Army Reserve Vets Make House Calls in Guatemala

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By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

 

CHICOJL, Guatemala, June 28, 2012 – Army Reserve Capt. (Dr.) Daniel Skirvin’s civilian career may have gone to the dogs, but at least during his mission here in support of Beyond the Horizon 2012, his military career has taken more of a turn toward bulls, pigs and chickens.

Skirvin, a veterinarian who typically treats pets in his civilian life, is part of a three-soldier team from the 1019th Medical Detachment in Garden Grove, Calif., immunizing and treating farm animals for disease.

It’s a mission that takes him, Army Staff Sgt. Jorge Gomez-Rangel and Army Spc. Christopher Bryan to some of the most remote areas of Central Guatemala. They travel up mountainsides, through cornfields and sometimes as far as an hour’s walk from the nearest road to as many as 60 homes and farmyards every day. Skirvin estimates that by the end of their two-week deployment here next week, they will have made as many as 600 house calls.

“What we’re doing is really important, because for these people, these animals are what they have, financially,” he said. “If we can make these animals a little more healthy, that will give them a little more protein in their diets and also a little more that they can sell. And that is a big deal in terms of making their lives a little better.”

Providing that service – particularly when the patients are less-than-willing – requires a special touch. Skirvin’s team works hand in hand with Guatemalan veterinary technicians to steady the animals, tie bulls to trees when possible, and steer clear of angry kicks. “Sometimes, especially when there are no trees, it can be a little like a rodeo,” Skirvin said.

The team also depends on local officials to translate for them as they give farmers supplies of powdered vitamins and medications.

Bryan, a military food inspector, said he enjoys the experience he’s gaining during his first veterinary medical readiness training exercise here. “We’re helping the people keep their animals healthy so they have a better food supply, and they’re really grateful,” he said.

Gomez-Wrangle, with 27 years of military service under his belt, said he can’t imagine a more gratifying mission. “I see the results,” he said. “It helps, and I like helping people.”

Providing that outreach is a major objective of the Beyond the Horizon mission, one of U.S. Southern Command’s largest annual humanitarian and civic assistance efforts.

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