By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
About 50 soldiers from the 43rd Veterinary Services Detachment have yet to deploy to Haiti where they are to aid in relief efforts.
The soldiers participated in a farewell ceremony Friday, after which they were scheduled to depart Fort Hood.
Post officials said Wednesday the unit is still awaiting aircraft – Air Force cargo planes to carry the soldiers and their equipment to Haiti. Transportation was requested through U.S. Army Materiel Command, officials said, but there is no word on when that will arrive.
The detachment is the only Fort Hood unit to receive official orders to deploy to Haiti, said fort spokesman Tyler Broadway, but the post is prepared to support the relief efforts if called upon.
The detachment has five veterinary service support teams that will serve in different areas to inspect food and water supplies and care for military working dogs.
The mission is "hugely important," Staff Sgt. Jason Deguire said last week, because with everything taking place in Haiti, the last thing the people there need are food-borne illnesses.
Food inspectors will make sure supplies handed out to the people are fit for human consumption, Chief Warrant Officer-2 Jemme Neal, a food safety officer, said last week. Rations are flowing into Haiti and soldiers will begin by inspecting food from relief-aid agencies rather than the U.S. government's supplies that came directly from the processing plants, Neal said.
It will take a veterinary service support team one day to inspect 20,000 cases of Meals, Ready-to-Eat, Neal said.
The detachment is part of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High-Yield Explosive Management Response Force, which means soldiers have already trained to provide veterinary support in disaster conditions, Lt. Col. Cheryl Sofaly, the detachment's commander, said last week.
Soldiers who treat the military working dogs expect to see the same issues they would during a deployment to Iraq, Sofaly said. Injures include overheating, exhaustion, lacerations and diarrhea, which come from working in the rubble and high-stress conditions.
The detachment returned a year ago from a 15-month deployment to Iraq, Sofaly said, and it is preparing to return there in September.
This is the first time the detachment has provided humanitarian relief in recent years, Sofaly added, and they will be the only soldiers of their kind in Haiti, barring a few veterinarians attached to civil affairs units.
Living conditions for the 43rd Veterinary Services soldiers will be austere, Sofaly said, but their priorities are providing food and support to the Haitians and not enjoying showers and plush beds.
Morale is high and the soldiers are excited to help, Sofaly said last week.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at email@example.com or (254) 501-7547. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.