When most people think of the traditional roles of veterinarians, they think of caring for animals not food safety.
Yet, two Army veterinarians in the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Subsistence supply chain sit in Philadelphia to ensure warfighters and their family members consume safe food around the world.
In honor of Women’s History Month, DLA Troop Support recognizes the unique support these women service members provide on a daily basis.
Food Safety Office Chief Army Lt. Col. Erin Haverly and Food Safety Officer Army Maj. Janas Gray attended veterinary school before joining the Army.
Haverly described the career path for most Army veterinarians.
“Veterinarians enter the Army Veterinary Corps as general practitioners of clinical veterinary medicine and provide care for the military services’ working animals and pets of service members and retirees,” Haverly said. “However, Army veterinarians have a dual-hatted mission. New accessions are trained in food protection, to include both food safety and food defense. Similar to a public health inspector, they are educated in good manufacturing processes for food processing, and apply these skills through sanitation audits at facilities that sell subsistence to the DoD [Department of Defense].”
After approximately six years at the entry-level rank of captain, Army veterinarians continue to specialize through additional academic training in one of five specialty areas.
One important aspect of their mission is the management of the All Food Activity, or ALFOODACT, recall program.
“This regulatory program entails thoroughly investigating food recalls from manufacturers and vendors to determine if they are in the DoD food supply chain. Recalls might affect the commissary, a dining facility, on-base retail outlets like an [Army and Air Force Exchange Service] store, or even a component in an operational ration,” Haverly said. “If a recall affects part of the DoD supply chain, a global message is sent to the appropriate agencies and services, alerting them to the threat and explaining how to mitigate it. A quick response from the field decreases the chance a warfighter or their family could buy and consume a recalled product.”
Haverly’ s board certification in Veterinary Preventive Medicine and master’s in Public Health qualifies her for her role at Troop Support ensuring food safety.
Gray worked in veterinary private practice for several years before coming to the Army, and considers her assignment at Troop Support unique with a broad scope.
““Regardless of the assignment, you adapt and remain agile,” Gray said. “Our duty here at DLA Troop Support is a round-the-clock mission and is critical in reporting product recalls in efforts to protect the Warfighter from food borne illnesses.”
Not only are the veterinarians analyzing and publishing recall information to Subsistence customers around the world, they engage stakeholders across the supply chain as well.
“Our office has a rare vantage point in Subsistence because we are involved in the full spectrum of support, from the supplier to the customer,” Haverly said. “We provide our expertise to a variety of arenas, be it a garrison or field environment, or to a prime vendor or rations assembler. No day is ever the same.”
A very critical role that the veterinarians play is ensuring that containers with food rations with animal origins leaving the United States are able to legally enter other countries to include the European Union.”
“As a veterinarian, we facilitate communications between vendors, federal regulatory agencies, and customs officials at ports to ensure compliance with health certificate requirements,” Haverly said. “These requirements vary by country, but are often times needed for any animal origin product in our containers. The health certificates ensure that the food brought into the country will not pose a health risk.”
Gray stated that her experience at DLA has given her a clear picture of the overall logistics process.
“We are not logisticians, but being here I have a better understanding and appreciation for what they do,” Gray said. “While out in the field on the receiving end [of DLA support], I had no idea of all the logistics and efforts being performed to support the military. Now that I am here and working with DLA team members, I am able to appreciate these efforts and directly contribute to the success of the mission.”
Haverly, who spent many years working in the Army Public Health Command embraced the challenge found her new role as an opportunity to see how other agencies operate.
“This assignment is a unique opportunity; it is very specialized for a veterinarian. Being at DLA has been fulfilling as I now understand how the logistics supply chain works, and been exposed to other military services and agencies way of doing business,” she said. “As a result of this experience, I have a better appreciation of the complexities involved in procuring and delivering subsistence throughout the world.”