Cates promoted, assumes command of Veterinary Corps

General star the result of AVMA initiative
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Dr. Michael B. Cates became the 23rd chief of the Army Veterinary Corps late last year, and, in keeping with a law passed by Congress with prompting from the AVMA, the colonel was promoted to the rank of brigadier general.

During the Dec. 14 promotion and swearing-in ceremony at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Tex., the newly promoted Army officer acknowledged the AVMA before a gathering of dignitaries, colleagues, and family, and emphasized the importance of uniformed veterinarians.

"The Veterinary Corps," Brig. Gen. Cates said, "play critical, multifaceted roles within the Army's Medical Department, and we must strive to continue to provide the best veterinary capabilities anywhere, anytime.

"Everything we do must ultimately focus on our primary customers: the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, along with their families, who we support. Remaining versatile, vigilant, and relevant, we must continually seek opportunities to improve our efficiency and effectiveness in what we do, wherever we are."

Last year, President Bush named Dr. Cates to head the Veterinary Corps, and the Senate confirmed his nomination on Sept. 30. Brigadier Gen. Cates succeeds Col. John S. Fournier, who has led the corps since February 1999.

Brigadier General Cates praised Col. Fournier, saying that during the retiring officer's tenure, efforts were initiated to give specialty pay for board-certified corps veterinarians, training facilities at Fort Sam Houston were upgraded, and the rank of brigadier general for the corps chief was restored.

"The Veterinary Corps (Col. Fournier) is handing off is of the highest caliber and well-prepared to meet the challenges of the future," Brig. Gen. Cates said.

The Army Veterinary Corps was established in 1916 to provide veterinary services to the Defense Department. It contributes to the nation's defense through food safety, biomedical research and development, and animal medical programs in support of force health protection and military readiness.

A total of 404 veterinarians and 60 warrant officers currently serve on active duty in the corps, along with some 170 veterinarians and 10 warrant officer reservists.

Brigadier generals have led the Veterinary Corps for much of its existence. For more than a decade, however, a colonel has been the corps chief. Former AVMA President James E. Nave—himself a veteran of the corps—made it his mission to see the "general star" return to the corps.

Speaking to the AVMA House of Delegates in July 2000 as the incoming AVMA president, Dr. Nave explained how the Veterinary Corps chief must hold the rank of brigadier general as a matter of equality and respect among foreign peers.

The importance of military veterinarians is diminished when leaders of foreign veterinary corps are generals and the chief of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps is a lower ranking officer, according to Dr. Nave.

After more than two years of AVMA lobbying, Congress added a provision to the 2002 defense authorization act requiring that the Veterinary Corps chief, at a minimum, hold the rank of brigadier general.

Among those attending the ceremony were Army Surgeon General Kevin C. Kiley, MD; three former Veterinary Corps chiefs; AVMA officials; and several retired and active Veterinary Corps members.

Brigadier General Cates said his promotion would not have been possible without the efforts of the AVMA and Dr. Nave.

Dr. Nave, along with AVMA President Bonnie V. Beaver and Dr. Lyle P. Vogel, director of the AVMA Scientific Activities Division and a former Veterinary Corps member, were at the swearing-in ceremony to see the further fruition of the AVMA's efforts.

Dr. Nave downplayed his role and instead focused on what the promotion signifies to veterinarians serving in the military. "The chief of the veterinary corps is a position that deserves the rank of brigadier general, especially when you consider all he or she does to ensure the safety of our armed forces," he said.

Dr. Beaver was honored to attend the ceremony because, not only was the AVMA acknowledged, but Brig. Gen. Cates is a former student of hers. Dr. Beaver is a professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary, from which Brig. Gen. Cates graduated in 1980. He also holds a master's degree in public health from the University of Texas Health Science Center and is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine.

After graduating from veterinary college, Brig. Gen. Cates was commissioned as a captain in the Army. Most recently, he was commander of the 100th Medical Detachment, 30th Medical Brigade, V Corps, in Heidelberg, Germany.