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Air Force, Army work together to save a life

A military working dog.

Military working dog Quinto pants happily two days after surgery April 20, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Quinto and his MWD trainer, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Akeem Smith came to KAB from Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, for the urgent surgery. Back in April, following a routine dental exam and cleaning under anesthesia, MWD Quinto’s veterinarian was informed that Quinto started vomiting, was lethargic, and had a poor appetite in the days following the procedure. The veterinarian brought him back in and found a large mass attached at the neck of the urinary bladder (where the bladder transitions into the urethra). He was sent to Okinawa for surgery shortly after the diagnosis. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

MWD receives an exam.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Logan McKenna, 18th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, holds MWD Quinto during a pre-surgery examination by Army Maj. Shane Andrews, Chief, Okinawa Branch Veterinary Services, Public Health Activity–Japan, April 15, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. MWD Quinto was brought to the Okinawa Veterinary Activity for surgery to remove a mass inside his bladder, which is a potentially life-threatening problem. During his examination, MWD Quinto had his vitals checked as well as an ultrasound. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

A military working dog.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kaithlyn Guerrero, 18th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, comforts MWD Quinto after he was given medicine to sedate him for his surgery April 18, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Military working dogs are required to fast 12 hours prior to surgery. Quinto was having surgery to remove a large mass near the neck of his urinary bladder where the bladder transitions into the urethra. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

An intubation is performed.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kaithlyn Guerrero, 18th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, holds open MWD Quinto’s mouth while Army Sgt. Trey Humphrey, NCO in charge of MWD treatment, Okinawa Branch Veterinary Services, Public Health Activity–Japan, performs an intubation so Quinto is able to breathe easily while he is under anesthesia during his surgery April 18, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Veterinary technicians take special care and are assisted by MWD handlers during the pre-surgery portion in order to keep the dogs as comfortable as possible. Quinto was given anesthesia before this in order to ensure the tube could be safely inserted. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

A vet technician shaves fur.

Yurika Hatamochi, Okinawa Veterinary Service veterinary anesthesiology technician, shaves the underside area of military working dog Quinto in preparation for surgery April 18, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Shaving the fur away from areas where surgical procedures will occur is important in order to prevent contamination and eliminate bacteria that cling to the fur. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

A military working dog has surgery.

U.S. Army Maj. Shane Andrews, Chief, Okinawa Branch Veterinary Services, Public Health Activity–Japan, extends the surgical site while Army Capt. Rachel Reiter, Okinawa Veterinary Services military working dog officer in charge, PHA-J, dabs blood away during a surgery to remove a mass inside MWD Quinto’s bladder, April 18, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Large masses like this can be potentially life-threatening problems so MWDs are routinely checked by veterinarians in order to find and remove any that are found. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

A military working dog has surgery.

U.S. Army Maj. Shane Andrews, Chief, Okinawa Branch Veterinary Services, Public Health Activity–Japan, cuts into the muscle layer during a surgery on military working dog Quinto April 18, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. In order to get to a mass located inside MWD Quinto’s bladder, Andrews needed to meticulously cut through abdominal muscle, which he later repaired after removing the mass. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

An area is cauterized to control bleeding.

U.S. Army Maj. Shane Andrews, Chief, Okinawa Branch Veterinary Services, Public Health Activity–Japan, cauterizes an area to control bleeding in order to have a clear surgical site April 18, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The procedure was performed on military working dog Quinto who was brought to the Okinawa Veterinary Activity for surgery to remove a mass inside of his bladder, which is a potentially life-threatening problem. During his surgery, MWD Quinto had his vitals constantly monitored by veterinary staff to ensure his safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

A surgical procedure is performed to remove a large mass located inside the bladder of military working dog.

U.S. Army Maj. Shane Andrews, Chief, Okinawa Branch Veterinary Services, Public Health Activity–Japan, performs a surgical procedure to remove a large mass located inside the bladder of military working dog Quinto April 18, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. During the surgery, Andrews carefully cut through skin and muscle to eventually reach the bladder. He then identified the mass and removed as much of it as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

A benign mass sits on the operating table after being removed from the bladder of military working dog.
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A benign mass sits on the operating table after being removed from the bladder of military working dog Quinto April 18, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Veterinarians from both Japan and South Korea, along with military working dog handlers, staff from the Seoul National University Veterinary College and many other Airmen and Soldiers, worked together for nearly two months to get MWD Quinto to Okinawa for surgery, recovery and return home. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

A military working do and handler.
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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Akeem Smith, military working dog trainer from Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, holds up MWD Quinto before departing April 31, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Smith accompanied MWD Quinto to KAB for Quinto’s surgery to remove a large mass attached at the neck of his urinary bladder. Smith and Quinto were met by members of the 18th Security Forces Squadron MWD section who acted as caretakers ensuring a safe restriction of movement location with all basic needs for both human and canine. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

A milirary working dog and handler.
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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Akeem Smith, military working dog trainer from Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, holds up MWD Quinto before departing April 31, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Smith and Quinto spent more than two weeks on KAB while Quinto had surgery to remove a large mass attached at the neck of his urinary bladder. Members of the 18th Security Forces Squadron MWD section acted as caretakers while they were in a Restriction of Movement status. The Kadena MWD section additionally provided food and water for them as well as ensuring all transportation for appointments and assisting with the logistics for their flight back to South Korea was within all the COVID-19 guidelines for safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --

Despite the challenges COVID-19 has caused across the globe, U.S. military members from the Republic of Korea and Japan came together to ensure a valued team member received the life-saving surgery he required.

Service members from the Air Force and Army worked together ensuring this member was able to have his surgery as soon as possible. The service member’s name … Military Working Dog Quinto.

Back in April, following a routine dental exam and cleaning under anesthesia, MWD Quinto’s veterinarian, Army Capt. John Brandsma, 106th Medical Detachment Veterinary Service Support, was informed that Quinto started vomiting, was lethargic, and had a poor appetite in the days following the procedure. 

“We performed a physical exam, baseline bloodwork, and urinalysis on Quinto and the results caused concerns for his urinary system and kidneys,” Brandsma said. “After addressing the dehydration we pursued further diagnostics including abdominal x-rays and ultrasound. While performing the ultrasound, a large mass was identified at the neck of the urinary bladder (where the bladder transitions into the urethra).”

According to Brandsma, the most common urinary bladder tumor in canines are transitional cell carcinomas, which are typically an aggressive cancer with high metastatic potential and a poor prognosis. 

“The next step required sampling cells of the tumor,” he continued.

Coordination with Seoul National University Veterinary College allowed the veterinarians the ability to obtain these samples and quickly get results.

“We have recently implemented formal agreements with the University’s Veterinary College near U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys,” said Army Maj. Christopher Corrie, director of clinical operations for the 106th MED DET VSS. “They provided advanced care and imaging for us within 24 hours, which was outstanding. Quinto’s results returned as benign, or not cancerous, it was a huge relief.” 

From there Corrie contacted Army Maj. Shane Andrews, Chief, Okinawa Branch Veterinary Services, Public Health Activity–Japan, Kadena Air Base, and began the process to move MWD Quinto to Kadena AB for the necessary surgical procedure.

The 8th Security Forces Squadron, Kunsan Air Base, ROK, to whom MWD Quinto is assigned, secured transportation of Quinto and his MWD trainer, Staff Sgt. Akeem Smith to Kadena AB.  

“The Osan Air Base medical team and air terminal operations center helped with coordination of flight time as well as reviewing orders to ensure all details were in place for the mission,” Brandsma said. “Additionally, they helped ensure we had all the medical and flight information correct once we secured the air medevac.”  

Once it was determined surgery to remove the bladder mass would benefit MWD Quinto and prevent further urinary obstruction, plans were made to have him and the handler aero-medical evacuated to the Okinawa Veterinary Activity on Kadena AB. 

“A urinary obstruction is a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate attention,” Andrews said. “Our facility is considered the referral hospital for MWDs within the Pacific theater so when one has a condition that requires emergency care and/or advanced surgery, and the local VCO (Veterinary Corps officer) doesn’t have those capabilities, the military working dog will get sent to us.”

With MWD Quinto finally on Okinawa, veterinarians began preparing their patient for his surgical procedure.

“The surgery was performed by carefully dissecting out the mass from the bladder wall, being careful to preserve other vital structures,” Andrews explained. “It went very well and the mass was successfully removed. Afterward, a urinary catheter was placed and Quinto was monitored for several days by our staff here during his recovery.” 

This type of mission, even during COVID-19, emphasizes the importance MWDs have on mission effectiveness along with the importance of the handlers and kennel teams who train the dogs. 

“Meeting mission requirements during COVID-19 has been a challenge however, our highest priority is providing medical care of military working dogs,” Andrews stated. “The reason great lengths were taken to get him to Okinawa is because MWDs are considered Soldiers and are highly respected members of the Armed Forces. They are regarded as force protection multipliers and are an invaluable asset to our nation’s defense. They play a huge role in providing security, patrol, detection, and other missions vital to keep us safe.” 

After his surgery, MWD Quinto required various daily medications to ensure a complete recovery.

“I requested assistance from the Kadena Air Base 18th Medical Group pharmacist to acquire an essential medication for Quinto that our facility did not have in stock,” said Army Capt. Rachel Reiter, Okinawa Veterinary Services MWD officer in charge, PHA-J.  “The pharmacist was able to compound the medication ensuring Quinto received an appropriate dose for a canine.” 

After a few weeks, Quinto recovered with help from the medical and working dog teams. It was finally time for him and his handler to head back home.

“We worked with Staff Sgt. Smith and Quinto from the moment they arrived and once the surgery was complete, we got to work getting everything ready for their departure,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Helma, 18th Security Forces Squadron, NCO in charge of the MWD section. “It was great to watch Quinto moving around and regaining his strength. As the military working dog section on Kadena we are the caretakers for any Air Force MWD team who come here for support. My team and I made sure to set up a safe restriction of movement location with all basic needs both human and canine would need, provided food and water for them, and ensured all transportation for appointments as well as their flight back to Korea was within all the COVID-19 guidelines for safety.”

According to Helma, international aeromedical evacuation flights are tricky to coordinate in the present time, however, service members from South Korea and Japan came together to ensure one of our own got the care he needed.

“The restrictions, burdens, and roadblocks COVID-19 has placed in the way of our mission to provide exceptional care for our two- and four-legged warfighters takes teamwork to overcome,” Corrie said. “This situation is a perfect example of the U.S. Army and Air Force as well as a South Korean National Veterinary University, working side-by-side to provide life-saving care for one of our most important total force multipliers: military working dogs.”