FORT IRWIN Calif. — It’s hard to say who is more of a Fort Irwin icon, Dr. Glassey or his owl Drumstick. “I got Drumstick 28 years ago. He had been hit by a car and needed to have his wing amputated,” said Dr. Michael Glassey, a medical entomologist, who has worked as a contractor on post for 38 years.
Glassey and Drumstick – along with another owl named Guardian and a host of snakes, tortoises and insects – visit schools and Soldiers to teach them about the animals of the Mojave Desert. Safety is a major theme of Glassey’s message. “If a wild animal is easy to catch, something is wrong with it. It’s either sick or injured,” said Glassey. “Leave our wildlife alone.”
In March, Glassey and his creatures visited the students of General Colin L. Powell State Preschool. “The children always look forward to Glassey’s visits,” said Janette Rivera, site supervisor, “He presents it (animals and safety) in such a fun way, using puppets and such. He keeps it at a preschool level.” His passion for animals is readily apparent, as is his hard work. In addition to caring for all the animals in his charge, Glassey works with the various post schools, scout organizations, summer camps and anywhere else his talents are requested.
During his time at Fort Irwin, Glassey has seen many changes to the post, especially from an environmental perspective. One of the most visible changes are the tortoise fences that line Fort Irwin Road. “You used to see tortoises all over the road,” said Glassey, emphasizing how the fences have made a huge, positive impact on the desert tortoise population.
“The western Mojave Desert potentially has more, different plants and animals than almost anywhere in the world,” said Glassey. He went on to explain that while some areas have more plants and animals, they are largely more of the same kinds of species. The Mojave Desert has a more diverse variety of plants and animals. “There are some animals that are only found here and nowhere else,” said Glassey noting the Mohave ground squirrel and the Mojave rattlesnake. “This is also the only place Joshua Trees grow.”
Glassey and the staff of the High Desert Support Services, LLC, (HDSS) where he is a contractor, do more than just public outreach. The organization is responsible for managing on-post facilities. When talking about Glassey, Shelly Bradley, business manager with HDSS, said, “He’s just exceptional…always professional and an outstanding member of the team.”
In the course of their work, HDSS often comes across animals, and they call upon Glassey for help. If the animals cannot be released back into the wild, they join Glassey’s other animals on his teaching mission. “A lot of people think the Army isn’t very friendly to the environment,” said Glassey, “but we take better care than most government agencies.”
Glassey’s outreach goes beyond the Fort Irwin community. Every year, he and his creatures venture to Torrance, California, for their Armed Forces Day Celebration. The event gathers people from all over Southern California, and honors the men and women of our nation’s military with a three-day celebration. This year’s event will be held May 19–21. Visit the city of Torrance website for more information http://www.torranceca.gov/ArmedForcesDay.htm.