By Capt. Chris Magee

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. – The Army Medical Department accomplishes amazing things every day around the world – but one of its most fascinating components just might be the Army Veterinary Corps.

From its humble beginnings in 1776 – when General Washington directed that a “regiment of horse with a farrier” be raised – to its official commissioning on June 3, 1916, the Corps has evolved into a food safety, public health, research and veterinary health force that serves all branches of the Department of Defense. The Corps works not only to conserve the fighting strength of valued four-legged warriors, but supports the upright forces as well.

Why does the Army have a Veterinary Corps? The obvious reason is animal care. While the Corps’ top priority is providing health care to Military Working Dogs, these Army veterinarians also look after the personal pets of both active duty and retired soldiers and their families. They are also responsible for the health and well being of the armed forces’ ceremonial cavalry and caisson horse units throughout the country.

Maj. Eileen Jenkins, a veterinarian clinical specialist with the 248th Medical Detachment Veterinary Service Support, comforts a young kitten shortly after receiving its shots on Sept. 21, 2016, at the Harnett County Animal Shelter in Lillington, N.C. | Photo credit U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven

The Veterinary Corps also provides world-class animal care services to civilian communities, both domestically and abroad. Members of the Corps dedicate their time to local shelters through volunteer work and Veterinary Readiness Training Exercises, providing routine exams, administering treatments, and conducting lifesaving surgeries for civilian animal populations – often at no cost to the animals’ human companions.

A visit to the veterinary clinic at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., demonstrates some of the amazing work that Army vets provide every day. The clinic has nearly 3,000 active patient records and conducts an average of 25 to 30 appointments each day. The veterinarians offer wellness exams, health certificates for travel, vaccines, x-rays, ultrasound, surgeries and dental cleanings, among other procedures. While the clinic’s patients are usually dogs and cats, a variety of other animals – goats, llamas, chickens, ducks, ferrets and rabbits – have visited the clinic as well. If a soldier has a pet in need, the clinic will serve them, regardless of the species.

–This story originally appeared on

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