News: All Creatures Great and Small
Story by Sgt. Gretel Sharpee
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba – From the wildlife around U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay to some 350 pets on the base, and everything in between – they all see the Soldiers working at the Guantanamo Bay Veterinary Treatment Facility.
Treating all of these animals keeps the six personnel working in the facility busy, especially since they are also responsible for ensuring the quality and integrity of all the food coming onto the island.
Combining veterinary services and food safety might not be a connection that is made easily, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture employs veterinarians to inspect food and plants and ensure food safety. The Army is also the only branch of the military to have veterinarians through the Army Veterinary Command which is a part of the Army Medical Command.
Another part of the facility's responsibility is extended to military working dogs here. Their care and conditioning is a task that the veterinarian here on base, Army Capt. Stephanie Hall, takes seriously.
"Keeping the dogs in good condition is important," said Hall, who is also the officer in-charge of the Veterinary Treatment Facility. "I work with their handlers to make sure their conditioning program is adequate and so they can identify conditions that relate to their [dogs'] health."
Hall has specific days a week that are dedicated to handlers and the working dogs, but she also has regular hours to see the base's privately owned animals, or pets.
Just like vet clinics at home, the Soldiers here make sure pets are up-to-date on all of their shots and see a trend on some things local pets are being treated for.
"Animals I see day-to-day have allergies from the environment down here that they didn't have wherever they came from," said Hall.
Along with the normal pets, the Soldiers here also treat the local wildlife such as iguanas when they need assistance.
When looking at the facility from the outside, it may look unassuming, but for the Soldiers working inside, it is a busy, multipurpose facility that treats animals for everything from routine check-ups to emergency situations.