Animal care specialist fills the medical needs of pets and working dogs

  • Published
  • By D. P. Heard, 55th Wing Public Affairs

Army Sgt. Yaritza Marie Suss-Jimenez is the noncommissioned officer in charge at the Veterinary Treatment Facility at Offutt Air Force Base.

Suss-Jimenez showed empathy and a love for animals at the age of 14 when she volunteered at the Hospital Veterinario Miramar before attending the University of Puerto Rico’s Pre-Vet Program in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Her volunteer duties included assisting in surgical procedures and restraining animals. Then she joined the Army. Army animal care specialist training was a three-month period that essentially covered two years of college-level training that was paired with plenty of on-the-job training.

Recently, when tasked to assist Capt. Christina Elder, officer in charge of the Offutt VTF, in removing a mass from the abdomen of MWD Lumen. Suss-Jimenez started preparing the pre-operation room. Next, she prepared the surgical instruments and triaged the dog before the operation.

MWD Lumen was given anesthesia and carried into the operating room by Suss and his handler, Staff Sgt. Steven Ramirez from the 55th Security Forces Squadron. The operation lasted approximately two hours and Ramirez benefited by fulfilling his required training from Suss.

“Sgt. Suss is an exceptionally hard worker with a knack for animal medicine. She has multiple hats with running the clinic with myself, working as an animal technician, and being a junior NCO in the Army,” said Elder. “My favorite quality about her is her attitude. She is always willing to help and comes in every day as a positive force to help the clinic run as smoothly as possible. Her ability to juggle both her work and personal life is impressive. She is a cherished member of the team!”

A week at the vet facility is anything but typical. Monday is admin day. Suss sets up appointments, files admin reports, and checks logistics. On Tuesdays, she assists and prepares for anesthetic procedures such as surgeries, dental treatments and mass removals. Wednesdays is for seeing patients and preparing for training. Thursdays are reserved for Army training, and Fridays she works the customer service desk. Also, she must conduct inspections on the dog kennels and take inventory of the medical supplies. The vet clinic is required to do a minimum of five surgeries per quarter.

“No matter how much training you get, the first real surgery is gross,” said Suss-Jimenez. “I still have the same passion for the military challenges and I’m able to split my focus on multiple jobs. The reward is when you see animals get better and the positive effect it has on families.”

She helps inspect the MWD facilities on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

“Sgt. Suss is great at what she does; she really has a passion for the Military Working Dogs and teaching their handlers vital lifesaving skills,” said 55th SFS Kennel Master Tech. Sgt. Shauna Perkins.

Offutt’s VTF is located at 403 Butler Boulevard. Active duty members and their families as well as retirees are welcome to bring their pets in for treatment. Please call 402-294-6141.