March 16, 2017 —
Santiago, Chile - The U.S. Army's Veterinary Corps is vital to the health and care of government owned animals, however, their mission extends to service members. As the Department of Defense’s sole provider of food protection services, the veterinarians keep Soldiers healthy when deployed to an expeditionary environment.
A team of veterinarians from U.S. Army South and the U.S. Army Medical Center and School, participated in a subject matter expert exchange with approximately 40 Chilean military and civilian veterinarians March 6-9 in Santiago. The group met to discuss the execution of food safety and food defense programs in underdeveloped regions which lack adequate public health services.
Much like the vets from the U.S., the Chilean vets are also responsible for food safety in their military.
"In Chile we have a lot of disasters, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, fires. Our veterinarians have to develop the knowledge to work in those types of operational environments," said Maj. Alexander Betzhold a veterinarian in the Chilean army.
As Chilean Soldiers prepare for a potential deployment in support of a Peacekeeping Operation in the Central African Republic, they wanted to draw on the experience and practical approaches to preventive medicine of the U.S. Military, and not just gather information from an outdated textbook.
"Chile already has a very robust food protection capability, however, its focus is on (home station activities)," said Lt. Col Matthew Levine, Chief of the Food Protection Branch in the Department of Veterinary Science. "What we're sharing with them during this mission is a program that is aimed at reducing the risk of foodborne illness while serving in a deployed environment."
This was the first time that food protection programs were applied to a SMEE in the ARSOUTH area of operations and the U.S. Army medical officers said they were thrilled at the opportunity to increase awareness of such a high-impact public health initiative.
"I've always believed that food protection was a capability that U.S. Veterinary Corps Officers could share with our partner nations to mitigate the risk of disease and improve force health protection, military readiness and interoperability when working together," said Levine.
Both the Chileans and Americans said they benefited from this exchange, and are looking forward to more exchanges of this nature.
"We are hoping that the lessons learned from this engagement will allow both their military and ours to better protect soldiers and forces on the ground," said Levine. "Anytime we can mitigate the burden of disease to a partner nation or ally, I think that supports U.S. interests and is worth doing."