By Kathryn Gest
ANDERSEN AFB, Guam—Veterinarians assigned to Public Heath Activity, Guam are ensuring the safety of U.S. service members by conducting food and water risk assessments ahead of Keris Strike, a bilateral exercise in Malaysia.
The food protection mission is the responsibility of Army Veterinary Corps Officers like Capt. Samantha Warner, Officer in Charge of Boller Veterinary Treatment Facility, who spent nearly three weeks inspecting catering facilities in Malaysia for potential risk of food or water contamination.
Keris Strike is an annual, bilateral exercise sponsored by U.S. Army Pacific and hosted by the Malaysian Armed Forces focusing on partner land force capacity and capabilities and exchange best practices for jungle operations and company and below tactics according to Thanh Wallace, Keris Strike 2022 Mission Planner.
“The veterinarian serves as an essential part of the exercise by ensuring that the caterers and the meals are safe for consumption for U.S. Soldiers,” said Wallace. “Without this capability and support, the exercise could potentially be at risk causing sever risk to U.S. Soldier’s health.”
This summer marks the 26th iteration of the Keris Strike exercise, with over 300 participants from Malaysia and the U.S.
“Due to COVID-19 restrictions, it’s been two years since we’ve conducted any live event in Malaysia. Captain Warner has revamped the safety and standards to ensure safe practices and policies are followed by our host nation to support U.S. exercises,” added Wallace.
Prior to food and water risk assessment missions, Warner conducts extensive research on the exercise location in order to determine the risks. The result of this research varies depending on location, host nation capability, disease incidence, and a variety of environmental factors. Based on Warner’s findings, the mission commander will then choose the best feeding plan based on any perceived risks from food and water supply to military personnel.
It is Warner’s day-to-day food inspection responsibilities that ensure she is ready for exercise food and water risk assessments.
“Most people don’t know that we veterinarians also conduct food protection inspections as part of our daily mission,” said Warner. “This includes going to facilities around Guam that provide food to the base to make sure they are safe and up to standard. Basically, any food and water coming onto the base goes through us first to make sure it’s acceptable and safe for consumption.”
“Captain Warner’s essential involvement in the USARPAC Keris Strike 2022 Mission demonstrates Public Health Command-Pacific’s commitment to readiness and our mission of providing comprehensive support to protect the force, promote health, and prevent disease and injury throughout the Indo-Pacific region,” said Col. Elba Villacorta, commander, Public Health Command-Pacific. “This mission is an excellent example of exchange of tactics and information and her role plays a huge part in the overall mission.”