Thirty-three years elapsed between the establishment of the United States Army Veterinary Corps and the creation of its counterpart in the United States Air Force in 1949. After a little more than three decades, however, the United States Air Force Veterinary Corps was deemed redundant by Congress and subsequently disbanded in 1980, its duties assumed by the Army Corps that had served as the basis for its creation in the first place.

Like its Army progenitor, one of the main tasks of the USAF Veterinary Corps was to ensure that Airmen—especially those stationed abroad—had access to food supplies untainted by food-borne pathogens. During the Vietnam War, for instance, members of the Veterinary Corps deployed to Taiwan to provide educational programs for local farmers and ranchers on how they could provide fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat products to troops stationed in Vietnam.

The care and treatment of Military Working Dogs, first employed in Korea and then on a much-large scale in Vietnam, gave the Veterinary Corps another important responsibility. By the mid-1970s, the Air Force had over 1,600 dogs working as sentries and in other capacities around the globe, but budgetary cutbacks led to a gradual reduction in their numbers.

The other major area in which Veterinary Corps officers worked was in animal research involving techniques to increase Airmen safety, including the study of ejection devices, the effects of zero gravity, consequences of radiation exposure, and in the development of vaccines and antidotes (this at a time when chemical and biological warfare had not yet been banned).

Although the need for the services provided by the USAF’s Veterinary Corps officers did not abate as the 1970s drew to a close, Congressionally mandated changes to how the Department of Defense handled veterinary-related projects and missions meant that this branch of Air Force Medical Services was no longer necessary. On March 31, 1980, the Corp was disestablished, and the U.S. Army was named the sole Executive Agent for any veterinary services that fall under the purview of the Department of Defense.

But the Air Force made the most of the experience that had been acquired by the officers serving in the Veterinary Corps by redesignating them as Public Health Officers and transferring them to the Biomedical Sciences Corps. The broad scope of the work done by the Veterinary Corps proved so valuable that less than fifteen years after it was eliminated, one of its former officers was named Chief of the Biomedical Sciences Corps.
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