News: Marines facilitate veterinary care for Afghan farmers
Story by Sgt. Scott Whittington
GARMSIR DISTRICT, Helmand province, Afghanistan — The expression "goat rope" usually refers to something unorganized, but service members here helped local farmers with their roped goats, sheep and cows with free medical treatment.
Marines from 4th Civil Affairs Group, attached to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 3, hosted the project for Afghan livestock, Oct. 9, in the Garmsir District center.
"It's not just something nice to have," said Capt. Micah P. Caskey IV, civil affairs officer. "This is the people's livelihood."
More than 60 farmers, and one local veterinarian, brought 717 animals — sheep, goats and cows — to the market to get complimentary veterinary treatment to treat and prevent worms and illnesses. Two military animal doctors from the U.S. Army and British Royal Army provided their assistance for the civil action project.
U.S. Army Capt. John M. Winston III, one of the two veterinarians, thought the clinic "was fantastic." The 28-year-old from the 993rd Medical Detachment Veterinary Services is a Cairo, Ga., native. "We directly engaged with and helped the Afghan people," he said.
This project is another prime example of cooperation between the Afghan government, Afghan national security forces and the International Security Assistance Force, according to Caskey.
The plans for the project began in July. Part of the coordination was a meeting between Caskey, local elders and other community members to ensure it didn't impinge on the local veterinary supply store or veterinarians.
"The last thing we want to do is adversely affect the local economy," said the Columbia, S.C., native. "We bought medicine from the store and gave it out."
When the Marines arrived at the front of the market to set up the animal pens, some locals didn't know what was happening, but as animals began lining up for treatment they got the idea and helped spread the word.
"The people are feeling happy," said local fabric dealer Sheer Mohammad through an interpreter. Mohammad spread news of the one-day clinic to some of his friends who, in turn, brought their animals for treatment. "It's a good thing you're doing this."
Mohammad added he was surprised to see a foreign military giving free medicine for livestock. He couldn't recall any previous foreigners providing this type of service for the community.
As the farmers arrived, they checked in and took their animals to a waiting area. Once the vets were ready, the interpreter called off names. They then herded their sheep, goats and cows into the treatment area. Some larger animals took a few Marines to wrangle. Although the project was concluded without major incident, only a few sore toes from dancing cows, the day had its share of unexpected challenges.
"The volume of animals in such a short time was a bit of pressure," said British Royal army Capt. Miles H. Malone, veterinarian, Royal Army Veterinary Corps and a Suffolk, England, native. "Having another vet there was key to its success."
"We saw and treated more animals than expected," added Caskey. "But more importantly, we showed the people their government cares about them."
Plans for another vet clinic are being considered. However, since Regional Command South only has one vet on staff, Caskey said he will definitely pass on the local vet's contact information to incoming units so future coordination can include him on other animal-related projects.