Taken: 04.22.2014
    Date Posted: 04.22.2014 12:14
    Story ID: 127072
    Location: COROZAL, BZ
    Hometown: GRAPEVINE, TEXAS, US
    Hometown: PHOENIX, ARIZONA, US

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