MEDFLAG 09: Saving a cow’s life

HHOHHO, Swaziland – When Swazi farmer Timothy Mathonsi saw U.S. Army and Swaziland veterinarians treating goats and cattle, he sought help for one of his cows that had an abnormal growth on its neck.

Mathonsi approached Dr. Prince Danso, a Swaziland veterinary surgeon, working alongside U.S. Army Maj. Michael Simpson, of the Fort Dix, New Jersey-based 404th Civil Affairs Battalion. Simpson is leading veterinary efforts during MEDFLAG 09, a U.S. military exercise underway in the southern African nation.

During the exercise, joint military and civilian teams will undertake several veterinary civil assistance projects, known as a VETCAP in military terms.

Danso and Simpson examined the cow’s growth and decided it needed to be removed.

“The tumor was so close to the throat, that we knew if we didn’t surgically remove it, the tumor would continue to grow and impede airflow for the cow,” Danso said.

The procedure lasted about an hour. It ended with Simpson holding the tennis ball-size tumor in his hand as Danso sewed the cow up.

“The surgery was successful, but there were moments where we had to be very careful removing the tumor,” Simpson said. “(It) was right next to the carotid artery. If we had made one wrong cut, things may not have turned out as good.”

MEDFLAG is a joint and combined military exercise that supports the U.S. Africa Command’s Theater Security Cooperation strategy wherein AFRICOM components send medical capabilities to African countries. The exercise consists of three phases: classroom training, a mass casualty exercise and humanitarian and civic assistance events – which include medical, dental and veterinary assistance to the people of Swaziland.

Soldiers from U.S. Army Africa, the U.S. Army Reserve’s 404th Civil Affairs Battalion and U.S. Africa Command partnered with the Umbotfo Swaziland Defence Force and Swaziland Department of Health during a two-day VETCAP, which began Aug. 5. The U.S. and Swazi medical team treated 2,636 cattle and 1,428 goats.

“This was a great opportunity for us to work with the U.S. and its military,” Danso said. “We look forward to visiting the other villages and treating the villagers’ livestock. “It’s not every day we get to work with the U.S. military. We hope we can continue this partnership in the future.”

The joint team is slated conduct four VETCAPs in three other villages.

Mathonsi was grateful the surgery was successful and that his cow will recover from it, he said.

“I want to thank the two surgeons for saving my cow,” Mathonsi said. “I am glad the U.S. military came to our country and want to help us with our livestock.”

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