106th MD keeps furry friends fit to frolic
By Airman 1st Class Ashley J. Thum, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 06, 2014
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- One of only a few U.S. military animal clinics on the Korean peninsula, the 106th Medical Detachment cares for the pets of personnel across the entire U.S. Forces Korea area of responsibility.
Two veterinarians and two civilian animal health technicians handle everything from outprocessing examinations to tumor removals and other soft-tissue operations with the help of two U.S. Army animal health technicians they share with other veterinary treatment facilities in the area.
Dr. Kyongmi Kim, 106th MD veterinarian, said the primary mission of the Osan Veterinary Treatment Facility is to care for the base's military working dogs.
"They have a stressful life," Kim said. "They work in the heat and other conditions that animals aren't normally exposed to."
The clinic can also play a role in the event of a wartime contingency operation by helping facilitate infectious disease control and pet evacuations.
The majority of the team's workload is a little more conventional.
"We do wellness exams, routine vaccinations, laboratory tests, and skin and ear cytologies," said Michael Barkley, 106th MD animal health technician, who has worked at the VTF for nine months.
The staff sees between 10 and 25 patients a day, and conducts an average of three to four surgeries every week.
The clinic also works closely with Osan's Homeward Bound animal shelter - spaying, neutering and vaccinating the shelter's dogs and cats before they are fostered or adopted. Kim said she volunteered at an animal shelter when she worked in Seoul, and is thankful to be able to do similar work now.
"It feels good to know I can treat animals and help them," Kim said.
Barkley's desire to become an animal health technician may have sparked when he was just a boy in Florida, where his parents kept all sorts of animals - including chickens, cows and even peacocks.
"I grew up with a love for animals," Barkley said. "I'm a people person and I like my coworkers, but being able to help pets and keep them well and healthy is the best part of my job."
Barkley and Chelsie Thompson, 106th MD animal health technician, both have pets and children - something Thompson said enhances their patient care in a big way.
"Every animal is treated like they're our own," Thompson said. "They're a part of our family just like they're a part of yours."
Kim, who has been a veterinarian for seven years, said she owned a dog that lived to be 17 years old, and had a few health problems throughout his life. She said she hopes her expertise and experiences as a pet owner can help ease the stress of her patients' families.
"I wanted my dog to be in the hands of someone I could trust," Kim said. "Now, as a veterinarian, I am happy I can be that person for other people."