After the fall of Baghdad, one surprise awaiting U.S. soldiers was the group of the lions that stalked the grounds of a lavishly appointed presidential palace – half-starved, man-eating lions, it turned out, to which Saddam Hussein’s wildly depraved son Uday routinely fed romantic rivals.
Someone had to care for the lions.
“One or two of them had to be shot, because they couldn’t be rounded up,” said Lt. Col. Scott D. Bormanis, who served with an Army veterinary detachment that deployed early in the Iraq war.
“For the others, we assisted Baghdad zoo veterinarians with health care and transportation to the zoo.”
Bormanis, an Army veterinarian, recalled the strange and tragic tale of Uday’s lions after a Friday welcoming ceremony for the newly activated 438th Medical Detachment at Fort Carson.
Under Bormanis’ command, the new unit will deploy alongside combat troops as a kind of animal MASH.
Its animal care component – with eight veterinarians and seven vet technicians – will care for bomb-sniffing dogs, help native populations with animal husbandry and health care and, presumably, assist with any lions in the combat zone.
The unit is one of eight deployable veterinary detachments in the Army. No other service has a comparable unit, and as such, the forward-deployed Army vets must be ready for a variety of duties.
During a previous assignment in Bosnia, Bormanis assisted a dairy with management practices, milk production and improving fertility rates. In Iraq, he helped treat service dogs that suffered diarrhea from their stressful travels to the war zone.
Army veterinarians cared for the horses and pack animals used during the opening phases of the war in Afghanistan in 2001.
In what might seem an unusual pairing, the detachment also is responsible for ensuring food safety for troops while it is deployed.
The tasking dates to when the Army needed trained eyes to examine the slaughterhouses that supplied the military with meat, and has evolved to include many of the tasks associated with any local health department – ensuring food is stored at appropriate temperatures and hasn’t been tampered with, for example.
Food inspectors also audit the post commissary, fast food restaurants and any local companies that provide food to the Army post, Bormanis said.
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