Story by Spc. Christina Westover
POZNAN, Poland — Soldiers from the 64th Medical Detachment Veterinary Service Support, 30th Medical Brigade out of Baumholder, Germany, traveled to Poland Mid-January to conduct Operation Vet Strike, an exercise that provides force health protection across Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve.
The exercise implements routine inspections on food storage areas, operational rations, and advises facility managers on which food handling practices should be maintained or improved.
Overall, the Veterinary Food Inspection Specialists inspected dining facilities and the storage areas where operational rations are stored, to include the Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores on the military installations.
“This type of training ensures that we build relationships with facility managers and staff for future visits,” said Staff Sgt. Jose Cantua, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the initial phase of Operation Vet Strike in Zagan, Poland. “We work hard to make sure that everything is stored properly, and our job is done right. We care for our Soldiers and I feel that our inspections improve the quality of life here for the Soldiers deployed overseas.”
The group ensured proper storage, checked for expired products, and used a blacklight to detect rodent activity. When the inspections are finished, the team puts together recommendations for the facility and discuss the deficiencies.
The assessment gives a snapshot of the facility’s procedures for a given period.
The training provided to the staff during the inspections has a long-lasting impact. The ripple effect of the training enhances knowledge of food safety and defense to our allies through a multinational cooperative exchange of information. The continuity of high standards allows the U.S. military and partners to mitigate the risk of foodborne illness.
“This training also allows us to develop our junior leaders and allows us to have real hands-on training that has an impact on the food processes here in theatre,” said Cantua. “It is important for Soldiers, overseas, to have the comforts of home and the quality of food supply, it plays a major factor for the unit’s morale.”
Some of the food inspection specialists in the group are new to the Army; they have not had the experience acquired through repeated training and years on the job. However, their NCOs and peers have no trouble lending a hand when new things come up.
“I feel like it’s a great learning experience for someone like me because I have not been in this career field for very long,” said Pfc. Justin Collee, a food inspection specialist with the 64th MDVSS. “My NCOs and my peers have a lot of knowledge to offer me and I’m glad I got to experience this mission and learn from them.”
As the only expeditionary force in Europe, this mission gave the 64th MDVSS a chance to prove its deployment readiness meet the commander’s intent.
“We’re a part of a big picture and not many people realize how important it is to be a food inspection specialist,” said Pfc. Altiffany Ross, a food inspection specialist with the 64th MDVSS. “We prevent a lot of DNBIs, diseases and non-battle injuries, when it comes to food, by ensuring that it is good. We save a lot of lives that way.”
Operation Vet Strike has many components, small teams of various skill sets deployed across Europe to test their medical skills readiness.
“This mission allowed us to enhance our skills and prove that we are prepared to go to a forward deployed environment and still be able to complete the mission,” said Capt. Stephanie Tower, the officer in charge of the veterinary service support team. “This is the epitome of task force readiness and I’m very proud of how far our teams have come.”