You may not be aware, but for military service members, dependents and retirees in the Pensacola area, the Naval Air Station Pensacola Veterinary Services Clinic is available to provide medical care for your pets.
The veterinary clinic is the primary medical care provider for military working dogs in the area, but also provides preventive medical care and limited soft tissue surgeries for the pets of military and retired personnel.
While located on Corry Station, don’t be surprised when you get there to see Army Soldiers and Department of the Army civilian personnel providing that care for your creatures. Army Maj. Kevin Hinton, branch chief of NAS Pensacola Veterinary Services, explained that the Army serves as the Department of Defense executive agent for veterinary services for all DOD organizations.
“We provide care for government owned animals; military working dogs, as well as on installations with military working horses,” said Hinton. “On many installations we have a direct treatment facility where we can both service the military working dogs as well as provide care to dependent and retiree owned pets.”
The veterinary clinic on Corry Station typically sees an average of 70 to 80 appointments a week, according to Hinton, but he said it varies depending on his schedule. In addition to providing medical care for the area’s government owned animals and military pets, the Army’s vet corps is also in charge of or plays a part in food safety and food security.
Hinton clarified that as well as enlisted animal care specialist Soldiers, they also have veterinary food inspection specialists who inspect and provide quality control for all food served or sold on DOD installations or for DOD use.
“Our food inspectors’ focus is on inspecting places that store or sell food to the public,” said Hinton. “They also inspect places that store operational rations, things of that nature. In addition, for any company or business that wants to sell (food) to the DOD, a veterinary corps officer or food safety warrant officer goes out on a certain schedule and inspects those civilian facilities in order for them to be included on the directory to be able to sell to the Department of Defense.”
As the branch chief, Hinton is responsible for oversight of the program for seven installations within the Florida panhandle, Mississippi, and Alabama. To add stability and continuity, the veterinary clinic also employs a civilian veterinarian, veterinary technician, and support staff.
“Our civilian veterinarian works three days a week,” said Hinton. “I support the clinic at least the other two days a week, plus some additional clinic time that varies with my other military duties.”
The primary purpose for all military veterinary treatment facilities, according to Hinton, is to provide care for military working dogs or government owned animals, and to serve as the training platform for veterinary officers and enlisted animal care specialists. They have to maintain a base skill set and keep their skills sharp for when they deploy. Providing care for privately owned animals offers additional opportunities for the Soldiers to maintain and improve their skills, while also providing a public service to the community.
Another important service that military veterinary treatment facilities provide for service members with pets getting ready to be stationed overseas is providing the vaccines, testing, health certificates and paperwork required to bring pets to foreign countries.
A retired Navy veteran, Susan Ulloa, has been bringing her animals to the NAS Pensacola Veterinary Clinic since 2000 when she was first stationed here. During an office visit for her dog Lola, she said she feels a camaraderie with the military service members working at the clinic on Corry Station and prefers to bring her pets there for all the services they are able to provide.
“The Army staff at the NAS Pensacola Veterinary Clinic really are top notch,” said Capt. Marc Ratkus, commander, Center for Information Warfare Training. “Having the vet clinic here on the base is convenient, and they take great care of our animals. When I brought my dog there a few weeks ago, I could tell they really care about the animals they treat. The clinic is a real benefit to our community.”
For Army personnel, being stationed in Pensacola is a rarity. Hinton, originally from Jacksonville, Fla., said he has really enjoyed getting back this part of the country.
“The weather is outstanding, the installation and the people here are great,” said Hinton. “The clients we have are absolutely wonderful. They're great to work with great Soldiers and personnel, civilians all around so it's just a really good environment to work in.”