Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Michael S. Fielder dies 'of injuries suffered from a non-combat related incident'

A soldier from Holly Springs died Sunday while overseas supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, Department of Defense officials announced Monday night.

Capt. Michael Shean Fielder, 35, field veterinary service officer, was killed during a noncombat-related incident in Baghdad. He was assigned to the 248th Medical Company (Veterinary Services), 44th Medical Command, XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg.

Army officials said Monday night that Fielder's death is under investigation.

Fielder had been in the Navy from 1990 to 1994, then enjoyed civilian life for several years before joining the Army in June 2000.

According to Fielder's wife, Mary, he joined the Army because of the scholarship opportunities. He earned a bachelor of science in zoology and a doctorate in veterinary medicine from N.C. State University in 2004. After graduation, Fielder began Army training.

He completed the Army Medical Department Officer Basic Course and the Veterinary Clinic Proficiency Course.

He was assigned to his most recent unit in September. The unit was deployed to Iraq that month.

"Michael, first and foremost, was a husband, and a wonderful and devoted friend," said Tonya Hinkle, speaking on behalf of Mary Fielder. "He was a vet that absolutely loved his job and was quite a wonderful father to the soldiers he had."

Hinkle said Michael Fielder could make anybody feel welcome and always had a joke handy when needed -- or not.

On Monday night, family and friends were still reeling from his death.

"We feel at any time this is going to end and we're going to wake up," Hinkle said. "Everybody's numb. Numb and speechless."

Besides his wife, Fielder leaves behind three "furry" friends -- a pit bull-Rottweiler mix named Buckethead, a Rottweiler named Haley and a domestic long-haired cat named Frankie.

"They were the apple of his eye," Hinkle said.

From the News Observer

The following was a story on Capt. Michael Fielder's work as a veterinarian, published as a release by the 28th Public Affairs Detachment, on March 3, 2007

Clinic Keeps K9s in Check

CAMP SLAYER, Iraq -- Like people, dogs need regular checkups and screenings. The Veterinary Clinic on Camp Slayer provides those checkups and other treatments for K9s across Multi-National Division-Baghdad.

The clinic’s primary mission is to provide varying levels of support to dog teams, said Capt. Michael Fielder, Victory Base Complex veterinarian, 248th Medical Detachment. The levels range from one to three, with the first being minor injuries such as broken nails and small cuts. Level Two involves injuries that require a higher level of equipment, and Level Three cases usually require more definitive surgical care.

The clinic is equipped to handle some surgeries, but it depends on the type. Those which cannot be handled at Camp Slayer usually get transported to a clinic in the International Zone, Fielder said.

“If a dog comes in with a ruptured spleen, I could remove the spleen and the dog would be back and working in five to six days,” he said. “If I had an emergency surgery come in that we’re not fully equipped to handle, I would do absolutely everything I could to stabilize the dog for travel to the next destination.”

The clinic is available 24 hours for emergency care, but it has not had any cases since Fielder and Spc. Thanisha Contes, veterinary technician, 248th Med. Det., arrived in September.

Semi-annual physical exams account for most of the clinic’s patients, which come in for appointments, Contes said. Depending on the K9’s health, he will receive either a basic checkup or one that is more thorough, where the vet may have to draw blood, run fecal tests or conduct X-rays. After tests are conducted, they are sent to Golby Troop Medical Clinic for results.

“It’s very similar to a human going in for a checkup at the doctors,” Contes said.

One difference is that it can be more difficult to control a dog, Fielder said. Just like humans, dogs occasionally need tranquilizers to help relax.

“Sometimes we have to give them a little something to take the edge off, but for the most part, their handlers are really (helpful),” he said.
The K9s are required to wear a muzzle for everyone’s safety and easier handling.

Even when dogs act up, both agree that helping K9s is rewarding and enjoyable work.

“I especially dig the nice ones, but I enjoy the mean ones too, because you can work out an understanding with them a lot of times,” Fielder said. “It gives you a good sense of accomplishment.”

For Contes, the most rewarding aspect of working as a veterinary technician in Iraq was realizing that she really knew her job. Although she and Fielder work together as a team, there are days he visits other clinics and she stays behind to care for the K9s without him.

“I have a vet I can get in contact with if I need to, but realizing I can get along without the vet is a pretty good feeling,” she said. “I love dogs, and it helps that I don’t get frustrated with them very easily.”

“It keeps us busy,” Fielder said. “A lot of the job is being able to work with the dogs’ personalities.”