Nearly 50 Fort Hood soldiers left Sunday to support recovery operations after Hurricane Sandy ripped through the northeastern part of the country last week.

Forty-two soldiers from the 43rd Veterinary Detachment, 21st Combat Support Hospital, 1st Medical Brigade, deployed with equipment to Fort Dix, N.J. From there, they plan to travel to Fort Hamilton, N.Y., to provide veterinary services to pets and animals affected by the storm in New York, as well as perform safety inspections of food and water, said Col. David Ristedt, hospital commander for 21st Combat Support Hospital.

“I know they felt a lot of pride and were really looking forward to the opportunity to go make a difference,” he said.

The soldiers will join five members of the Army Public Health Command at the Army post located in the borough of Brooklyn, under the direction of Federal Emergency Management Agency and Joint Task Force Civil Support.

The detachment returned from a deployment to Iraq about a year ago, and on Oct. 1, began a yearlong rotation on a disaster contingency task force.

“They’ve been on standby waiting for something like this where the nation might need them,” Ristedt said.

While the exact work they will conduct is unclear, veterinary soldiers fall under the public health command and are trained to provide basic animal care and food and water safety inspections.

That includes checking water supplies for bacteria and food supplies that may have been compromised during the storm or through improper food handling.

“Those are the teams that may get sent out to more austere areas,” Ristedt said. Teams providing animal care are likely to stay in the overwhelmed shelters, but could also be sent into communities.

“This is what we do,” he said. “We provide support for our soldiers in the (Army Medical Command). We provide care and comfort to solders. These are our fellow citizens and when they’re hurting, we want to go help them, too.”

The mission is expected to last between two and four weeks.

Contact Rose L. Thayer at or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here.

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