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Benelux veterinary staff fosters host-nation relations with Belgian Army

Story by Jessica Ryan

U.S. Army Garrison Benelux

CHIÈVRES, Belgium — It was a “meeting of the minds” as veterinarians from the U.S. and Belgian Armies met Jan. 25 at the Chièvres Veterinary Clinic on Caserne Daumerie in Chièvres, Belgium. The topic of discussion was providing medical care for military working dogs, especially during times when veterinary care is not immediately available.

“Military working dogs are extremely important,” said Army Capt. Aimee Hunter, chief of Benelux Veterinary Services. “They save human lives.”

Hunter invited Belgian Army Majs. Ann Jacob and Aniek De Smet, both veterinarians from the Belgian Defense Veterinary Clinic in Meerdael, to the caserne to show them the U.S. Army’s veterinary facility and discuss best practices for treating military working dogs in their respective Armies.

“The main goal for us is to discuss how we are training our dog handlers with giving first-aid care and what the possibilities are to train human healthcare providers. They can help the dogs when they are deployed, especially if there is not a veterinary clinic around or nearby,” said De Smet. “We will have more dogs that will go on missions. When they are further away from the compounds, they need to have care on the spot.”

The meeting, however, was more than just a knowledge exchange between the two Armies. It was also about the U.S. Army fostering a relationship with the host nation’s Army.

Hunter began developing that relationship after meeting Belgian Army veterinarians at the International Military Veterinary Medical Symposium in Garmisch, Germany. The symposium was hosted by the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, and military veterinarians from 11 different NATO nations also attended.

After the initial meeting, Hunter was invited to attend the annual Belgian Military Veterinary Conference held at the Royal Military Academy of Brussels, where she met Jacob. The two talked about the possibility of meeting outside the conference for a further discussion.

“We are working toward interoperability. The better we work together, the better it is for everyone, most importantly the warfighters whom we are all striving to support,” said Hunter.

The facility at Caserne Daumerie is the only U.S. Department of Defense veterinary treatment facility in the Benelux. While there are other U.S. military veterinary facilities in Europe, it is important for Hunter and her Soldiers to work with the Belgian Army. The host-nation Soldiers can provide expertise on local nuances while their counterparts in other countries cannot.

“Sometimes the Belgian Army veterinarians can get me a faster and more accurate answer for my location than I would get if I talked to someone in Germany. My colleagues in Germany deal with different things than I do in Belgium,” she added.

“They are our host nation partners. We are guests in their country. It is awesome to work with them and figure out how we can improve [our practices] so we can take the best care of our military working dogs and by extension the human Soldiers they support,” said Hunter.

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