HomeNewsArticle Display

Army veterinarian provides care to Team Misawa

Waiting quietly

U.S. Air Force military working dog Ramos waits for a checkup at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Oct. 30, 2017. Routine checkups for MWDs ensure they are medically fit to fight. During a checkup, MWDs receive needed vaccinations, are examined for possible parasites and undergo a general wellness screening. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase)

Heavy eyes

U.S. Army Capt. Samuel Smith, the Public Health Activity-Japan veterinarian, administers propoflo to U.S. Air Force military working dog Gary, prior to a tail docking surgery at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Oct. 31, 2017. Propoflo is a circulatory anesthetic injection used for short procedures and inductions. Army veterinarians serve all branches of the U.S. armed forces, as the Army is the only service with a Veterinary Corps. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto)

Docking Surgery

U.S. Army Capt. Samuel Smith, the Public Health Activity-Japan veterinarian, places a needle between two vertebrates of U.S. Air Force military working dog Gary’s tail prior to beginning a docking surgery at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Oct. 31, 2017. MWD Gary received the surgery to prevent a reoccurring injury to the tail. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto)

MWD Gary

U.S. Air Force military working dog Gary, assigned to the 35th Security Forces Squadron, wears a muzzle prior to a tail docking surgery at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Oct. 31, 2017. The veterinarian removed a portion of Gary’s tail to prevent further injury after the tail broke. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto)

Preparing for a checkup

U.S. Army Capt. Samuel Smith, the Public Health Activity-Japan veterinarian, helps put a muzzle on U.S. Air Force military working dog Ramos prior to a checkup at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Oct. 30, 2017. In addition to tending to MWDs, Smith and his team care for more than 2,500 pets registered to families at Misawa AB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase)

Canines checkups

U.S. Army Capt. Samuel Smith, left, the Public Health Activity-Japan veterinarian, performs a checkup on U.S. Air Force military working dog Ramos while Staff Sgt. Jason Havinga, right, a 35th Security Forces Squadron MWD handler, holds him in place at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Oct. 30, 2017. In addition to tending to MWDs, Smith and his team care for more than 2,500 pets registered to families at Misawa AB. The MWD handlers interact with the vet clinic regularly for checkups and to receive medical training for their companions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Only about 700 Army veterinarians are serving on active duty and in the reserve components in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, supporting missions around the world for nearly 800 military installations.

These doctors oversee all vet service activities in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, across the U.S. and over 90 countries.

U.S. Army Capt. Samuel Smith, the Public Health Activity-Japan veterinarian, provides the only clinical vet care for Misawa Air Base, Japan. He and his team provide all services associated with military working dog care, including training MWD handlers to respond to medical emergencies at home station or in deployed locations.

“Just like humans, injuries during physical activity can happen any time,” said Staff Sgt. Victoria Dames, a 35th Security Forces Squadron MWD trainer. “However, when humans get injured, they can still work for an organization, even if it’s in a different capacity. If our dogs are injured, they have a direct impact on whether or not we can complete our mission. They are ineffective until they recover.”

Smith stated because the base is in an isolated overseas location the clinic acts as the main hub for every military, contractor or Department of Defense Education Activity pet owner, ensuring quarantine procedures are followed and giving routine pet care to more than 2,500 pets registered at Misawa AB.

“As an Army veterinarian, I help to accomplish Misawa’s mission by keeping the Airmen and other military personnel on base safe,” Smith said. “To do that, we ensure the military working dogs can accomplish their mission as well as inspect local and regional food facilities that provide the base food supply.”

Along with the laundry list of items Smith takes care of, he also provides food safety and security inspections for all of Team Misawa. He travels to local commercial factories that provide food to the commissary (i.e. chicken plants, water plants, etc.), ensuring all food sold to Misawa AB is safe to consume.

“All vets in the Army are tasked with conducting commercial food audits every year,” Smith continued. “I travel throughout Japan with a translator to do these audits, ultimately ensuring the food sold on base comes from safe sources.”

Safety is a top priority in Smith’s line of work, and he stated precautionary measures are crucial to ensure all two and four-legged Team Misawa members are equipped to complete the mission.  

“I communicate everyday with the MWD section to ensure they’re mission ready,” Smith said. “Very similar to a Soldier or an Airman, we make sure these dogs are ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.”

When all is said and done, Team Misawa can rest assured their families, fur-babies included, are taken care of by an Army vet and his team.