Green in a sea of Blue
By Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 22, 2011
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- An endless amount of love and respect for the four-legged members of the military is what made an Army sergeant decide to pursue a career as a military animal care specialist.
Army Sgt. Holly Cook is attached to preventative medicine at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. and is the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the MHAFB veterinary clinic.
During her eight and a half years of service she has been stationed everywhere from Fort George G. Meade, Md. to San Diego at the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program.
"When I was growing up I liked the idea of joining the military and serving my country," said Cook. "I've always had a passion for animals and knew working with them every week would be the perfect military career for me."
During an average week, Cook spends the majority of her time taking care of the military working dogs (MWD) that are attached to the 366th Security Forces Squadron here.
Vaccines, blood draws, semi-annual exams consisting of x-rays, dentals and surgeries are all aspects of her particular career field.
"She does an absolutely great job here considering how extremely busy and very demanding her career field is," said Dr. Nancy Sutton, doctor of veterinary medicine and supervisor of the veterinary clinic. "She has numerous additional duties and is expected to be a technician during surgeries and clinicals."
Cook is also tasked with inspecting MWD facilities such as their obstacle course, proper food and medication storage and individual kennels.
"Working with the MWD's is a really rewarding part of this career," said Cook. "When you first start working with them it is very intimidating but once you get to know them you begin to see their different personalities. They are so smart. Now they all recognize me and the vet so when we are treating them they are sweet and playful."
Although the dogs recognize her now, Cook doesn't forget they are bred for combat and frequently have unique medical issues she must deal with.
"Two days every week are set aside specifically as MWD days," said Cook. "We must ensure the dog's deployment medical kits are up-to-date and all administrative and surgical paperwork is current."
During a typical surgery day, the MWD is brought in and blood is taken. The results are reviewed then the dog is sedated and the procedure is performed.
"MWD's are prone to bloat so we perform a lot of gastropexy surgeries," said Cook. "We also remove tails to reduce tail trauma if necessary."
Privately owned animals are also cared for at the clinic giving Cook the opportunity to work with a wide range of animals, many of which are required to be quarantined before accompanying their owners to an oversea duty station.
"Sgt. Cook goes above and beyond quite frequently," said Nicole Nutting, a civilian veterinary technician. "She is usually the person who comes in twice a day on weekends to provide medical support and care to animals that must stay for medical reasons."
Weekend medical support is just another part of the job for Cook.
"The care and treatment of the MWD's comes first regardless of what day of the week it is," said Cook. "I don't mind at all giving up my time to help ensure everything is done correctly for them and the domesticated base pets. I just love animals."