SEMBAWANG NAVAL BASE, SINGAPORE– Three thousand miles from Public Health Activity-Guam’s headquarters, a team of three self-disciplined Army Veterinary Food Inspectors safeguard and inspect food consumed by U.S. forces across the entire Pacific Area of Operations.
The team is comprised of three Army Veterinary Food Inspectors: Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kenneth James III, Sgt. 1st Class Mil Pascual, and Sgt. 1st Class Joel Trudell.
“With any small team, it’s important to be disciplined and have that self-drive to contribute to the mission and mission success,” said Trudell, the branch’s food inspection noncommissioned officer.
The team’s food defense mission spans from facilities on Sembawang Naval Base, to visiting ships, and all sustenance supplied to the island of Diego Garcia, site of a U.S. Navy support facility.
In total, the team supports approximately 50,000 Service Members, retirees, and their families.
“We’re out here for the purpose of protecting the joint forces throughout the Pacific,” said James, Veterinary Corps officer and branch officer in charge.
Due to its strategic location in the Pacific, Singapore is a natural point for replenishing and refueling U.S. military ships.
In addition to meats and high-cost provisions, foods like fresh fruits and vegetables are transported by the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command weekly to Diego Garcia.
“We’re inspecting sustenance at our prime vendor here in Singapore that supplies over 16 facilities in Diego Garcia,” said Pascual, branch NCOIC. “The prime vendor brings in food from over 13 countries to supply these areas. To say it’s filled with complexities would be an understatement.”
It’s the responsibility of James to audit facilities in those 13 countries who provide food product to the prime vendor.
“As a Veterinary Corps officer, my audit mission includes traveling to these larger name brand facilities and ensure they are meeting the same requirements and standards that we hold facilities in the U.S. to,” said James.
The team also provides regional support to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command exercises.
“Provisions from the prime vendor here in Singapore, in coordination with Defense Logistics Agency, are supplied and shipped to Indonesia, Korea, Australia, Philippines, and Brunei,” Pascual added.
The team is incredibly self-sufficient, PHA-G leaders said, but it realizes the importance of networking and relies on the joint force to protect the warfighters.
“PHA-Guam is a small but mighty activity,” said 1st Sgt. Nickolaus Kersting, PHA-G’s senior enlisted advisor. “It takes a lot of independence and responsibility from the three Soldiers stationed out here.” They could not do it without the help of contractor allies and joint partnerships across the Department of Defense.”
Because of the vast area of coverage and multi-faceted food defense mission, Trudell explained the importance of adaptiveness and being a self-starter.
“There’s a lot of work to be done and it’s not a typical nine-to-five job,” said Trudell. “You must be ready to go anytime, so flexibility and adaptability are key, because you’re working around a lot of other schedules, and oftentimes there’s not someone telling you what to do.”
Above all, Trudell said, one must be willing to find meaning in being part of a team and mission bigger than yourself.
“This is one of the few assignments where you get to work hand in hand with your brothers and sisters in service. This can sometimes make things challenging, but it is always incredibly meaningful,” Trudell said.