The fields surrounding North Carolina State University’s veterinary school aren’t where one would normally expect to find a Fort Bragg Soldier. However, that’s exactly where 15 medics from the 83rd Civil Affairs Battalion spent their time during a four-day training session that introduced them to basic livestock and equine care.

The program began about five years ago, and requires advance planning of up to six months before each session, said Capt. Sarahanne Simpson, battalion veterinarian, 83rd CA Bn.

“We have AARs (After Action Reviews) from our last courses and we talk about what worked, what didn’t work, and depending on how our mission is kind of evolving and changing, we try to sculpt the course into what is going to be most relevant for what our medics are going to see,” she said.

The core objective of the training is to provide the Soldiers with baseline knowledge and hands-on experience with animals that they can implement during deployments. This familiarity is necessary because outside the United States, almost 90 percent of the world identifies with farming and agriculture, Simpson explained.

“So when you’re looking at gaining access and influence into a certain area of the world, having some idea of things that are important to them, about ways they make their livelihood, ways they feed their families, ways they get around, is a good way to help establish that rapport and to gain that access and to gain that influence,” she said.

This access and influence is the main goal of civil affairs units, so establishing credibility is crucial to the Soldiers’ mission. To gain this basic knowledge, Soldiers attend lectures from N.C. State professors on topics ranging from the importance of working equids to livelihoods and what roles they have in many of these communities, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, to clinical examinations and wound management.

During practical sessions, the medics reinforce the material with hands-on learning experiences.

“It’s an opportunity really for Soldiers to handle the animals; it’s an opportunity for them to do a clinical examination, have a look inside a horse’s mouth and an opportunity to for them take some blood from the animal as well,” said Dr. Andy Stringer, director of global health education at NC State’s college of veterinary medicine.

Participants in the training said they enjoyed the sessions.

“This is an excellent training,” said Sgt. 1st Class Darius Turner, senior medic, Company E, 83rd CA Bn. “I just came back from Malaysia, where we would see things like this and it’s definitely beneficial for a civil affairs medic to get this training.”

Stringer said he hopes Soldiers take away a strong appreciation of the importance working equids have in low-income communities.

“I feel very passionate about the working equids sector, so knowing that we’ve got another 15 advocates going away who recognize the importance, that what I get out of it,” he said.

Simpson agreed and said it was very meaningful to spread her knowledge to other Soldiers.

“Suddenly I went from being one to being 20, and now they’re all able to go out and to do that and to have this far bigger reach,” she said. “To actually have the ability to have a substantial, lasting impact on somebody’s livelihood … when you are talking about being able to give someone food to feed their Family, and you’ve improved the welfare of this animal … that’s really cool.”