FORT DRUM, New York – Operating behind the scenes, and often without recognition, are the veterinary food inspection specialists of Fort Drum, who are charged with ensuring the food on the installation is wholesome and safe to eat. If it’s edible and offered for consumption at the commissary or any other eating establishment on the installation, it has survived the scrutiny of this small contingent of Army Veterinary Corps Soldiers.
The food safety mission on Fort Drum makes up about half the workload for the team at the Fort Drum Veterinary Treatment Facility, U.S. Army Public Health Activity.
“To a lot of people, when you say the Veterinary Corps, just the animal mission comes to mind,” said Sgt. 1st Class Oscar Galeano, the Fort Drum Veterinary Clinic noncommissioned officer in charge and native of Bronx, New York. “We’re behind the scenes making sure that everything (is) without any issues. We have Soldiers going around every day to the SSMO (Subsistence Supply Management Office) where we keep our (Meals, Ready to Eat), they go to the shoppettes, to the bowling center, and the child development centers to conduct inspections at those kitchens as well.”
In addition to inspecting food items at the commissary and other food distributors on the installation, veterinary food inspection specialists also provide crucial support to Soldiers during large-scale training events. They ensure the safety of MREs, unitized group rations, bottled water, and protect against food and waterborne diseases.
Since being at Fort Drum, “I’ve learned a lot about operational rations because Mountain Peak and (Joint Readiness Training Center rotations) are huge, so the SSMO has a lot of incoming traffic,” said Sgt. Dawnavan Wysalde, a food inspection NCO from Odessa, Texas. “Everybody eats, but you don’t realize how much actual food per service member times how many service members there are. It’s a lot.”
And it’s not just the food on Fort Drum the food inspection specialists focus on. They also ensure food is safe before it arrives on the installation.
“Any facility that produces a food product, like for the commissary, for example, a (Veterinary Corps Officer) or warrant officer has gone to that facility and conducted a full audit inspection,” said Capt. Breanna Johnson, the Fort Drum Veterinary Services Branch chief and native of Hornell, New York. “We go out to those facilities to make sure they are following the rules, and they’re all in compliance that the food is safe.”
The Fort Drum food inspection team not only focuses on standard food safety concerns such as food quality, bacterial contamination and freshness, but they also ensure advisories don’t take advantage of the food supply to harm the force.
“Everybody needs food, everybody needs sustenance,” Wysalde said. “That’s one way that an enemy could access a large amount of Soldiers if they wanted to. Our job is to inspect all the food coming onto the installation to make sure it’s safe.”
Veterinary food inspection specialists also ensure the government is getting the most for its money by inspecting expired rations and certifying food extensions if they’re still safe for consumption. This ensures items like MREs aren’t merely thrown away because they have passed the manufacturer’s recommended use-by date.
“We deal a lot with food extensions,” Wysalde said. “Our job is to ensure that it can be extended and, if it can be extended, for how long.”
In addition to the food safety mission, the Fort Drum Veterinary Treatment Facility also provides veterinary medical care to government-owned animals such as military working dogs and pets owned by personnel authorized DoD medical care.
For more information on the Fort Drum Veterinary Clinic, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FortDrumVetClinic/.