For a few hours on Feb. 27, the Forgotten Angels Equine Rescue in Medford turned into a village from a foreign country.
Army personnel in Humvees could be found rolling up to the horse farm for a simulation exercise. The 7301 St. medical training support battalion and the 78th training division were on hand to provide care for the horses.
The Forgotten Angels Equine Rescue is currently the only horse rescue in Burlington County. Owner Lisa Drahorad said they were more than happy to accommodate the troops after being contacted over the summer.
“We were actually contacted by a contractor who designs and builds exercises for army medical units,” she said.
However, for a while, Drahorad wasn’t sure the army was interested.
“We didn’t really get into it until February,” she said. “We were kind of wavering because it took so long, we didn’t know what to expect.”
In early February, the Army informed Drahorad it would be performing “Operation Mr. Ed” at Forgotten Angels.
The staff at the rescue was tasked with having horses available for the exercise. The Army had veterinary personnel come in and simulate care on the animals.
The purpose behind the exercise was to give the troops a simulation of a village in a foreign nation. The groups were from the Army’s civil affairs division. They go into foreign nations in need of help rebuilding after war.
Even though the troops were in Medford, the exercise was treated as if they were halfway around the world. The exercise even featured a village family speaking in their native tongue and presenting an accurate depiction of what a real situation would be like.
“They treated it as if they arrived on site as if they were in Yemen,” Drahorad said.
Drahorad explained the importance of healthy horses and other animals for military operations. She said many of the villages and other places where these civil affairs troops go need animals to survive. Receiving help from the Army in that department is an important step for helping them get back on their feet.
Drahorad said some of the soldiers do not have a lot of experience with animals, so the exercise was valuable. The Army taped the exercise for the troops to review.
Forgotten Angels is a fairly new rescue, having opened in 2012. Even though there was little preparation prior to the event, it was still a challenge to prepare for the Army’s arrival.
“For us, it was really tough to pull it together and make sure we had enough people there,” Drahorad said.
However, Drahorad said she was impressed with the professionalism of the soldiers and how accurately the exercise was performed.
She hopes other people understand there’s more to the military than soldiers who fight in combat.
“You really don’t think of soldiers and the jobs they have outside of the military,” she said. “These guys and ladies were so professional. When you think of soldiers, you think of just soldiers. All we ever hear about is they’re being deployed here to a combat zone.”