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Dogs and their noses

Veterinarians train to keep canines mission-ready

Dr. (Maj.) Kimberly Yore and Dr. (Capt.) Morgan Bernal perform a rhinoplasty on Ranger. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Dr. (Capt.) Morgan Bernal and Dr. (Maj.) Kimberly Yore each wore a blue glove on one hand and a light yellow one on the other.

Was this a fashion statement?

"No, it's just the way things happen around here," commented Staff Sgt. Lester Cannon from under his surgical mask.

He was grinning.

The three soldiers are members of a 30-soldier unit from the 218th Medical Detachment (Veterinary Service Support), which recently participated in Operation Crimson Badger, an exercise designed to test their skills in less than ideal circumstances.

Dr. (Lt. Col.) Kevin Nemelka commands the 218th MDVSS.

"We're able to move anywhere in the world in seventy-two hours," the commander said.  

"We make the most of these training opportunities, and we train to our strengths."

The veterinarians and their technicians performed surgeries on military working dogs and privately owned pets during the exercise.

"We've made the training deliberately tough," explained Dr. (Capt.) Paige Wallace.

She went on to say that when the 218th deploys, it would probably occupy a hardened structure.

"But that may not necessarily be true when we first arrive in theater; we may find ourselves in austere conditions and still need to deliver medical care."

While the unit is responsible for ensuring the health of the force through food and water inspections, it is also responsible for the military and contractor working dogs - used in combat tracking, search and rescue, mine and IED detection - which are vital to mission success.

Wallace also pointed out that having to work in less than ideal conditions in training pays dividend in theater.

"We make it challenging here to meet the challenges down range."

To the left, Bernal and Yore bent over a French and English Shorty Bull dog named "Ranger," and began to perform a surgical procedure called rhinoplasty.

As flat as a Swedish pancake, Ranger's nose contributed to his brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, a condition that affects different aspects of the upper respiratory system in dogs with smooshed schnozes.

In other words, this comatose but cute canine needed and would receive a "nose job."

While an endotracheal tube provided air and anesthetic to Ranger, Bernal and Yore worked quickly and efficiently as they removed a small wedge of tissue on the outside of Ranger's right nostril.

"This is outstanding training," commented Nemelka, as he observed the two veterinarians.

"We are working in this environment with our equipment performing delicate surgeries and doing what needs to be done."

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