U.S. Marine Corps Installations Pacific Commander Maj. Gen. Peter Talleri replaced Col. Jeffrey R. Woods this week “due a lack of confidence” in Woods’ leadership. No other information was released about the change other than it is a “private matter.”

This announcement came on the heels of a national social media campaign launched October 3 by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and October 5 by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine to get the military to stop using live pigs in their military training in Hawaii.

Ryan Merkley, the Associate Director of Research Policy for PETA, said “We are working with our military veterans to convince the U.S. Marines to replace animals (most likely pigs) in trauma training courses scheduled for this week in Hawaii. If the courses move forward as planned, pigs will be rendered unconscious, then instructors and students will cut into their legs and throats and insert plastic tubes and needles into their chests and abdomens.  Please join us in urging the base commander to immediately replace animals with hyperrealistic simulators. Take a minute to call his office using the talking points below. It is crucial that you are friendly and encouraging on these calls in order to ensure that Col. Woods moves in the right direction.”

They listed the contact information for Woods at the U.S. Marines Base Hawaii and even gave talking points for the callers that included asking the military to use human-based training methods instead of animals in combat trauma training courses and instead use medical simulators like the U.S. Marines in Okinawa, Japan.

Merkley pointed to the fact that the U.S. Air Force’s Center for Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills uses “high-tech simulators and human cadavers instead of animals” and he encouraged the U.S. Marines in Hawaii to “follow suit.”

According to feedback on Facebook and PETA’s social media page, dozens of callers contacted the military base,  jamming the phone lines.

Christopher Vegan-Murphy writes when he tried to call Woods, “the number was busy and the voice mailbox is full. GRRRRR”

Cathy Williams writes that she “Just called the Col” and “all lines are busy” but she followed up other ways by email and voice mail.

But despite speculation that these incidents may be related, a spokesperson for the Marine base said he could not offer more information on the change of command because of privacy laws.

“The relief of Col. Woods, the base commanding officer, was an administrative action taken by a senior leader. The specific circumstances of the relief are a private matter protected by the Privacy Act and therefore not releasable to the public,” said Lt. Col. Curtis L. Hill, the director of public affairs for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Hill also defended and clarified the practice of use of animals in military training: “Members of operating force unit aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii participated in combat trauma training, both basic and advanced courses, here during the week of Oct. 3. This invaluable training is a vital part of the units’ preparation for combat deployment.”

“The live tissue training portion of the training is a contract service and was conducted in accordance with Marine Corps directives and policy, as well as federal and state laws. Live tissue training is at the discretion of the deploying unit’s commander, but is highly recommended to ensure corpsmen and Marines have the best preparation possible to provide battlefield care. Our focus and emphasis is on preparing those corpsman and combat life savers with the requisite realistic training that will translate to saving American lives on the battlefield,” Hill said.

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