DVIDS – News – Canine’s Best Friend: U.S. Army Soldier embraces job as Animal Care Specialist on MCAS Iwakuni

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan – On MCAS Iwakuni, Animal Care Specialists such U.S. Army Sgt. Monica Laverdure has been keeping animals healthy and active at the Iwakuni Veterinary Treatment facility. With her experiences in many stressful situations involving the health of animals and her enthusiasm while on the job, Laverdure has become a model caretaker to her clients and an inspiration to those she works with.

“In this field, you need to have a passion for helping animals,” Laverdure said about her job. “yes, I absolutely love my job and the animals I get to work with, but also understand It’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Since you’re dealing with the lives of animals, a lot of times in this line of work you have to do things that you don’t want to do or see things you wish you hadn’t seen.”

Laverdure, a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, is one of the few Soldiers stationed on MCAS Iwakuni. Her daily duties include working with and providing the care, management, treatment, and sanitary conditions for both military working dogs and personally owned animals on base.

“Characteristics that I would say you would need to have when being an Animal Care Specialist is that you need to be friendly, calm, and compassionate with these animals.” Laverdure said. “As much as I love my job it’s really not for everybody especially if you are a timid person or don’t love animals obviously.”

Her love for animals has always been a part of her being. Even though she grew up with eight other siblings, animals that surrounded her still became one of her primary focuses and point of fascination with her.

“Growing up there surprisingly wasn’t really any trouble even with 8 other siblings, but I can say we all really grew up with lots of animals around us.” Laverdure said. “Cats, dogs, rabbits, you name it, I’ve always had a big passion for taking care of them and I didn’t care about using my time to take them to the vet every now and then to keep them in great shape.”

As she grew older, her environment at home would influence her career choice in life heavily as she would start leaning towards going into the U.S. Army as a Veterinarian.

“I have family members who were in the military such as my brothers who I look up to and I also wanted to serve my country while doing what I love. The military gave me that option.” Laverdure said. “I did a lot of research on different avenues I could take and decided I want to be a Veterinarian. If I could treat animals, serve my country and do awesome things like jumping out of airplanes, why wouldn’t I?”.

Laverdure then joined the U.S. Army on April 24th, 2018 in which she began her Basic training and then her 11 weeks of Advanced Individual training to be an Army Military Occupational Specialty 68T, Animal Care Specialist.

“The environment in the schoolhouse does a really good job because although there is a good amount of information, they do a lot of hands-on work and we have animals we get to take care of there.” Laverdure said. “It is a lot of information, but it’s a good combination of acquiring knowledge in the classroom and putting that knowledge to work in actual scenarios. I think that’s really beneficial to us because not having it hands on would be detrimental to us out on the field without that knowledge or stress.”

Even though her initial training prepared her for all situations, experience is really the key to finally honing her craft as she found out when she was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base.

“Leaders in my field are molded by experience.” Laverdure said. “Earlier in my career I would make mistakes, like when I used to work at the working dog hospital at Lackland Airforce Base and we’d need to be on call to give medications and emergency care. Sometimes I would mess up the medications because of the dire and stressful situation I was facing. Having to own up to your mistakes to your doctor while at the same time your mistake being potentially really bad for your patient is really soul crushing. I learned from experiences immensely in my career.”

Laverdure has grown from her past and has routinely handled emergency situations that used to daunt her with much more calmness and precision to get the job done.

“I’ve gotten far more comfortable in these situations from my experience.” Laverdure said. “From when I first joined I would freak out not knowing what to do but after being in so many emergency situations and also being the person that has to make the hardest decision sometimes I have gotten used to it. You really have to take it slow and say ‘Okay what’s my next step?’ and ‘what can I do to prevent it from getting worse and make the situation better?’ .If you just keep following that process, it will get faster and faster every time.”

Since arriving in MCAS Iwakuni in October 2021, she has primarily been working with the military working dogs on the air station, something she really has a strong connection with.

“The animals really motivate me to work.” Laverdure said. “You have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of when they’re deployed and what they can do or how many lives they can save. I really look at the decisions I have to make to try to foresee who it affects and what the outcomes could be. That motivates me to make the dogs be in the best shape I possibly can.”

Because MCAS Iwakuni has Marines and sailors as its primary residents, she does get some surprised responses when other service members see a soldier on base.

“People don’t treat me differently actually, I would say they are just more surprised”. Laverdure said. “They ask me ‘What branch are you in?’ and I’ll say to them ‘Oh! I’m actually in the Army.’ and they’ll say back “We have those on base? Are you possibly here on TDY or TAD?’ and I’ll just say to them ‘Nope! I’m stationed here. Congratulations, you just met a unicorn, it’s your lucky day!’

Staff Sgt. Harold Dilworth, an Army Veterinary Food Inspection Specialist and Public Health Activity (PHA) Japan, Iwakuni Branch Non-commissioned Officer in Charge commented on Sgt. Laverdure’s impact on the workplace.

“She really brightens the day when she’s here,” Dilworth said. “She leaves a positive impact on everyone and she has a drive to do anything. Laverdure doesn’t shy away from challenges and she just loves to teach people how to do things they are initially uncomfortable with. Standing in the background is not her way because she’s always motivated to jump in and take the lead when the situation calls for it.”

Laverdure continues to do the best she can do not because it’s just her job, but also because of the joy that her job brings to her. She believes that helping the animals on MCAS Iwakuni will not just leave a positive impact on base, but elsewhere wherever the animals are deployed.

“I do what I do because it’s helping others in the long run and its impact on the bigger picture.” Laverdure said. “I don’t have to be as passionate about animals as I am and enjoy what I do, but I really do, and you know what? That in turn makes me work the best that I can.”

Date Taken: 01.06.2023
Date Posted: 01.06.2023 02:35
Story ID: 436326

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