U.S. Civil Affairs Assist Pemba with VETCAP
U.S. Navy Maritime Civil Affairs team 202 worked side-by-side with the 353rd Functional Specialty (FxSp) Team and Pemba livestock officers to vaccinate and treat more than 4,000 animals during a veterinary civic action project (VETCAP) on Pemba Island, Tanzania. May 3-14, 2010.
All animals were given a vaccination that kills internal, external, and blood-borne parasites including fleas and ticks. Animals also received a dose of multi-vitamins and examinations for additional treatable aliments.
The VETCAP is the first time the U.S. military has held any type of clinic in the Pemba Island region of Tanzania.
"The idea came up when the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa wanted to see what type of support we could bring to the Pemba region," said Senior Chief Terry Brynes, MCAT 202 Team Chief. "After that, MCAT-202 interviewed livestock officers to see what they needed. We then brought in U.S. Army veterinarians to work side-by-side with the local livestock officers so they could learn techniques, build relations and a continued partnership on Pemba."
U.S. Army Col. Robert Adamson, Army veterinarian of the 353rd FxSp Team, was surprised that despite the limited knowledge the team had coming into the project how much support they gained from locals.
"The first day of the project was spent on just passing the word on the island that our team was here and that we were providing free support to whomever was interested," said Adamson. "It's because of the local livestock officers relationships with the people of Pemba that we got to treat as many as we did."
As the teams traveled around Pemba Island treating animals everywhere from larger towns to remote farming regions, one individual on the team started to gain a celebrity reputation.
"They called me 'the American woman who throws cows,'" said U.S. Army Specialist Tami Bair, an Army animal health care specialist with the 353rd FxSp Team. "To vaccinate the animals we would try to lay them down to make the process easier, and sometimes they would struggle; that's where I would come in to facilitate in the 'laying down department'. There aren't many shepherds who are women here on Pemba, so it became quite the spectacle."
As the VETCAP came to a close with about 500 animals treated daily, everyone on the team could see that they made a significant different in the lives of the people from Pemba. "I have a very positive feeling about it," said Adamson. "The people of Pemba now will hopefully see Americans and the U.S. military in a better light and, because of the training given to the livestock officers, they can move to a sustainment program without U.S. government or military assistance."
"The best part of a job like this is knowing that you've helped someone and changed their entire lifestyle," said Bair. "That one antibiotic allows the cow to deliver 5-10 more liters of milk and can save its life. That's a significant difference when your income and family is dependent on the wellbeing of your cattle. That lifestyle difference is why we're here and why we'll continue to do this job."