Five days before about 50 members of the 463rd Medical Detachment is deployed to Afghanistan, some family members gathered inside Freedom Hall at Fort Benning Tuesday to say goodbye.
The unit will provide medicine and medical care primarily to military-working dogs. It also will conduct food and safety inspections in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Lt. Col. Scott Hanna, commander of the 463rd Medical Detachment, said the 12-month deployment will include two missions. One is providing veterinarian support to about half the country. Based out of Kandahar, the unit will take care of dogs, which are becoming a bigger part of the mission in Afghanistan. Trained dogs can find explosives, even a robot or person can’t locate, keeping soldiers safe from improvised explosive devices and land mines.
The other task focuses on food safety.
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“We inspect all the food coming onto the installation to make sure it is safe and it’s not going to cause any foodborne illnesses among soldiers,” he said.
Among the equipment taken to Afghanistan is a fully capable food analysis lab that can test food. The detachment will also inspect the MREs, or meals ready to eat, for soldiers.
“We will inspect all of those,” he said.
Sgt. Rashad McEntire, 22, of Columbus said he feels confident about his first deployment.
“I feel confident and ready to come back,” he said.
McEntire, who was holding his 5-month-old son, Rashad Jr., said he loves his job as a food inspector after graduating from Kendrick High School.
Katherine Miller, the sister of Spc. Kevin R. Miller, said she is excited about the Sunday deployment of a unit that didn’t even exist nine months ago. The detachment is part of the 14th Combat Support Hospital.
“I actually think we’ve made a lot of progress over there,” she said of Afghanistan. “I think what we are doing is great as devastating as it is. I think that it’s something they decided to do and I think they are doing a great thing.”
The elder Kevin Miller of Largo, Fla. said he is so proud of his son that he wished he had joined the military. “I’m pretty proud of him,” he said.
Col. William S. Drennon, commander of the 14th Combat Support Hospital, praised the soldiers for working hard to prepare for deployment in nine months. The detachment was created in 1965 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and deactivated in 1970. The unit was reactivated in October last year after 40 years.
“I want you all to know there are 310 million people who are very proud,” Drennon said.