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Dead soldier Liam Tasker and Army dog return home

L/Cpl Tasker and dog Theo

L/Cpl Tasker's body returned to the UK, with the ashes of his dog Theo

The body of a soldier who died along with his record breaking sniffer dog in Afghanistan last week has returned home to the UK.

Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, from Kirkcaldy in Fife, was shot dead while on patrol in Helmand province.

The ashes of the 26-year-old's dog Theo were flown home on the same plane.

L/Cpl Tasker, who was called a "rising star" by Army chiefs, was shot by Taliban snipers and Theo died of a seizure shortly after his master.

The soldier and his 22-month-old dog had made 14 finds in five months while on the frontline.

The pair's successes at uncovering so many explosions and weapons had resulted in their tour of Afghanistan being extended by a month.

Just three weeks ago, springer spaniel Theo was praised as a record breaking Army sniffer dog.

The body of L/Cpl Tasker and the ashes of Theo were flown to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire at lunchtime, before a cortege passed through Wootton Bassett, the Wiltshire town which has built up a tradition of welcoming back fallen heroes.




Canine heroes receive thanks
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Last updated: Thursday November 25, 2010, 10:11 AM
The Record

The four-legged warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan — the military's guard and bomb-sniffing dogs — won't be forgotten this Thanksgiving Day thanks to teachers from Paterson's Eastside High School, a 13-year-old Union County boy and some veterans in Totowa.

Peter Farina, left, Valentine Cholminski and Tony Sigismondi making care packages at the American Legion Post 227.

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Peter Farina, left, Valentine Cholminski and Tony Sigismondi making care packages at the American Legion Post 227.

"Dog biscuits! This is a first!" said Tony Sigismondi as he and fellow veterans from American Legion Post 227 in Totowa prepared to ship the biscuits and other dog treats and supplies overseas. "It was very unusual. Nobody ever thinks of the dogs, it's always the humans."

Seven hundred military dogs currently are serving side-by-side with American soldiers in the Middle East, said Ron Aiello, president of the U.S. War Dogs Association, based in Burlington.

In Iraq, the dogs are stationed at checkpoints and border crossings to sniff out explosives and drugs. Their duties have been expanded to include leading patrols and searching buildings for booby traps. In Afghanistan, the dogs also are used in mine-clearing operations.

U.S. soldier Jason Phillips, with Duco, a military war dog, on patrol in Afghanistan.
U.S. soldier Jason Phillips, with Duco, a military war dog, on patrol in Afghanistan.

"A lot of people still don't know dogs are used in the military," said Aiello, 66, who served as a Marine dog handler in Vietnam.

The decision to send care packages to military dogs in Afghanistan and Iraq was the brainchild of Christopher Hamlett, a shy 13-year-old from Mountainside whose mother, Michelle, is a history teacher at Eastside High School in Paterson.

Christopher said he was inspired by stories his mother told him about his grandfather, Stanley Hamlett, who was a military policeman and dog handler in Vietnam.

For the past three years, students at Eastside have been sending care packages to soldiers in the Middle East. Christopher wanted to get involved as part of a social studies project. If soldiers welcomed care packages from home, he reasoned, surely military dogs would, too.

"He was so touched by these dogs," Michelle Hamlett said. "The thought of dogs, basically, being trained to lose their lives broke his heart."

Christopher talked to veterans, and distributed about 1,000 fliers throughout Mountainside and Eastside High. The students and residents responded with donations.

"It got to the point where I had car loads — nine boxes — that I was taking to Eastside," Michelle Hamlett said.

"It's the right thing to do," Christopher, an eighth-grade student at Mountainside's Deerfield School, said of the project.

There was one problem. Eastside could not afford the postage.

"It would be way too expensive for us," Michelle Hamlett said.

Gloria Van Houten, an Eastside teacher who helped direct the project, turned to Post 227, and the veterans came through.

"It [postage] cost about $40 a box," Sigismondi said. He said the post collected money at fund-raising events to cover the cost of sending the boxes to the war zones.

In addition to $500 worth of dog biscuits and dog treats, Sigismondi, 79, a Korean War veteran, said his post also sent items traditionally requested by troops, such as toiletries.

The canine packages, which included flea and tick collars, squeaky toys, dog treats and puppy paw wipes, were sent last week with a goal of getting them to the war zones in time for Thanksgiving.

Aiello, of the U.S. War Dogs Association, served with the Marines' first scout-dog platoon in 1966 in Vietnam, where eventually as many as 5,000 dogs were deployed for scout, guard and tracking duty.

"Our job was to lead patrols, day and night," Aiello said. His dog, Stormy, a German shepherd, used the smell in the air to detect danger.

"We worked with the wind," Aiello said. "If there was an ambush ahead or a sniper in a tree, or a booby trap down a trail, Stormy would stop and kneel, and I would say, 'What do you see girl?' And I would report a possible enemy ambush at 11 o'clock in that tree line."

A dog's nose is "10 times stronger than a human's," Aiello said. "An analogy is that we smell spaghetti. A dog can smell the sauce, the tomatoes, the pepper, the oregano."

When U.S. troops pulled out of Vietnam, some of the dogs were turned over to the South Vietnamese Army. Others were euthanized.

"At the end of the war, there were 3,000 dogs left," Aiello said. "We gave 1,700 to the South Vietnam military; the rest were euthanized. We didn't like that."

Aiello said he doesn't know what happened to Stormy.

After Vietnam, the war dog program was disbanded, only to be started again after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Military dogs are no longer euthanized when their tours are done. They are retired or put up for adoption, Aiello said.

The most common breed deployed to the Middle East is the Belgian shepherd, also known as Malinois, Aiello said. Most are trained at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

Aiello said it is not unusual for dog handlers stationed in remote parts of Afghanistan to ask for basic items such as feeding bowls, dog shampoo and rope chews. His association also sends leashes and dog harnesses, equipment the handlers cannot readily purchase in a war zone.

"We try to give them a little bit of home," Aiello said. "It keeps their morale up."





K-9 PTSD? Some vets say dogs stressed by war, too


By DAN ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer Dan Elliott, Associated Press Writer Tue Aug 3, 4:32 pm ET

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Gina was a playful 2-year-old German shepherd when she went to Iraq as a highly trained bomb-sniffing dog with the military, conducting door-to-door searches and witnessing all sorts of noisy explosions.

She returned home to Colorado cowering and fearful. When her handlers tried to take her into a building, she would stiffen her legs and resist. Once inside, she would tuck her tail beneath her body and slink along the floor. She would hide under furniture or in a corner to avoid people.

A military veterinarian diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder — a condition that some experts say can afflict dogs just like it does humans.

"She showed all the symptoms and she had all the signs," said Master Sgt. Eric Haynes, the kennel master at Peterson Air Force Base. "She was terrified of everybody and it was obviously a condition that led her down that road."

A year later, Gina is on the mend. Frequent walks among friendly people and a gradual reintroduction to the noises of military life have begun to overcome her fears, Haynes said.

Haynes describes her progress as "outstanding."

"Pretty fabulous, actually," added Staff Sgt. Melinda Miller, who's been Gina's handler since May. "She makes me look pretty good."

PTSD is well-documented among American servicemen and women returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but its existence in animals is less clear-cut. Some veterinarians say animals do experience it, or a version of it.

"There is a condition in dogs which is almost precisely the same, if not precisely the same, as PTSD in humans," said Nicholas Dodman, head of the animal behavior program at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

But some veterinarians dislike applying the diagnosis to animals, thinking it demeans servicemen and women, Dodman said. He added that he means no offense to military personnel when he uses the term.

Jack Saul, a psychologist on the faculty at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, said PTSD is a diagnosis developed for humans, not dogs.

"That's not to say that animals can't be traumatized. It sounds like this dog was traumatized from the experience of extreme stress and fear," Saul said. "That causes an alteration in the animal's nervous system similar to an alteration of the nervous system in humans."

The military defines PTSD as a condition that develops after a life-threatening trauma. Victims suffer three types of experiences long afterward, even in a safe environment. They repeatedly re-experience the trauma in nightmares or vivid memories. They avoid situations or feelings that remind them of the event, and they feel keyed up all the time.

When Gina returned to Peterson last year after her six-month deployment in Iraq, she was no longer the "great little pup" Haynes remembered.

She had been assigned to an Army unit, and her job was to search for explosives after soldiers entered a house. The troops sometimes used noisy, blinding "flash-bang" grenades and kicked down doors, Haynes said, and Gina was once in a convoy when another vehicle was hit by an improvised bomb.

Back home at Peterson, Gina wanted nothing to do with people.

"She'd withdrawn from society as a whole," Haynes said.

Haynes, who has worked with more than 100 dogs in 12 years as a handler and kennel master, said he has seen other dogs rattled by trauma, but none as badly as Gina.

Haynes and other handlers coaxed Gina on walks, sending someone ahead to pass out treats for bystanders to give her. They got her over her fear of walking through doors by stationing someone she knew on the other side to reward her with pats and play. They eased her farther into buildings with the same technique.

"She started learning that everyone wasn't trying to get her," Haynes said. "She began acting more social again."

On a sunny afternoon last week, Gina dashed across her training yard, jumping over obstacles on command and deftly pushing a ball with her forelegs and chest. On a visit to a store on base, she trotted calmly down the aisles and sat quietly when a woman bent to pet her.

"She's such a lovable dog," Miller said, describing how the 61-pound Gina will lie in her lap. "I could literally hold this dog like a baby."

But Haynes said they're careful not to let their affection interfere with good training. Treating Gina like a human — for example, comforting her when she's frightened — can leave her thinking that her handler is pleased when she's afraid.

"She's just gorgeous and I love her, but you also have to balance it with — you have to do what's right," he said.

Gina has resumed some of her duties, searching cars for explosives at Peterson or other nearby military facilities. Eventually, she may be able to return to the kind of hazardous duty she did in Iraq, but that's at least a year away, Haynes said.

"We're not planning on doing it anytime in the near future because obviously, we don't want to mess up everything we've already fixed," he said.

Dodman said he doubts Gina can recover completely.

"It's a fact that fears once learned are never unlearned," Dodman said. "The best thing you can do is apply new learning, which is what (Gina's handlers are) doing," he said.

Haynes acknowledged that's a concern, and although he hopes Gina recovers 100 percent he doesn't know if she will.

"Anytime someone has that much fear about anything, then obviously it will be hard just to get it fixed," he said.

"But, I mean, we don't really have many other options," Haynes said. "You can't really give up on them. They're your partner."




Remember Military Working Dogs on Memorial Day

Steve Dale on 05.31.10 at 2:48 PM  

Those who stand up for our nation in time of war, putting themselves in harm's way, are heroes. We honor the men and women of the U.S. Military this Memorial Day. And there's one more group that deserves recognition: the dogs of the U.S. military.

Military working dog 3.jpg
"No one knows how many lives have been saved (by military working dogs) but many thousands, hundreds of thousands since World War II," says John Burnam, author of "A Soldier's Best Friend." Today, military working dogs deployed across the
U.S. and overseas search for explosives and land mines, search for bad guys, and serve as guard dogs. They protect U.S. military equipment from theft.

Ron Aiello, president of the non-profit U.S. War Dog Association, estimates that American military working dogs conservatively saved over 10,000 lives in
Vietnam, and that number has likely doubled or tripled in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Aiello was himself in
Vietnam when his partner, a German Shepherd named Stormy, alerted him to impending danger.

Ron Aiello, Stormy.jpg

Ron Aiello and Stormy

Aiello heeded the warning and moments later, a sniper opened fire, just missing him. "My dog saved my life more than once, and most handlers say the same thing," Aiello says.

Burnam also served in
Vietnam. His dog was a German Shepherd named Clipper. "One time, we were leading a patrol in an area we had previous combat experience in," he says. "This was an open space with rows of rubber trees. We spread out in a wide formation.

Then all the sudden a guy to my right gets hit and badly hurt. There were explosives with trip wires booby-trapped all around. We had nowhere to go but forward; it was our only choice. Clipper guided us through this area and past at least five booby traps. He save my life and others on that day."

After partnering with Clipper for about a year, Burnam returned home in 1968. The Department of Defense classifies military working dogs as equipment. Lots of equipment was left behind in
Vietnam to be used by the South Vietnamese military instead of spending money to bring it back, including the dogs. While some dogs did work for the South Vietnamese military, most were euthanized.

"I don't really know what happened to Clipper, but I suspect he was euthanized also," Burnam says.

Today, dogs working for the military are supposed to be retired to civilian life following their service to our country. "It's the way it should be," Burnam adds. "Truly, ever since World War II, these dogs have served America, and our soldiers."

Canine service to our country began during World War I. Although there was no official program back then, dogs were used by the military. The most famous was a Bull Terrier named Stubby, who repeatedly returned to the front, even after suffering from exposure to gas and wounds from shrapnel.

Stubby, a Bull Terrier and most decorated canine war hero ever. A Bull Terrier? Sad and stupid really, Bull Terriers are now banned in some cities

In 1921, Gen. John J. Pershing awarded a gold medal to "Sgt. Stubby." The same year, the dog visited the White House to meet President Warren Harding and again in 1924 to meet President Calvin Coolidge. Sgt. Stubby died in 1926 and his remains are preserved at the Smithsonian Institution.

America's military officially began its working dog program in World War II, and dogs have served our nation in every war (or military action) since. Today, more dogs are used for more jobs than ever before.

"Definitely, our dependency on war dogs has increased," Aiello says.

"The relationship soldiers have with their dogs is a difficult one to describe," adds Burnam. "We really do depend on one another. The soldiers know it and the dogs know it."

While many agree that America's soldiers don't receive the recognition they deserve, military working dogs receive none. Burnam and Aiello are setting out to change that.

Burnam and others have persuaded the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama to officially allow for the construction of a Military Working Dog Teams National Monument. No government money has been allotted for the project, but Burnam has been authorized to conduct a fund-raising campaign.

"This is right - to give closure to soldiers still alive today who lost their dogs on the battlefield, or the soldiers in
Vietnam whose dogs did not come back," says Aiello. "And today dogs are saving lives at this moment. We need to honor all our military; it's overdue." To that end, Aiello is hoping to work with the U.S. Department of Defense to find a way to offer military dogs some recognition for their service. The DOD maintains only people can receive medals, but Aiello says military dogs (and their handlers) deserve some special acknowledgment of their own.




Bomb-sniffing dogs are soldiers' best friends

In Afghanistan, where roadside bombs are the leading cause of casualties, a small band of military working dogs — Belgian Malinois, German shepherds and Labradors — has joined patrols in the south.

July 24, 2010|By David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Kuhak, Afghanistan — The military considers them just another piece of equipment; they even have service numbers tattooed inside their ears.

Soldiers often treat them as pets, playing with them and feeding them the junk food common on the remote bases of Afghanistan.

To their handlers, bomb-sniffing dogs are more like battle buddies.

"I'd trust Urmel over most people," Army Sgt. Tait Terzo said of his 4-year-old Belgian Malinois (service number: L-424).

At the same time, he said, if a bomb is lethal, better it kills a dog than a human.

"I hate to say it, but I'd rather lose a dog than a person, as much as it would hurt to lose Urmel," Terzo said.

For the last year, military working dogs — Belgian Malinois, German shepherds and Labradors — have been joining patrols in southern Afghanistan. Their handlers say the dogs have detected homemade bombs, explosives, bomb-making factories, weapons and ammunition stockpiles.

The dogs are often the first line of defense for ground troops. Homemade roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices, are the leading killer of U.S. forces here, accounting for 56% of combat deaths this year.

A few soldiers are skeptical about how well the dogs detect expertly hidden bombs, but most say they feel safer when the animals lead foot patrols.

"These dogs are saving lives," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Wood, program manager for the working dog kennel at Kandahar air field, where no dogs or handlers have been killed despite the ubiquitous roadside bombs in southern Afghanistan. "Every bomb they find is one that won't kill coalition forces."

Urmel has sniffed out at least 20 bombs or explosive caches over the last year. Ted, a 6-year-old chocolate Lab, has detected nearly 2,000 pounds of explosives.

On June 5, Urmel and Terzo survived their first explosion when a roadside bomb detonated just after they passed by, slamming them to the ground but causing no serious injuries. The bomb, hidden next to cow manure near a pomegranate orchard west of Kandahar, was planted too far off the dirt path for Urmel to detect it, Terzo said.

In November, Ted and his handler, Army Spc. Robert Sylvia, were near a homemade bomb in Kandahar city when it exploded. Ted wasn't hurt, but Sylvia sustained a concussion.

In June, Ted sniffed out 30 pounds of homemade explosives hidden in a haystack in the Arghandab Valley, enough to make several bombs.



Military dogs follow their noses

By Jennifer Grogan

Publication: The Day

Published 02/21/2010 12:00 AM
Updated 02/21/2010 09:27 AM

Groton - Molly smelled the contraband in the building at the Naval Submarine Base. Her tail started to wag.

As Master at Arms Second Class Bryan Jones pointed along the wall, Molly sniffed. She began to zigzag back and forth, closing in on the scent until she had pinpointed it.

The 10-year-old springer spaniel sat down in front of a window ledge where a ballcap hid two metal tins, planted there for this recent training exercise. Jones tossed Molly a red dog toy, her favorite reward.

Molly is one of 10 dogs in Groton who detect drugs and explosives and patrol the grounds at the base as part of the Military Working Dogs program. The Defense Department has about 2,000 working dogs at major installations across the country and overseas.

In Groton, the dogs inspect buildings, submarines and anywhere else needed. They check vehicles entering the base and stand by the gate as a visual deterrent to any would-be troublemaker. They can be called on for Secret Service missions, such as presidential or vice presidential visits to the Northeast. Some deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan.

When Molly arrived at the base in November, some people said she was too old and had lost too many of her detection skills after not being used enough at another base. Molly was often guilty of "false responding," sitting down to indicate there were drugs or explosives where there were none. She did not follow all the obedience commands.

Molly was paired with Jones, one of seven handlers in Groton. The trick, Jones said, was for him to act goofy so Molly would have fun and change her behavior quickly.

"A lot of people thought she was done, because of her age and everything," Jones said. "I took it as a challenge, and I wanted to prove them wrong. That's what we're doing now."

Earlier this month, a Navy assessment team reviewed the working dogs at the Groton kennel. Molly passed. She also successfully searched a barracks building with the base commanding officer, Capt. Marc W. Denno, watching.

Molly's tale, Denno said, "almost sounds like the plot of a novel or movie."

"It has those classic plot twists about age, ability, support and ultimately redemption," he said. "And of course, in Molly's case, she's redeemed. She passed her certification fine."

Molly will be an asset to the base, Jones said, because she can fit into spaces on a submarine where typical military working dog breeds, like a German shepherd or a Belgian Malinois, cannot.

The commands at the base can call for a submarine inspection at random, or when a submarine is leaving or returning. Nothing has been found since Jones and his supervisor, Master at Arms Second Class Danielle Kubit, started working in Groton in 2008.

Denno said he knows the "value and impact of these outstanding dog and handler teams."

The Groton kennel is one of the largest in the Northeast, and its teams of dogs and their handlers often travel. They routinely go to Naval Station Newport, which does not have its own kennel. Two teams are in Afghanistan, a third in Iraq.

Britt, who is half German shepherd, half Belgian Malinois, returned to Groton in 2007 after spending nine months in Anbar province. Dogs like Britt help find drugs or explosives hidden on people, in vehicles or by the roadside. They go on patrols and guard military bases.

Training the dogs

The military working dogs learn their skills at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

It takes an average of six months to train dogs to detect drugs or explosives and patrol. They learn basic obedience skills and how to recognize the odor of drugs or explosives. They get food or a toy when they recognize the smell.

The process is repeated until the dogs associate the odor with the reward and consistently find the odor, said Maj. Kathy Jordan, commander of the Department of Defense Military Working Dog School. A similar process is used to teach dogs to bite a suspect.

Jordan said the school trains about 270 dogs annually, to keep the total number for the Defense Department at about 2,000. A dog's average age at retirement is 8˝ years old, but the average age prior to Sept. 11, 2001 was three years older because dogs were deploying much less.

"Whether it's bombs or drugs, people know that the dog is going to find it, and it's a deterrent," Jordan said, adding that a dog that is deployed and finds a bomb before it goes off probably saves lives.

Technology can't compete with a dog, Jordan said.

"Companies have brought equipment up here and put it against the dog," she said. "The dog's nose is just superior."

Dog on duty

For Molly, the training is not over yet.

She recently went on board the USS New Hampshire, her first time on an operational submarine.

Jones placed Molly in his beige backpack and climbed down the submarine's hatch. At the bottom, he unzipped the backpack and lifted Molly out.

She started to walk around the Virginia-class submarine, but she soon grew shy and intimidated by all the people who had gathered to watch.

The crew is accustomed to seeing large German shepherds lowered down on harnesses into submarines to check for drugs and explosives- not a 32-pound Springer spaniel.

Molly tried to hide. Jones held the leash to keep her in place so she lay down on the floor, coughing.

"She's not going to work," Jones said. "It's too much."

"How many times before she gets acclimated?" asked Cmdr. Michael Stevens, the ship's commanding officer.

"It will have to be an everyday thing, sir," Jones replied.

"How old is she?" Stevens asked.

"Ten, sir," Jones said.

"Really? Wow," Stevens said.

Lt. Cmdr. Mark Robinson, engineer on the New Hampshire (SSN 778), said using smaller dogs on the submarines seems like a good idea because they "can get into tight spaces, and it's easier for them to move around a small boat."

Jones will now begin taking Molly on the submarines regularly so she can get used to working in that environment. Jones expects her to do well, since she has progressed quickly with the rest of her training.

"She has come a long way," Jones said.

"I guess I pushed her pretty hard to get there. I asked a lot of her, and she did it."



Base kennel dedicated to fallen Marine 

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany gave a former Marine stationed here its highest honor by renaming the base K-9 kennel in his name in a somber ceremony March 19.

Officially renamed the Corporal Dustin Jerome Lee Kennel, permission for naming the facility was approved by the commandant of the Marine Corps.

Lee, 20, of Quitman, Miss., was killed in Iraq March 21, 2007, in a 73 mm rocket attack.  His K-9 military working dog, Lex, was by his side and sustained shrapnel wounds during the incident that took Lee’s life. 

At the time of the attack, Lee was detached from the Marine Corps Police Department here, and attached to the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 6, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

Lee’s family attended the event with Lex, whom the family adopted Dec. 21, 2007, after appealing to the military and eventually making Lex the first fully-fit military working dog granted early retirement and adoption by the Department of Defense to his fallen handler’s family.

The ceremony was attended by guest speaker Lt. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, commanding officer of U.S. Marine Forces Command; Lt. Gen. Willie J. Williams, former LOGCOM commanding general;  Brig. Gen. James A. Kessler, commanding general, LOGCOM; Col. Terry V. Williams, commanding officer, MCLBAlbany; Col. Christian Haliday, former base commanding officer who initiated the dedication request; collectively honored the Lee family for the sacrifice of their son, brother and Marine.

“The last three years have been hard, to say the least, but we have had a lot of support,” said Dustin Lee’s father, Jerome Lee. “It’s fitting that the Marine Corps and military family have come together to honor him.”

As part of the dedication ceremony to Lee, a large 100-pound bronze tablet was unveiled by his family.

 In part, it read: “Cpl. Lee and Lex supported the Marines of Company A, 3rd Recon Bn., for nearly five months of continuous combat operations by identifying improvised explosive devices and courageously exposing themselves to hidden threats throughout the Al Anbar, Iraq, province in order to protect their fellow Marines.

Cpl. Lee was killed in action on March 21, 2007, when Company A’s forward operating base was attacked by insurgents with indirect fire. Cpl. Lee was mortally wounded and Lex was injured when a 73 mm rocket exploded inside his forward operating base.

He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device for Valor and the Combat Action Ribbon.”

After the plaque was revealed, Dustin Lee’s mother, Rachel Lee, gave a heartfelt speech giving thanks to the base for welcoming her family over the last three years and dedicating the facility to her son who cherished working here and honing his K-9 handling skills before being deployed to Iraq.

“This means so much to us. This base is an extension of our family,” she said. “Dustin was not perfect; he was the typical child that would get in trouble. But he did have a perfection – to be the best dog handler he could be.  I’m honored to be his mom. I miss him, but I know he’s serving in a better place.”

During his speech to the large crowd gathered to dedicate to K-9 Kennel, and to the Lee family especially, Natonski said, “Today we come full circle, honoring the memory and bravery of Corporal Dustin Jerome Lee and his faithful partner Lex, with gratitude to his mom, dad, brother and sister.

“Mr. and Mrs. Lee you’ve raised a fine Marine and son.  Semper Fi Corporal Lee, Semper Fi Lex, and may God bless you all.”





Measure Inspired by Hunterdon County Military Working Dog

WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives today approved a House Resolution introduced by Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ-07) honoring military working dogs of America for their service throughout our Nation’s history.

Lance said H.Res. 812 was specifically inspired by the efforts of “Ben” a Hunterdon County German Shepherd who has served 11 years in the United States Air Force. Ben served in a security unit that was trained to detect narcotics and also served as a patrol dog. Lance noted that JT Gabriel of Flemington, who is Ben’s adopted owner, brought Ben’s story to his attention.

“Throughout our Nation’s history military working dogs, like Ben, have made great contributions to help our military men and women accomplish their important missions,” Lance said during a speech on the House floor. “These dogs have helped save lives and protect our soldiers in harms way. This Resolution also recognizes community organizations that help facilitate the adoption of these animals into good homes after their loyal service.”

Specifically, Lance’s resolution recognizes the significant contributions of the Military Working Dog Program to the United States Armed Forces, honors active and retired military working dogs for their loyal service and supports the adoption and care of these quality animals after their service. Lance said for more than six decades military working dogs have helped prevent injuries and saved the lives of thousands of Americans.

At the end of last year, Lance held a special ceremony at Hunterdon Central Regional High School to honor Ben. Veterans, community leaders, school officials and students participated in the event. Lance’s bipartisan legislation was endorsed by the U.S. War Dogs Association and the Humane Society of America.

Honoring a soldier's best friend

Hundreds of military dogs die on duty saving our troops

— A former Air Force sentry dog handler in Vietnam has one last mission.

He’s working with others to honor military canines with a national monument.

“Our war dogs deserve recognition for the lives they saved,” said Larry Chilcoat, who patrolled the combat perimeter of Camp Cameron, Vietnam, throughout 1969 with a German shepherd named Geisha.

“It’s been 40 years, and I have a beautiful wife and granddaughter, but I don’t carry their pictures,” Chilcoat, 62, said. “But I still carry a photo of Geisha; she changed my life.”

“I love my family,” Chilcoat said, “but Geisha was my lifeblood in a jungle nightmare, and we both relied on each other day and night to survive.

“She heard things I didn’t and let me know, and I knew she would die to protect me.”

Military dogs saved more than 10,000 lives in Vietnam, according to the U. S. War Dog Association. More than 200 of about 4,000 dogs that served in Vietnam, died while on duty, the Fulton retiree said.

Chilcoat is one of three former military dog handlers who received Pentagon approval in January for a proposed Military Working Dog National Monument.

The veterans presented plans for a bronze pedestal with a soldier and four dogs, designed by Brian Rich, of Fairfax Va. He’s the uncle of a Marine dog handler, Cpl. Dustin Jerome Lee, who was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade on March 21, 2007, in Fallujah, Iraq.

Lee’s bomb sniffing dog, Lex who was wounded, later was adopted by Lee’s family, said Rich, 35, a graphic artist and former Marine.

“It’s helped my family with the loss of my nephew, and motivated me to design the monument,” Rich said.

Chilcoat said Pentagon officials loved the design.

He, project founder John Burnam of Bethesda Ma., and Richard Deggans of Plano, are taking back a clay model in mid-April being made by bronze sculptor Paula Slater, of Hidden Valley Lake, Calif.

Chilcoat, Burnam and Deggans, who are among more than 10,000 Vietnam War dog handlers, met through the Vietnam Dog Handlers Association. Their push to honor their dogs led to then-President George W. Bush signing legislation in 2008 for a monument, to be built and maintained with private donations. A location is tentatively planned at Fort Belvoir, Va. They have raised about $20,000 of an estimated cost of about $850,000.

Pigeons, dolphins, horses and other animals have served in wars since World War I, said Burnam, 62, who served in the Army from 1966 to 1968. But no animal has done as much as the dog, which has served as sentries, scouts, trackers and patrol leaders, he said.

Burnam and his scout dog led infantry patrols.

Burnam knows firsthand the dogs, like his scout dog that led infantry patrols, deserve recognition.

“We were the tip of the spear, detecting sounds and movement in the jungles, that led to ammunition caches, underground tunnel complexes, and entrenched enemies,” he said. “If the dog’s body goes rigid, they cock their head, perk ears, fix their eyes, you know it’s dangerous,” he said. “You certainly don’t want to go where the dog doesn’t want to go. They saved my butt from enemy fire several times.”

In one incident his dog alerted as they led a patrol into a clearing, he said.

“We hit the ground — ambushed by enemies in bunkers,” he said. “We laid behind a 10-inch diameter tree trunk, with enemies firing in front of us, and our guys firing over our heads. If we would have moved either direction, they would have blown the hell out of us.”




Military Working Dog, veterans honored at ceremony

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 at 5:14 p.m.


KIRKSVILLE, MO. -- A local Veteran's Day ceremony was held at the Rieger Armory in Kirksville.
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Greg Dabney was the master of ceremonies but the spotlight was on a four-legged military friend.
Debbie Kandoll and her retired Military Working Dog Benny came from New Mexico to be the guests of honor.

Kandoll was spreading the word about adopting Military Working Dogs after they serve our country.

Benny is a certified therapy dog and Debbie takes him to see soldiers and veterans across the country.

“He (Benny) enjoys relating to them, he knows that their his people.  He spent 10 years around guys and girls in uniforms and he just gets this grin on his face and this recognition of, 'hey, we're companions, we're paisonos, we're fellow military members.'  And he administers to them, he listens to them,” said Founder of Military Working Dog Adoptions Debbie Kandoll.

Benny served ten years in the military as a narcotics detection dog.

Kandoll says the phrase 'support our troops' isn't only about the two-legged soldiers but the four-legged ones as well.

She says the canines are treated well when they're serving the country but many of them are euthanized when their service ends.

“We're encouraging the status quo of viewing these dogs as equipment to change and that their status will be elevated to that of what they are, the military veteran.  Because when they're on active duty they're a soldier.  But the day they retire, they're considered a pet,” Kandoll said.

Click here to find out more about Military Working Dog Adoptions. 


Sniffer dog that went missing in action after Afghan battle is discovered safe and sound after 14 MONTHS lost in the desert

By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 6:23 PM on 12th November 2009


A sniffer dog that went missing in action after a battle in Afghanistan has been found safe and well after more than a year in the desert.

Sabi the black Labrador was with a joint Australian-Afghan army patrol when it was ambushed by Taliban militants in September 2008.

Nine soldiers were wounded in the ensuing gun battle, which earned one Australian SAS trooper the country's highest bravery award.

But there was no sign of the bomb-sniffing dog after the battle in a remote area of Uruzgan province.

Sabi's handlers spent months scouring the desert looking for the four-year-old animal, but to no avail.


Having a ball: Sabi at Forward Operating Base Ripley in Tarin Kowt, Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan, after her amazing return

Last week - 14 months after she disappeared - a U.S. serviceman spotted a dog with an Afghan man at an isolated patrol base in another part of Uruzgan.

The Afghan handed Sabi over and the American quickly realised she must be a military-trained animal.

Within days, the Labrador was returned to her unit - no worse for wear.

Mark Donaldson, the SAS trooper awarded the Victoria Cross for rescuing a wounded interpreter during the battle, said: 'Sabi's the last piece of the puzzle.

'Having Sabi back gives some closure for the handler and the rest of us that served with her in 2008. It's a fantastic morale-booster for the guys.'

The dog's unnamed handler told of the moment he was reunited with Sabi. He said: 'I nudged a tennis ball to her with my foot and she took it straight away.

'It's a game we used to play over and over during her training. It's amazing, just incredible, to have her back.'


  Hero's welcome: Sabi is greeted by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and US commander General Stanley McChrystal

Hero's welcome: Sabi is greeted by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and US commander General Stanley McChrystal

The dog was returned to the Australians' base just in time for a visit by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who was photographed along with the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, petting Sabi.

'Sabi is back home in one piece and is a genuinely nice pooch as well,' Rudd told reporters.

The canine star appeared composed and relaxed, showing no signs of stress - she even welcomed strangers with a sniff and a lick.

Exactly where Sabi has been or what happened to her during the past 14 months will probably never be known, though her good condition when she was found indicated somebody had been looking after her, military spokesman Brig. Brian Dawson said.

The dog was being tested for diseases before a decision was made on whether she can return to Australia.

More than 1,500 Australian troops are in Afghanistan and most are involved in training Afghan security forces. Among them are units that use dogs to sniff out roadside bombs and other explosive booby traps.


FBI dog to be honored in Virginia

October 29, 2009

The Detroit News

Detroit -- An FBI dog killed in the line of duty Wednesday will have his name added to a memorial wall at FBI headquarters in Quantico, Va., the agency said today.

Freddy, a Belgian Malinois, was killed by gunfire at a Dearborn warehouse during a raid on members of a group the FBI described as a radical, violent and separatist black Muslim group.

Killed in the raid was Luqman Ameen Adbullah, the imam of the Masjid Al-Haqq mosque in Detroit and the alleged leader of the group.

The FBI said in a news release that Freddy's body will be returned to Quantico, where the dog was based.

"Freddy was born on Feb. 17, 2007 and entered on duty with the FBI on Sept. 8, 2008," the statement said. "In the line of duty, Freddy gave his life for his team. He will be missed by his FBI family."

Anyone who wants to send a card to Freddy's team members, can be sent to Freddy's Team, c/o FBI, 477 Michigan Ave., 26th Floor, Detroit, MI 48226.

Donations to the K-9 Law Enforcement Memorial can be sent to the FBI Agents Association, Attn: K-9 Fund Freddy, P.O. Box 12650, Arlington, VA 22219.


'Sit! Stay! Snuggle!': An Iraq Vet Finds His Dog Tuesday

Trained for 2 Years, Retriever Helps Mr. Montalvan Get Back on His Feet


NEW YORK -- Like any other golden retriever seeking a treat, Tuesday nudged his owner's hand with his snout one recent morning and waited expectantly.

Luis Carlos Montalvan got up from a chair in his small Brooklyn apartment and walked to the kitchen. Tuesday followed close behind, eyes fixed on a white cabinet. The retriever sat alertly as Mr. Montalvan, an Iraq war veteran with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, reached for a vial of pills, lined a half-dozen on the table and took them one by one.

[Tuesday Dog]


The dog had gotten what he wanted: When the last pill was swallowed, he got up and followed his master out of the kitchen, tail wagging.

Tuesday is a so-called psychiatric-service dog, a new generation of animals trained to help people whose suffering is not physical, but emotional. They are, effectively, Seeing Eye dogs for the mind.

Tuesday is with Mr. Montalvan at all hours. Taught to recognize changes in a person's breathing, perspiration or scent that can indicate an imminent panic attack, Tuesday can keep Mr. Montalvan buffered from crowds or deliver a calming nuzzle. Other dogs, typically golden retrievers, Labradors or Labrador retriever blends, are trained to wake masters from debilitating nightmares and to help patients differentiate between hallucinations and reality by barking if a real person is nearby.

"Tuesday is just extraordinarily empathetic," said Mr. Montalvan, 36 years old, a retired Army captain who received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered in Iraq. "In bad moments, he'll lay his head on my leg, and it'll be like he's saying, 'You're OK. You're not alone.'"

Seeing Eye dogs were first systematically trained in Germany during World War I to aid blinded veterans. Today, psychiatric-service dogs are being trained to help veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan battles.

The federal government has given the dogs the same legal protections as other service animals, so Tuesday can ride the subway with Mr. Montalvan and accompany him to restaurants and theaters. But few of the dogs are available to former troops like Mr. Montalvan, one of the estimated 300,000 veterans of the two wars who will ultimately develop PTSD.


When Luis Montalvan was an Army Captain stationed in Iraq, he suffered serious injuries in an ambush. Back in the States, he's finding comfort from a service dog that tends to his injuries, both physical and emotional.

Puppies Behind Bars Inc., a New York-based nonprofit that uses prisoners to train animals, has placed psychiatric-service dogs with 11 veterans and hopes to provide 14 more this year. Gloria Gilbert Stoga, the charity's president, said it is difficult to raise the $26,000 needed to train each dog. "We're just scratching the surface," she said.

Tuesday was born on the upstate New York farm of Lu Picard, who runs East Coast Assistance Dogs Inc., a nonprofit that trains dogs to assist masters ranging from mentally handicapped children to stroke victims and quadriplegics.

Tuesday was eight weeks old when he and five siblings were turned over to Puppies Behind Bars, who moved them to New York's Fishkill Correctional Facility. The pup shared a cell with John Pucci, a convicted killer who assumed primary responsibility for molding Tuesday into a service dog.

"No one thought he would make it," said Mr. Pucci, explaining that Tuesday would fall asleep in other prisoners' laps as they watched television and would sometimes hide under Mr. Pucci's bed and refuse to leave the cell. Inmates bet Mr. Pucci some cigarettes that Tuesday was too affectionate to be a service dog.

Mr. Pucci discovered that Tuesday loved the jail's small inflatable pool and would run through commands perfectly if he was in the water. In nine months, Mr. Pucci taught Tuesday to respond to 82 commands geared mainly toward helping the physically disabled -- turning on lights with his nose, retrieving food from shelves, helping load washing machines.

"I got released before I could collect the cigarettes," said Mr. Pucci, 64 years old, who served 29 years and now lives in San Antonio, Texas, where he continues to train dogs.

Tuesday returned to Ms. Picard's farm, where his skills were fine-tuned for another 18 months. Ms. Picard taught him to respond to signs of anxiety and commands tailored to veterans with PTSD: "block," which tells the dog to create space for an owner who fears crowds, "my lap" and "snuggle."

Mr. Montalvan grew up in Potomac, Md., a wealthy suburb of Washington, where he played war games with friends. He enlisted at 17, spent a decade in the Army and enrolled in college to pursue a career as an officer.

In the summer of 2003, newly commissioned as a second lieutenant, he left for Iraq. Photos from the time show a square-jawed man with bulging muscles. Comrades jokingly called him the "Terminator."

Leslie Granda-Hill

Luis Carlos Montalvan at a New York bookstore with Tuesday, who goes with him everywhere and is trained to respond to signs of anxiety.

That changed in December 2003. Mr. Montalvan was walking in a compound on Iraq's border with Syria at around 9:30 p.m. when a man leaped out of the darkness and started slashing at him with a knife.

He pulled out his Beretta and shot the man, wounding him. Another soldier killed the attacker, according to Army records and several soldiers who served in the unit. Mr. Montalvan was thrown into a truck, fracturing three vertebrae.

Tall with long hair and broad shoulders, Mr. Montalvan now walks with a cane. But his biggest problems, he says, are emotional. "Sometimes my mind goes jumbled," he said one afternoon as he struggled to remember which subway line to take home. "Everything just gets kind of cloudy."

His marriage fell apart in late 2005. He left the Army two years later and severed many friendships. He began to fear crowds and drink himself to sleep. He regularly considered suicide, he says. A local Veterans Affairs medical facility has prescribed painkillers for his back, migraine pills for brain injury, and drugs for anxiety and depression.

By last summer, Mr. Montalvan was living alone in a small apartment in Brooklyn. He was surfing the Web in July when he saw a mass email about free trained service dogs for veterans with physical or psychological wounds -- the "Dog Tags" program of Puppies Behind Bars.

He submitted a formal application. By early November, he joined a group of veterans at Ms. Picard's farm in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., for two weeks of training with their new dogs.

Mr. Montalvan says he initially didn't feel much of a connection to Tuesday. The dog licked other people's faces, but not his. For the first four months they lived together in Brooklyn, Tuesday was obedient but not particularly affectionate.

"I guess it just took us a while to adjust to each other," he says.

They did. Tuesday, now 3 years old, listens to the daily alarm on Mr. Montalvan's wristwatch, his cue to make sure he takes his pills. Wearing the red harness of a work dog, he accompanies Mr. Montalvan to Dunkin' Donuts and the movie theater, to Veterans Administration group counseling sessions in Manhattan, and to Columbia University, where Mr. Montalvan is studying journalism and communication.

At Mr. Montalvan's apartment -- decorated with his Purple Heart and Bronze Star certificates, and pictures and paintings of Tuesday -- they sleep in the same wooden sleigh bed.

On a recent afternoon, Mr. Montalvan and Tuesday walked to a nearby subway station. The platform was crowded. Mr. Montalvan began to look agitated. Tuesday, who had been lying at his feet, jumped up and stood between his master and the nearest cluster of people, creating a buffer. Mr. Montalvan's breathing noticeably stabilized.

The train approached. Mr. Montalvan bent down to tie his Army combat boots, scratched Tuesday behind the ears, and they made their way aboard.

Write to Yochi J. Dreazen at



Military working dog team inspects potential 22,000-gallon bomb


by Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher

386th Air Expeditionary Public Affairs

4/10/2009 - CAMP BUCCA, Iraq (AFNS) -- Military working dog handlers and their canine partners are used throughout Southwest Asia to detect explosives that are meant to injure servicemembers and innocent civilians.

For one dog handler, Staff Sgt. Joseph Null, and his dog, Lucca, this task took an interesting turn.

"There was a fuel truck that had gone off road and got stuck in the sand," said the sergeant, who is part of the 42nd Military Police Brigade. "It had been abandoned overnight, and I was tasked to go out with the Army to sweep the area leading up to the vehicle and basically clear the area for improvised explosive devices that had been attached to the vehicle."

This is an important, though dangerous step, he said.

"Anytime you're going to have people go into an unknown area, you want to clear it as best as you possibly can," Sergeant Null said. "If you can have an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team clear it or a bomb-sniffing dog go out there and clear the area, then you're taking one more threat away from the Soldier who has to go out there and do a job."  

But IEDs weren't the only threat posed by the abandoned truck. It was carrying 22,000 gallons of gas, potentially turning the truck into a massive fuel bomb.

"That makes a pretty big bomb if there's some C4 strapped to it," he said.

For 45 agonizing minutes, Sergeant Null and Lucca searched the area, the handler waiting for the working dog to give him some sign that all wasn't well with the tanker truck.

"It makes you a little nervous clearing a real area, because you know it's the real deal," he said. "But that's your job. This is what I signed up to do. Somebody's got to do it, right? If my dog had sat, I would have praised her and gotten back to the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle as quick as possible to report what had happened."

At this point, it was Lucca's show. The German Shepherd would either sit, indicating the presence of a bomb, or she wouldn't.

"You don't look at the dog as a dog," Sergeant Null said. "You train together all the time. We've been together since June and I couldn't count the number of hours we've spent together. It's like having a best friend. You think on that same wavelength. My dog goes and does her job, and you know what to look for while she does her job. If you can't trust the dog, you shouldn't be out there anyway."

But Lucca didn't sit. The truck was clear.

"Everything was good to go," Sergeant Null said.

Eight hours later, the truck was finally pulled free of the sand, and the convoy made its way back to base. Sergeant Null said that although his primary mission is inside the wire, he's more than willing to go out again if called upon.  

"It's my job," he said. "It's the best job in the Air Force. You get to play with a dog and get paid pretty well for it. You can't beat that."

Col. Alan Metzler, 586th Air Expeditionary Group commander, said Joint Expeditionary Tasking Airmen like Sergeant Null are providing critical services in the joint environment and excelling at it.

"Our combat Airmen are doing an outstanding job in support of the mission at Camp Bucca, and Sergeant Null proves it," Colonel Metzler said. "Often, they have to adapt to situations and perform unique missions we don't normally ask them to do in the Air Force. Airmen like him demonstrate the Air Force's commitment to our mission in Iraq."




Returning to Serve, Sniff
Sensitive Noses No. 1 Weapon Against Bombs

By Christian Davenport
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 29, 2009; A01


Rambo sounds the warning as soon as the kennel door at Bolling Air Force Base creaks open, a ferocious, thunderous bark as loud and persistent as a jackhammer. In the next stalls, Rocky goes berserk, spinning in tight circles like a top, and Jess, ears perked, bounces excitedly up and down.
Then there's Timi. He stays silent, his head bowed, ears bent. He stands motionless, averting his gaze.
Timi has always been the oddball of the kennel in Southwest Washington, "the quirky one," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Timothy Evans, his trainer. The dog is also an Iraq war veteran, and according to his medical file, he has nightmares "characterized by violent kicking." His veterinarian says he has had "readjustment issues" since coming home -- although not severe enough to prevent him from returning to the field.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan aren't just forcing thousands of soldiers and Marines to deploy for two and three tours. The sacrifice is being shared by a key, and growing, part of the U.S. military: highly trained German shepherds and Belgian Malinois. In a war with no front lines, they have become valuable at sniffing out makeshift bombs, which cause most U.S. casualties.
The use of dogs in war, whether as scouts, sentries or trackers, goes back hundreds of years. But since Sept. 11, 2001, the Defense Department has increased the number of military dogs from 1,320 to 2,025, and many have served multiple tours.
Some service members say the dogs' ability to sniff out bombs and insurgents makes them as indispensable as a rifle or flak jacket. And they believe that the dogs' heroism should be rewarded.
The U.S. War Dogs Association is trying to persuade the Pentagon to create a medal for dogs. Another group is pushing for a military working dog memorial in the Washington area. And the Humane Society, which criticized the Pentagon during the Vietnam War, when many dogs were left behind or euthanized, has credited the military with working to find retirement homes for them.
Like new recruits, the dogs enter the military through boot camp, where they learn the canine version of soldiering: basic obedience and how to detect explosives, navigate obstacle courses and sneak up on a house without barking. They are exposed to the rat-tat-tat of rifles, loud noises and explosions so they can learn to stay cool under fire. Although they are taught to bite and hold the enemy, they are not trained to kill, officials said. By the time they are ready to hit the battlefield, the Pentagon has invested $15,000 in each dog.
It's impossible to estimate how many lives the dogs have 0saved, said Master Sgt. Robert Tremmel, manager of the Air Force's working dogs program at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where the dogs -- and dog trainers from different branches of the military -- are initially trained.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, "they're finding ammunition," he said. "They're finding weapons -- AK-47s and caches and a lot of unexploded ordnance. . . . They're invaluable."
But there have also been numerous accounts of dogs being used to intimidate detainees during interrogations in Iraq and elsewhere. One of the most notorious photos from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was of a dog handler holding a dog inches from a detainee's face. The handler was one of two soldiers convicted of using dogs to intimidate detainees.
And officials at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, began using dogs to intimidate detainees during interrogations in late 2002, after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved techniques that used "detainees' individual phobias [such as fear of dogs] to induce stress," according to a military memo Rumsfeld signed in December 2002.
At Andrews Air Force Base, which has the largest K-9 unit in the region, two dog teams recently deployed. In addition to military dogs, 38 contractor dog teams are in Afghanistan and about 140 dogs across Iraq. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, 11 military dogs have been killed in combat, Tremmel said.
Former Air Force Tech Sgt. Harvey Holt and his dog, Jackson, (officially it's "Jjackson," with the double "J" signifying that he was bred by the Defense Department) were pinned down by sniper fire in 2006 while on patrol outside Baquba, north of Baghdad. During a break in the fire, he took his dog, a Belgian Malinois, through the field to find the sniper. Jackson picked up a scent, sprinted toward a bale of hay, jumped in head first and pulled the sniper out by his calf, Holt said.
Like other handlers, Holt, who is now a police officer in Indiana, was often attached to many different units, depending on who needed a canine's special capabilities. As a result, Holt didn't form the "band of brothers" bonds with other soldiers, but rather with his dog. On cold nights, they shared a sleeping bag.
"We were two heads poking out of the bag," he said. "If it weren't for the dog, I probably wouldn't have made it emotionally there. The bond and trust I had in that dog was more than with any human being." After Holt handed Jackson off to the next handler, he came to miss him so much that he got a tattoo of Jackson on his left leg.
During his six-month tour in Iraq last year, Timi, a 5-year-old German shepherd, found about 100 pounds of explosive material, Evans said, including a 130mm shell full of homemade explosives.
Timi "is all business," he said. "A real foot soldier." Tough and no-nonsense, he has always been more reserved than the other dogs. He took his time eating. He seemed to look at people out of the corners of his eyes, Evans said, following them. "He's calculating."
But a few months into the deployment, Timi started thrashing about in his sleep, Evans said.
"It was almost like he was having a seizure in his sleep," Evans said. "This was not like he was chasing a little bunny rabbit. He was kicking the . . . kennel down. . . . When I got him out of it, he'd have that bewildered look, and it would take him a minute to know where he was. Then he'd fall back asleep, and it would happen again and again."
For two years, Walter Burghardt, chief of behavioral medicine at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Veterinary Service, has been studying the effects of combat on dogs. Although he doesn't like to use the term post-traumatic stress disorder with dogs, war can affect them emotionally, he said. In some cases, antidepressants have worked, he said, as have more playtime and more time performing the tasks they were trained to do.
Timi's episodes did not affect his ability to work, which is when he seemed happiest, Evans said. Since coming home, Timi has shown great progress, although in the kennel he is more subdued than the others.
Still, Timi is one of the stars at Bolling, and his workload in the past several months has included trips to Camp David for the former president, to Paris for the former first lady and to New York in advance of an appearance by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on the "Late Show With David Letterman," Evans said.
Now he's on his way back to Iraq, the second of what could be several tours. Army Capt. Amos Peterson, his veterinarian, signed off on Timi's ability to deploy.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon L. Gaines, his new handler, said there is no one he would rather deploy with.
"It's written all over him," he said of Timi. "He's ready to go back."
Staff writer Josh White contributed to this report.




Dog trained in military prison to help amputee

By Amanda Greene
Staff Writer

Published: Friday, November 21, 2008 at 8:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 21, 2008 at 8:18 p.m.

This is the first time Marine Cpl. Zachary Briseno will be in his Fort Worth, Texas, home for Thanksgiving in four and a half years since his two tours of duty in Iraq. That’s something to be thankful for.

Zach Briseno, a corporal with the Marines who lost his legs in Iraq, has been in Wilmington since Monday as he and his son Elijah (right) get familiar with the newest member of the family. Eve, a service dog trained my prisoners at Camp Lejeune through Carolina Canines for Veterans, will be helping Briseno with everyday tasks like doing the laundry and opening doors.
Staff Photo | PAUL STEPHEN

But the 23-year-old has a furrier reason for thankfulness this week.

Briseno, who lost both of his legs below the knees almost a year ago in an IED attack in Fallujah, is getting a specially trained guide dog to help him in his day-to-day tasks. The dog was trained through Carolina Canines for Veterans, an adjunct program of the local nonprofit Carolina Canines for Service. Briseno got Even, his new service dog, a black Labrador with a white belly, at a ceremony Friday.

“She’s going to be big. She is my legs,” he said, with Eve sitting attentively between his prosthetic legs. “Not only has she been a great help in things I have to learn all over again, but she’s a great addition to the family, and a friend.”

The program is the first of its kind in the nation that allows Marine prisoners at Camp Lejeune to train service dogs for injured veterans returning from combat. Eve is the second dog released from the Veterans program since it started in January this year.

Trained in more than 70 commands, Eve can brace her back to help Briseno get off the floor. She can open doors, paw dropped keys out from under a car seat and pick things up off the floor if he drops something.

Dogs are rescued from area shelters and given tests to make sure they suit the profile of a good service dog. Then they are taken to the military prison at Camp Lejeune where the dogs work with prisoners there along with trainers from Carolina Canines twice a week for seven to nine months. To integrate them into everyday life, Marine volunteers take the dogs home to get them used to a home environment and out to grocery stores and other areas to socialize them. By January, the privately-funded program will have trained four dogs for about $160,000.

Wounded veterans “have paid a high price for doing what we’ve asked them to do, and we felt this program couldn’t wait for the funding to get started,” said Rick Hairston, president of Carolina Canines.

Carolina Canines officials said prisoners must have an overall positive institutional record and must be recommended by a prison psychologist. The prisoners must have no history of sexual assault/abuse, violence, additional charges or escape attempts since incarceration to be candidates for the service dog training program. Prison service dog training programs for people with disabilities have been in this country since the 1980s starting with a program at the Washington State Women’s Correctional Facility.

“The prisoners are winning because their learning new skills to help their comrades who were wounded in combat,” said Pat Novak, executive assistant at Carolina Canines. She added that the prisoners are beginning to take the dogs to anger management and other therapy groups in the prison to help their fellow prisoners. “And the dogs are winning because it’s saving dogs that might have been euthanized in a shelter.”

Briseno also took a trip to Camp Lejeune this week to thank the prisoners who had trained Eve.

“A lot of them had given up their privileges to train the dogs and that showed how much they cared about the dogs,” he said.

Though the group is pushing for government funding, right now, Carolina Canines pays for the veterans program through donations and grants. A faith-based organization, its dogs are given biblical and Hebrew names “as a small way that we can give glory to God,” Novak added. The first veterans service dog was named Gabriel.

Eve was rescued from a Myrtle Beach shelter. Now, the black Labrador can help her new owner turn off lights and retrieve his prosthetic legs. If Briseno decides to do some laundry, Eve will be there to pull the laundry basket to the washer, put clothing into the washer with her mouth and take the clothing out of the dryer once it’s dried.

Briseno has spent this week in intensive training to learn how to Eve works. At the reception Tuesday, he worked with her to open a refrigerator door and bring him the salad dressing.

He signals Eve warmly with kissy sounds.

“Eve. Tug fridge. Eve, bottle. Eve, look. Shut door. Good girl,” he said, rubbing her head. She responds to him quietly, sitting and watching his every move. He also brought his 3-year-old son Elijah and his mother Mariana Rice. Elijah has already learned the “leave it” command to protect his stuffed animals around Eve.

Back at home, Briseno will continue his trips to San Antonio for rehabilitation and his training to become a law enforcement officer. He also hopes to finish a few more marathons, having just completed one in Washington three weeks ago. On the verge of medical retirement from the military, Briseno is looking forward to including Eve in this new chapter in his life.

His mother is proud of her son’s recovery.

“He hasn’t let it get him down,” she said. “He’s a lot stronger than I would have been myself.”

Amanda Greene: 343-2365






Helping a different kind of vet - Kandolls adopt War Dog Benny

28 February 2008 – By Sarah A. Wise • NL Staff Writer   

News Leader

Most pet owners think their animal is special in some way. Maybe it’s their pup’s talent for fetching, or their cat’s ability to entertain itself for hours.

But what makes Debbie Kandoll’s dog Benny special is a truly unique thing indeed: Benny is a retired member of the United States military.

Debbie and her husband Mike, who live in the Pikeville area, adopted the German Shepherd earlier this year. Benny came to the Kandolls through a program that allows civilians to adopt military war dogs once they retire.

Though Benny wasn’t adopted until January of this year, Debbie said adopting a military war dog had been on her mind for several years.

She said she first heard of the program around the time it began. Though dogs had been assisting the military for decades, it wasn’t until President Bill Clinton signed a bill approving their adoption in 2000 that any of those dogs had a life beyond their service. Prior to that bill, once their service had ended, military war dogs were declared excess equipment by the military and euthanized.

Since then, Debbie had been thinking about adopting one of the dogs, but her husband wasn’t always sold on the idea.
“I grew up with animals in the house,” she said. “He grew up on a farm, where the animals always stayed outside, and didn’t like the idea of animals in the house.”

However, after Mike returned from a deployment to Iraq, Debbie said she told him if he was deployed again, she wanted to adopt a dog to keep her company while he was gone.

When things began to look like he wouldn’t be deployed again, Debbie said she began thinking about getting horses. It was then that her husband brought the idea of adopting a military war dog back to the table.

“Sometimes I say that he agreed to get the dog so I wouldn’t get horses,” she joked.

It was November 28 of last year that Mike agreed to adopt the dog, and Debbie began searching the next day. But the process, she found, is not as simple as one would think.

She had been directed to contact Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, which is where the military war dog program is based. However, she discovered through contacting the base that its more effective to contact local military bases that have a military war dog program, because they prefer to adopt dogs to local people.

After months of calling and checking, Debbie finally located Benny at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. Once she adopted Benny, Debbie said she noticed an eerie coincidence that affirms her faith that God had a hand in bringing Benny to her. Benny had been declared excess by the military on November 29, the same day Debbie began her search. And though it took her a while to get connected with him, Debbie said that her adoption of Benny literally saved his life – he was on the schedule to be euthanized.

Debbie and her husband drove up to Virginia to pick up Benny on January 4. At first, the excitement was mingled with anxiety about how Benny, who had spent his entire life in a kennel, would adopt to the myriad of new situations before him.

But Benny has adjusted quite well. He loves children, new people, and other animals, which is fortunate for the Kandolls’ cat Simba who ruled the roost before Benny’s arrival.

Debbie explained that when they first got Benny, he was not a mean-spirited animal, but he was very restrained.

“Because of his training, he was very restrained,” she said. “He was like a robot-dog for the first few weeks. But as he got more comfortable, his personality began to shine through.”

Benny’s military career was ended due to a slight problem with his leg, which had been aggravated from standing on his hind legs to sniff for drugs. The problem doesn’t hinder Benny on a day-to-day basis, and Debbie said it has actually improved since adoption. Leg spasms have ceased since Benny adjusted to sleeping on soft cushions rather than concrete floors.

Overall, Debbie said she is overjoyed by the new addition to her family. But her adoption of Benny brought her more than a furry friend. She feels that her experience with the process has given her a chance to spread the word about these dogs.

Too many are still euthanized because they can’t find homes, she said. And Debbie feels that there is a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about how to go about adopting an animal like Benny.

So the former teacher and Air Force Reservist spends her days working with Benny and municipal organizations to have an open discussion about adopting animals, and the many benefits of doing so.

“I just want to let people know that anyone who wants to make a difference in just one life can do so,” she said.

Debbie has compiled a wealth of information about the process on the Internet, and is also willing to speak and work with anyone interested in adopting a war dog. She is also assisting with a presentation about war dogs at the 2008 Memorial Day event in Pikeville.

In addition to serving as an ambassador for the program, Benny volunteers as a therapy dog, and will soon be completely licensed. Earlier this month, he went with Seymour Johnson airmen to visit disabled veterans.

“He was a real charmer,” said Debbie, noting that as he met the patients, he would offer his paw for a handshake.

She added that, even amongst the military personnel she encountered at Seymour Johnson, there was a lot of misinformation about how to adopt one of the dogs.

“I had people asking me if I had to fill out a massive application, which I didn’t,” she said. “That just shows you how much misinformation is out there, and I want to do what I can to help change that.”

Visit for more information. For an outline of the adoption process, click on the small picture of Benny.

News Leader




Man's Best Friends Are Unsung Heroes

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq (Army News Service, March 13, 2007) - They may not carry firearms or communicate as humans do, but specialized search dogs are equipped and trained for battle in ways that make a Soldier's job more efficient and the streets of Iraq safer.

SSDs are a unique group of canines "trained for the military operational environment to find firearms, ammunition and explosives during a variety of missions," said 1st Lt. Danielle Roche, 94th Engineer Detachment commander. Roche, SSD supervisor, arrived in Iraq last October and has been working with SSDs for 18 months.

She also said the dogs have become integral members of the team fighting the war on terrorism. Their ability to detect explosives has saved lives and taken countless weapons off Iraq's streets.

"SSDs have excellent mobility and utility over ground not accessible to most mechanical detection tools and are faster than detection sensors or manual probing," Roche added.

Materials commonly found by the dogs include TNT, C4, detonation cord, smokeless powder, mortars, weapons and tools, along with materials containing explosive residue used in IED making. SSDs are the first to deem an area clear of explosives.

Like Soldiers, SSDs rely heavily on their battle buddies. An SSD's battle buddy is his trainer, parent and friend. He is the SSD's handler, and their success as a team depends on their ability to work together.

The dogs are fully obedient to their handlers both on and off the leash and under all types of conditions, Roche said. They are steady under gunfire, not distracted by wild or domesticated animals while working, capable of traveling by all types of transportation and react immediately to their handler's commands. Teams are able to search buildings, vehicles roads, open areas, airports, railway stations and household possessions.

"There's really only one limitation," Roche said. "If something happens to the handler, the dog goes back to the States to retrain with another handler."

Pfc. Kory Wiens of the 94th Eng. Detachment has been with his dog, Cooper, for nearly a year. The 20-year-old combat engineer said he's grateful to be a dog handler. When Wiens first met the yellow lab, the pup didn't know simple obedience commands. That's all changed.

"I got to teach him all the things he knows, today," Wiens said. "Seeing him out there working is very rewarding. It's amazing to see how far he's come."

Cooper has become more like a kid than a dog to Wiens. He introduces Cooper to everybody as his son, and said being with him is just like watching a kid grow up.

"It's a lot of fun having him in Iraq," Wiens said. "There's never a dull moment with him."

SSD teams spend 22 weeks training together in the U.S. and another 30 days getting acclimated and validated in theater. They live together, work together and receive days off. The SSDs are required to have a minimum of six hours rest in every 24-hour period. They work after sunset during the summer months due to extreme weather conditions.

"Dogs needs time to recover, but unlike a Soldier, you can't push a dog," Roche said. "If the dog is tired, you need to give him a break."

It is the handler's responsibility to determine if the dog can work and how often he needs a break.

Most of the dogs in Roche's detachment are between two and four years old, which means they are still young and playful. Despite being puppies, they know the difference between work and play, Roche said.

"The harness signifies to the dog that it's time to go to work and search," Roche said. Once the harness goes on and his handler gives proper command, the SSD begins searching. When the dog is "on odor" or has sniffed an explosive scent, he will change his behavior and sit and stare at the source of scent. Once the handler recognizes the signal, the SSD team turns the search over to EOD for clearance procedures.

"We don't clear anything," Wiens said. "We just search then give the search commander our knowledge and recommendations about the area."

"It's just a big game for the dog," Roche said, "but crucial in saving lives. They're just puppies playing around. As long as they have their drive for search and play, they'll work."

"You have to stay motivated and keep yourself in a good mood," Weins said. "Your main concern is the dog and making sure he does his job so you can do yours."



Working  Working dog teams search, patrol together

by Staff Sgt. Jasmine Reif
379th Air Expeditionary Wing

2/22/2007 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNEWS) -- Ensuring the safety of everyone at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing here rests upon a group of Airmen and their highly trained four-legged partners.

The 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog Section has several certified teams made up of handlers and their explosive detecting dogs who inspect every vehicle entering the base.

The teams also conduct foot patrols, perform random anti-terrorism measures and conduct searches on base.

"MWD teams are vital to all aspects of installation security," said David Aviles, the 379th ESFS MWD section kennel master. "Nothing is able to enter the base without MWD searching it prior to entry."

The dog handlers work 12-hour shifts and must take care to not overwork the dogs, especially as the outdoor temperatures rise. During an average 12-hour shift the teams will search more than 250 vehicles.

"Our main mission is the vehicle search pit, but we try to keep ourselves sharp by rotating positions during our shifts," said Tech. Sgt. Bob Weigold, the 379th ESFS MWD section element leader. "One team will do the vehicle searches, while another is doing perimeter checks or required training."

"Not only do our MWD teams provide a force multiplier on-base, they have been tasked to support convoy and port missions, as well as augment the Army at Camp As Sayliyah," said Capt. Steve Ohlmeyer, a 379th ESFS operations officer.

The dogs are trained as explosive detectors, but drug dogs are sent to other areas in the theater.

"The dogs are never trained to detect both because you wouldn't want a drug dog to start pawing at a potential bomb," Sergeant Weigold said.

The dogs are trained at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, when they are between 12 and 36 months old, and continue training until they are ready to be sent to their first duty station and assigned a handler.

Sergeant Weigold's partner is Timo, a 3-year-old German shepherd. They have been teamed up since August 2006. The four-year veteran dog handler joked the dogs receive better care than the handlers.

The MWD facility is an air-conditioned building with living quarters for the two element leaders, a day room, a portable obstacle course, indoor and outdoor dog runs, a small room to keep the dog's food and medicine, and a sink to wash dog dishes.
Sergeant Weigold said even the smallest details are important when taking care of the dogs. The dogs cannot go more than four hours without being checked by someone, he said.

"We have charts that show how much the dogs are eating and medicine intake amounts. Due to long work hours, it's critical the dogs stay at their ideal weight, so we closely monitor their food intake, and if a dog is sick they automatically get airlifted to a location that can help them," he said.

Keeping the dogs in prime health is critical to completing the mission and kennel cleanliness is one way the handlers do that.

"We have random kennel inspections to ensure the dogs are not lying in filth or water, which can cause skin conditions," Sergeant Weigold said. "We all 'GI party' the kennels on a regular basis and if I see a kennel that needs cleaning, I will clean it if the handler is off-duty because even a few hours can make a difference in the dog's health."


Canine Units in Afghanistan Issued New Protective Vests

By Spc. Cheryl Ransford, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Feb. 25, 2005 –– When canine handlers of the 25th Military Police Company conduct extraction missions and area searches in Afghanistan, their highly trained dogs often serve as the main tool for finding weapons and people in hiding.

Army Sgt. Danny Rogers, a dog handler with the 25th Military Police Company, is "attacked" by Jordon, a military working dog, during a training exercise at the military-operations-in-urban-terrain training site at Bagram Air Base. Photo by Spc. Cheryl Ransford, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image); high- resolution image available.

To counteract the added dangers these dogs face in the line of duty, their ballistic vest equipment has been upgraded.

"These new vests are an upgrade from the current vests the dogs have been using," said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Thomas, assistant kennel master for the 25th MP Co. "Before, the vests were only stab proof, which worked well for missions in the states. However, with the additional dangers these dogs are facing during this deployment, they are now wearing vests that are not only stab proof, but also bullet proof."

Although the new vests are slightly heavier than the vests the dogs previously used, neither their mobility nor their mission has been hindered by their use. "When the dogs are conducting missions that require them to use the new vests, they are in areas that could possibly cause them to be injured or killed," said Thomas. "They are the first one into the area looking for people or weapons. They help us find the things we can't see."

The vests are currently being used by the K-9 units at Bagram Air Base and Kandahar Airfield, said Sgt. 1st Class Erika Gordon, kennel master for the 25th MP Co. "Even though we only have a few vests at the moment, we are working to get vests for every dog in Afghanistan," she said. "These vests are the dogs' only means of protection. They go in before their handler. It is a matter of 'get them before they get you.' That's why these vests are so important."

The vests are also able to carry all of the dogs' gear, which includes heating or cooling packs. "These vests make us more versatile in what we can do with the dogs," said Gordon.

"Many people may say, 'They're just dogs, why do they need that kind of equipment?' But these dogs are a part of a team and need to be protected just as much as every member of every other team in country," said Thomas.

"These dogs are our partners," he said. "We travel with them, sleep with them and live with them. They are our best friends. Every dog handler will agree that there is nothing we won't do to protect our dogs."


Military Working Dogs Essential Tool in Iraq
2nd Military Police Battalion provides well trained military working dogs
to support the Marine Air Ground Task Force
By U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Christi Prickett
II Marine Expeditionary Force
CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq, May 4, 2005 — When people talk about the United States Armed Forces, images of light-footed Marines or large naval ships may come to mind. Not often mentioned are the nonhuman counterparts within the ranks.

Military working dogs first entered the service in March of 1942 to serve in the Army’s “K-9” Corps. Today, the dogs, who have an actual military service record book assigned to them, are still playing an active role in searching for explosives and seizing the enemy.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Samuel G. Colon, provost sergeant Multi National Force - West, and sergeant major of 2nd Military Police Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, is in charge of making sure the dogs are safe when they are out with Marines and sailors on missions.

“Our battalion provides well trained military working dogs and handlers,” said Colon, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native. “The dogs here are used to support the Marine Air Ground Task Force, first and foremost.”

"It’s like the dogs know we’re going to be there for them the same way they’re there for us." U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert P. Hansen




Daily dog duties include trips to entry control points, maneuver and mobility support operations, cordon and knocks, main supply route security and mandatory training.

Training is constant with the dogs. Each dog must be certified before entering the area of operation, and they must be recertified with their handler each year.

The dogs are not a replacement for service members, but instead, offer strengths in areas where humans may be weak. They are capable of working in any type of combat environment.

“The best way the dogs are used is that they can chase down anyone,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert P. Hansen, military working dog handler assigned to 2nd MP Battalion., II Marine Expeditionary Force. “A Marine might not be able to catch someone, but the dogs will.”

Another way the working dogs are used is for their sense of smell.

“At entry control points, dogs, Marines, and technology work together,” said Colon, a former dog handler. “The dogs are trained and capable of detecting all sorts of explosives.”


U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Tullier and Cpl. Matthew P. Cobb work with their dogs at entry control points, on convoys and while doing security missions. The dogs are capable of finding many types of explosives and chasing down suspects. As dog handlers, Tullier and Cobb must be recertified with their dogs each year. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christi Prickett

The dogs know progression of force just as service members are taught. Different voice and hand signals are given to clarify what the dog is to do.

“If someone is being belligerent, the dogs can sense it,” said Hansen. “The handler assesses the situation and if we feel the need to go further, the dog will do so when given the commands.”

Obedience is the first priority of the handlers, said Hansen.

“From day one, trust and rapport are essential between the dogs and their handlers,” said Hansen. “It’s like the dogs know we’re going to be there for them the same way they’re there for us.”

The dog handlers are responsible for feeding, grooming and veterinary appointments. The Army provides all veterinary needs at the kennels.

“I was a dog handler a long time ago,” said Colon, with a smile. “I have a special bond with all my Marines, but especially with the dogs and their handlers.”

The main purpose of the military working dogs is to alleviate positions where a service member would have to be put in harms way.

“Our dogs keep Marines and sailors alive,” said Lt. Col. Richard A. Anderson, commanding officer, 2nd MP Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force. “Whatever the commanding general deems as our main effort, we are there. We are tremendously flexible.”

Aron, a 2-year-old German shepard, takes a break in between room searches. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Kaitlyn M. Scarboro

Gone to the dogs: Depot K-9 expecting large anti-terrorism role
Submitted by:  
MCRD San Diego
Story by:  
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Kaitlyn M. Scarboro
Story Identification #:  

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO(Jan. 13, 2006) -- The Department of Defense authorized the retirement of Jaco, a military working dog for 10 years, and his adoption by former handler Sgt. Jerrod M. Glass, Jan. 8.

Jaco was a member of one of seven military working dog teams stationed here as a first line of defense in the protection of depot personnel and resources through explosive and narcotic detection in support of the depot's anti-terrorism efforts.

In correlation with the recent retirement of the explosives detecting canine, Jaco, and Hertha, a narcotics detecting military working dog, the K-9 section is expecting two new detection military working dogs, a new handler and several scheduled deployments of current military working dog teams.

The rotation in deployment among the depot military working dog handlers is more rapid than that of other, larger bases, sometimes causing depot Marines to deploy with a dog they have been handling for a short period of time.

Handlers and dogs would work together for several months, building a rapport effective in the detection of narcotics or explosives before deployment, according to Glass.

Military working dog handlers are first trained as military policemen. After graduation of their initial schooling, MPs are sent to dog-handling training at Fort Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio. Upon graduation, K-9 MP's are qualified in the basic care of their working dogs, according to Maj. Ronald G. Capes, depot provost marshal.

After the assignment of a new dog, the handler will work and train the dog until the kennel master certifies the Marine with his dog. The provost marshal will observe the team during a training exercise and must make a final approval of the working dog team to validate the certification, said Capes.

For depot K-9, working with a new dog is not a difficult task to overcome. Lance Cpl. Seth M. Reil said he spends every chance he can with his recently assigned explosives detecting dog to prepare them both for their upcoming deployment.

"Nobody else feeds him. Nobody else bathes him. Nobody else brushes him. Nobody else plays with him. He associates me with my touch. I'm his dad," said Reil.

Depot handlers commonly refer to themselves as the fathers of the respectively assigned working dogs, expressing a close bond between Marine and man's best friend.

"Nobody can make him feel better than I can, but nobody can make him feel worse," said Reil.

With the return of two recently deployed noncommissioned officers, Cpl. Jeffrey Beck and Glass, each of whom trained with their dogs for about three months before deployment, Reil is learning what he can about deployment with a new dog.

"At school we get different dogs so we can learn different dog personalities. Here it's like a well of knowledge. Everybody helps the new guy. I've learned a lot from Cpl. Beck and Sgt. Glass," said Reil.

Depot dog personalities range from the rambunctious, Tino, to Ali, the gentle giant and Bony, the hyper and young narcotics detecting dog. Jaco was described as a humble dog.

"He's twelve years old, but he's got the heart of a two year old. It's a shame he has to be retired," said Beck.

The dogs are received from a DoD training facility in San Antonio and tattooed with an identification number inside their left ear.

They are registered with the DoD, can receive retirement ceremonies, military awards, and the dogs are permitted to stand with their handlers during promotions.

The dogs are adopted out to the best-suited owner when determined unfit to work, provided the animal's temperament makes him a suitable pet.

Although considered one rank below their dog, the handlers are entrusted with the nutrition and health of their dogs on base and during deployments. Each morning, the team goes through health check points ensuring the gums, eyes, nose, hips and paws of the dog are in working condition. The handlers are also in charge of watching the dogs weight and levels of aggression, according to Beck.

"Maintaining the dog's health is the number one concern for any dog handler, whether here or in Iraq," said Beck.

Glass spent five months during his last deployment in Iraq with Beck. He agreed that the dog's health was one of the most important concerns in Iraq.

"It would be like caring for a toddler. You could be a regular infantryman in Iraq, or a regular infantryman in Iraq with a 3-year-old," said Glass.

Glass and Beck are using their personal experiences from Operation Iraqi Freedom to help prepare Reil and Cpl. Eric R. Snipes for their upcoming deployments.

"We'll prepare them the best way that we can and give them the best training we can, but nothing can train you for what to expect over there. I don't think they'll have a problem adjusting when they get over there," said Glass about Snipes and Reil.

With the hazards of Iraq increasingly affecting Marines, depot K-9 handlers believe they are an important asset to the mission.

"In Iraq they like to hide things like bombs and weapons," said Beck. "Humans can't find things that are buried. It's perfect for a dog because he can find things humans can't find. There is no way of hiding it and getting it past a dog."

"Being an explosives handler is no joke. There's no room for error. The one time you screw up, you can endanger yourself, your dog, but most importantly, other Marines," said Beck.

"There's no doubt I'm nervous about going out there. I'm excited to do my job - to go out there and potentially save lives," said Snipes.

Jaco's retirement ceremony has yet to be scheduled. A board is also scheduled to determine the newest addition to the depot military working dog section.


Peterson teams among 'top dogs' at K-9 trials


by Tony Davis

21st Security Forces Squadron


12/1/2005 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFPN)  -- Two 21st Security Forces Squadron teams placed near the top in the tactical obedience and top agency areas at a national competition for working dogs.


This is the sixth consecutive year squadron’s military working dogs and their handlers from here competed at the Tucson Area Police K-9 Trials in Tucson, Ariz.


“Peterson teams have always done well at the trials. This year was no different,” said Master Sgt. Mark Dedrick, the squadron kennel master.


He said Staff Sgt. Jesse Frank and Staff Sgt. Jesse Tames lead the way. After qualifying at a local competition and two months of nonstop training, the two sergeants -- with their K-9 partners, Gina and Chaky -- showed off their skills.


The Tucson competition consists of events like detection, tactical obedience, handler protection, area search, building search and an obedience course.


There were 72 dog-handler teams from 25 different military and civilian agencies at this year’s event. Peterson left its mark with Sergeant Frank and Chaky placing second in top agency. Sergeant Tames and Gina were fourth in the tactical obedience category.


Sergeant Dedrick said it was a lean year for the 21st Space Wing. So the kennel team raised more than $3,100 to meet the costs for the competition.


“These guys trained hard and earned everything they got,” he said. “Of the eight handlers here who competed to go, Sergeants Frank and Tames were the two best military working dog teams”.


Sergeant Frank said all the dogs performed well at the competition.


“The places were separated by fractions of seconds,” Sergeant Frank said. “I was proud of the way Gina worked and how well she did.”


Sergeant Dedrick said the squadron’s military working dog section participates in an average of four competitions annually, placing more often than not.


“No matter how many awards we win, we are always working hard and striving to do better,” he said.


Benny, a six-year-old German Shepherd military working dog, jumps to snatch the cover out of Cpl. Steven Dojnia's hand. Earlier, Benny, who likes to steal covers, had snatched the cover out of Dojnia's hand when he wasn't paying attention to the dog. Benny and Dojnia deployed to Iraq Aug. 26. Photo by: Pfc. Zachary Dyer
Kennel’s ‘top dog’ sent to Iraq for second time, sniffing out weapons, terrorists
Submitted by:  
MCAS Beaufort
Story by:  
Computed Name: Pfc. Zachary Dyer
Story Identification #:  

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C.(Sept. 9, 2005) -- Marines aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort are continually deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. However, for one Fightertown Devil Dog, the second trip to Iraq will be on all fours.

Benny, a 6-year-old German Shepherd and a military working dog at the Provost Marshal’s Office, left for his second deployment in support of OIF, Aug. 26.

In October 2004, Benny was sent on his first tour with Cpl. Roy Brown, the canine trainer at PMO. Benny was attached to 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, and spent time in Najaf, Baghdad and Fallujah, according to Brown.

“We were basically a grunt with a dog,” Brown said. “We did patrols, raids and found a bunch of weapons caches. Because of him, I got put in for the Bronze Star.”

With the success of his first tour under his collar, Benny’s second trip to Iraq should be no problem, according to Brown.

“Benny loves it over there,” Brown said. “He slept in the rack with me. He went everywhere with me except the chow hall.”

Military working dogs are treated like Marines in Iraq, according to Brown. When a mortar landed close to Benny and damaged his ears, he was medevaced to safety like any Marine would be.

PMO has deployed six dogs to Iraq, but Benny is the only one to be sent twice, according to Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Bunt, the kennel master at PMO. “It’s not unusual for a dog to be deployed twice, but as fast as the turnaround was between Benny’s last deployment and now, yes, that’s unusual,” Bunt said.

Benny’s second tour to Iraq may have come rapidly, but not without good reason, according to Brown.

“Benny is the best dog in the kennel,” Brown said.

When Benny returned to the Air Station in January, he resumed his normal life as a military working dog, which includes training, barracks searches, providing security, and responding to bomb calls from Charleston to Savannah, according to Cpl. Stephen Dojnia, Benny’s handler.

Dojnia, the fifth Marine to handle Benny, began working with him in June.

Before the war in Iraq, it was normal for handlers to stay with their dogs for three to four years. Now, in order to keep the handlers from deploying too often, they are switched after about a year and a half, according to Bunt.

Benny and Dojnia will spend about two weeks in Camp Lejeune before heading for Iraq.

Dojnia is happy to be working with Benny and looking forward to deployment.

“Look at him,” Dojnia said. “He’s a 6-year-old dog, but he has the energy of a puppy.”

Just like Marines of the two-legged variety, military working dogs have to prepare for deployment. Handlers take the dogs on long walks to get them acclimated to the heat, according to Brown. The dogs are also issued “doggles”, which are custom goggles to protect their eyes in case of a sandstorm, and booties to protect their feet from the hot sand, according to Brown.

Benny, who was born in 1999, was trained to be a military working dog at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in 2000. Upon completion of his training, Benny was sent to PMO at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in 2000. Benny was then moved aboard Fightertown in January 2004, when the Military Working Dogs section was consolidated.

Also in January, Benny had a replacement hip put in because of hip dysplasia, a condition that many German Shepherds develop. However, a hip replacement will not keep Benny from performing his duties in Iraq, according to Brown. “Now he’s all over the place. You can’t keep him down,” Brown said.


Cpl. Jason Martinez, military working dog handler, and his partner, Renzo, have worked together many times. If Renzo is not adopted, he will be put down. Photo by: Cpl. Jeremy Gadrow

Valuable MCLB Barstow employee retires at age 11
Submitted by:  
MCLB Barstow
Story by:  
Computed Name: Cpl. Jeremy Gadrow
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MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, Calif.(May 12, 2005) -- It is a fact that military working dogs do just that, work. Little time, if any, is available for a working dog to catch Frisbees or play fetch. But one such dog aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow is hopefully about to have his day.

Renzo, an 11-year-old Belgian Malinois, is nearing his final days of service and will soon retire, said Cpl. Jason Martinez, Renzo’s handler.

“He’s done nine years in the service,” said Martinez. “In dog years, that’s a lot of time to work. 63 years to be exact. Now that he’s getting old, he gets to be a dog … it’s his time.”

“He’s given so much time to the service I just want to give him some time to relax, some time to just be a pet as opposed to a Marine.” said Martinez. “Plus my wife likes him.”

Martinez has been Renzo’s handler off and on since he came to Barstow in 2002.

“Renzo has had 12 handlers throughout his career,” said Martinez.

“Since he’s been here, he has mainly been used to train new handlers how to handle the dogs and how to respond to their behavior.”

After retirement, one of two things will happen to Renzo, said Martinez. He’ll either be adopted, or he’ll be put down. Martinez wants to adopt him.

To be adopted, several tasks must be completed. The first such task ensures the dog is fit for life with civilians. The dog must be video taped to show it is not aggressive towards people.

“To show he’s not aggressive on the tape, we recorded Renzo being agitated by several different means,” said Martinez. “We were verbally aggressive towards the handler first, then physical towards the handler, then made aggressive movements towards the dog. The aggressiveness towards the handler is to see if the dog still has the drive to protect the handler and the movements toward the dog are to see if he will attack at aggressive gestures toward himself. Renzo did great on tape and didn’t get
aggressive at all.”

After passing the video test, a request for adoption packet must be sent to the Department
of Defense Military Working Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

Before being sent however, the packet must be approved and signed by the unit’s commander.

“That’s where we are now,” said Martinez. “It is just one step away from Lackland.”

Since he’s been at MCLB Barstow, Renzo has supported the U.S. Border Patrol sniffing out more than 1,000 pounds of illegal contraband and narcotics, said Martinez. Other departments Renzo has supported include the Barstow Police Department, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Fort Irwin and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

With all his accomplishments, it would be a shame to just put himdown, said Martinez. “He’s been such a credit to the military, he deserves
some of his own time now.”


Airmen receive Bronze Star for deployed service


12/13/2007 - ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Three members of Team Elmendorf were recipients of the Bronze Star Medal Dec. 4. 

Tech. Sgt. Christopher Barker and his military working dog, Jack, and Captain Kelley Jeter were awarded with the Bronze Star Medal. 

The Bronze Star Medal is awarded to members of military service for combat heroism or meritorious service. 

Two recipients of the Bronze Star were a security forces NCO and his military working dog. 

Sergeant, and Jack, 3rd Security Forces Squadron, deployed from May 28-Oct. 30, 2006, provided more than 350 hours of combat patrols in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Sergeant Barker and Jack were awarded the Bronze Star for bravery, the fourth-highest combat honor in the U.S. Armed Forces. 

On June 7, the team located more than 2,000 pounds of explosives in eight buried locations. 

Six weeks later, Sergeant Barker and his MWD responded to a detonator of timed explosives in one of the third country national's living quarters. 

On July 30, the team responded to an IED that detonated on IA personnel. The IA had engaged and captured four IED members. Sergeant Barker swept the IED vehicle and located five identification cards. Sergeant Barker scanned the crowd of bystanders and located the fifth member attempting to avoid capture by blending into the crowd. 

During their deployment, Sergeant Barker and Jack discovered more than 3,000 pounds of explosives, nearly 80 automatic weapons and more than 15 cell phones used to detonate improvised explosive devices. 

Captain Jeter, the 3rd Wing Public Affairs chief, deployed to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan from April-September 2007 and distributed vital and accurate information while serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. 

Captain Jeter was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service, the ninth-highest combat honor in the U.S. Armed Forces. 

While deployed, Captain Jeter provided important and timely information regarding operations which affected national security.



The News-Enterprise online

Fort Knox renames dog training complex, street after fallen soldiers

N-E/Forrest Berkshire

Sgt. Michael Bending guards himself against Bart, one of the U.S. Army sniffer dogs held in the Voelz Complex on Fort Knox, during a training exercise Wednesday. The dogs are trained to attack, as well as sniff out drugs or bombs.

Staff Sgt. Kimberley Voelz and Staff Sgt. Richard Ramey left a mark on everyone they met. Now they've left a permanent mark on Fort Knox.

In a ceremony Friday, a training complex and road were renamed to honor the two fallen soldiers who were killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The military police dog kennels at Fort Knox were renamed the Voelz Complex. Voelz, 27, was killed in Iraq in December 2003 when a bomb she was trying to dismantle exploded.

The street in front of the Voelz Complex was renamed Ramey Road. Ramey was killed in Iraq in February 2004, also when a bomb he was trying to dismantle detonated.

Both were members of the 703rd Explosive Ordnance Detachment based at Fort Knox.

Sgt. 1st Class Chiloi O'Brien, kennel master, said it was fitting to dedicate the complex and road to Voelz and Ramey.

The 703rd worked closely with the military dog handlers who work at the complex, O'Brien said. Most of the soldiers at the dog kennels knew both Voelz and Ramey.

"It's still emotional for us," O'Brien said, of the deaths. "They were two upstanding staff sergeants. They were rock stars in their field."

Spc. Chris Tillman worked with Ramey and said he was one of the first soldiers who welcomed Tillman to post.

"He kinda picked on me because I called him sergeant," Tillman said. "He said ‘Don't ever call me that again, call me Rich.' He was a nice guy."

The dogs at the complex are trained as attack dogs and to detect drugs or explosives. The handlers often worked with the 703rd soldiers on training in the field and on runs on post and in the community.

"We've always had a unique relationship," O'Brien said.

The families of both soldiers attended Friday's ceremony, O'Brien said.

Voelz's father said naming the dog kennels for his daughter was the perfect honor because she was such an animal lover. He told O'Brien that Voelz had even thought about boarding horses and dogs when she got out of the Army.

Voelz, a native of Carlisle, Pa., was the first female EOD soldier ever to be killed in combat. A unit team leader, she came to Fort Knox in 1999. Her husband, Staff Sgt. Max Voelz, also was assigned to the 703rd.

At the time of his death, Ramey, of Canton, Ohio, had completed more runs in Iraq than any other EOD soldier, O'Brien said. He became an EOD specialist in 1999, serving in New York and Kosovo before coming to Fort Knox. It was his second assignment to the post. He previously served at Fort Knox as an information systems analyst.

O'Brien said she was glad to be able to memorialize the two soldiers and she hoped it meant a lot to the families.

"It's an awkward situation for us, because no one wants to celebrate what happened," she said. "We can't bring their children back, but we can honor them."

Erica Walsh can be reached at 769-1200, Ext. 238, or e-mail her at


Airmen track terrorists off base

by Senior Airman Colleen Wronek
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

3/4/2005 - BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- To keep Balad Air Base, Iraq safe and secure, the Airmen of Task Force 1041 venture off base daily to take the fight to the enemy.

“This is a war against insurgents, and the battlefield is asymmetric,” said Lt. Col. Chris Bargery, task force commander. “The vast majority of attacks against air bases are stand-offs. We can’t stay inside the fence and hope the bad guys go away. Hope isn’t effective in preventing attacks, so we go out and take action.”

The unit’s mission is to make sure the base stays secure by conducting offensive ground combat operations.

“We’ve been effective,” said Colonel Bargery, who is deployed from the Pentagon. “The number of attacks is down, and I believe our work here will have a lasting impact.”

The unit leaves the base and conducts combat security patrols in local villages to track down terrorists.

“The local people are afraid. The terrorists operate (among) them, and we have to win the confidence of the local people,” Colonel Bargery said. “If you demonstrate you are a fair and effective alternative to the terrorists, you can sometimes earn the people’s support and build lasting relationships.”

“We go out there and get rid of the threat so the military can continue its mission unhindered,” said Capt. Warren Cohn, task force tactical commander deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga. “Our goal is to stop indirect fire attacks. That’s what were trained and equipped to do.”

The Airmen try to make the community feel safer by hunting down the enemy.

“We go out and try to draw the enemy out,” said Staff Sgt. Kyle Luker, a fire team leader also deployed from Moody. “You really never know who you’re dealing with.”

Sergeant Luker has been on more than 60 missions here. He said one benefit is helping the Iraqis.

“We meet a lot of local people, and we give them food and make sure they are safe,” he said. “The only difficulty is the language barrier.”

The unit falls under the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, but was under the tactical control of the Army’s 2nd Brigade Combat team for the majority of the missions.

“We’ve had really great support from Air Force and Army (leaders),” Colonel Bargery said. “It’s an opportunity for the Air Force to contribute to the defense of this installation in the best way possible.”

The unit is self-sustaining and has personnelists, intelligence specialists, information managers, supply Airmen, communications specialists, vehicle maintainers and medics.

“The unit isn’t just a security forces operation,” Captain Cohn said. “No matter what your job is, everyone here is trained to be a defender first.”


Why I Serve: K-9 Couple Watches for Danger

By Pfc. Abel Trevino, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, BALAD, Iraq, Feb. 9, 2005 -- The most dangerous part of Giray Jones' day is when Timer squats: It means he's found explosives.

Brad and Giray Jones handle Timer and Gromett, explosive smelling dogs, at the North Entry Control Point as one of the first waves of inspections for local nationals and vehicles coming onto the area. Photo by Pfc. Abel Trevino, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image); high-resolution image available.

Giray and Brad Jones are dog handlers working for K-9 Associates International and are contracted through the 81st Brigade Combat Team. Timer is a 5-year-old shorthaired German Shepherd handled by Giray. Brad handles Gromett, a Belgium Malinois.

The four of them have traveled throughout Iraq with 1st Armored and 1st Cavalry divisions and are now here searching for explosives and assisting in the capture of terrorists.

"The way we look at it, these dogs have actually saved lives," Brad said. "They've found munitions and stuff that were going to be used against people. They put people in jail who were bad guys who would have gone out and hurt more people."

The couple, married for 10 years, brings years of dog-handling experience to the gates. Both have law enforcement backgrounds. Brad planned a canine unit program for a police department, and Giray started off in search and rescue. They actually met during a case while searching for a missing boy.

That first case turned into years of commitment to one another. Their jobs rarely allow the couple to spend time together. Their 10th anniversary was the first one they were able to spend together, and it was on the plane coming to Iraq. That moment reflected the best part of the couple's job here: being together and being able to work and search together.

Their searching efforts here are used for more dangerous cases and incorporate olfactory skills of the dogs — such as smelling for explosives and drugs.

"The dogs are sensitive enough that they pick up on where there were explosives," Brad said. "If someone has been carrying explosives, the dogs will sometimes pick up on that. Even if they don't find any, military intelligence will question [the person] and get good information out of them."

Chasing the tail of explosives has led the couple to local national residences where they have made large discoveries of explosives and dangerous items, Brad said.

The dogs also represent a show of force and intimidation to people intent on harming the post. "Not only is [the dog's] presence a deterrent to those bringing in explosives, but also to the people's behavior coming in," Giray said. "They don't do anything crazy at the gate."

The dogs work close to those entering the area's gate, but are prohibited from directly searching people. "We don't search people; we search bags," Brad said.

"In the morning I go over and search personnel, bags and suitcases with Timer," Giray said. "Once I get through, I help [Brad] with vehicles."

When searching vehicles and bags, the dog handlers have to be sensitive to cultural differences. "A lot of the vehicles have food in them and the [owners] get concerned about their food coming in, but the dogs are trained where they won't eat any food unless it's given specifically by us," Giray said.

She said the dogs do smell the food, but are trained not to lick or touch it.

Their job puts the couple directly in harm's way, but for a greater purpose. "Because of the nature of the job, [the danger] is to be expected. We're there to locate it first so a larger number of people aren't involved," Giray said.

Like all aspects of force protection, the Jones take their jobs seriously and concentrate heavily on watching the reaction of the dogs for clues and hints that something is amiss. "We depend on soldiers to watch our backs while we're out there," Brad said.

"We appreciate the support from the armed services that we get," Giray said. "We just can't thank those guys enough for their support on what the dogs do and also for their support on our safety. It makes our job a lot easier."

(Army Pfc. Abel Trevino is assigned to the 28th Public Affairs Detachment.)


Al Asad's Army veterinarians keep military working dogs healthy
Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 200412884818
Story by Cpl. Paul Leicht

AL ASAD, Iraq (Dec 8, 2004) -- Responsibility for taking care of all military working dogs in Al Anbar Province has fallen on the shoulders of Army animal care specialists augmenting the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Part of the Army's 55th Medical Group, XVIII Airborne Corps based out of Fort Bragg, N.C., the 248th Medical Detachment (Veterinary Services) has been at Al Asad, Iraq, since February and is working with the Marines to provide dedicated veterinary support of man's best friend.

"Whenever Marine Corps, Army or Air Force working dogs enter our area of operations it is our job to check them to make sure they are healthy and ready for duty," said Army Spec. Melissa J. Cress, animal care specialist, 248th. "For the whole time they are here until they rotate out, we take care of them as needed and perform preventative check ups too."

The 24-year-old native of Elko, Nev., said some of the most common ailments the working dogs can suffer from while on duty in Iraq include eye or ear problems, worn pads, urinary track infections, or stress diarrhea.

"The desert environment can really tear up the dogs' pads after spending long hours on tough terrain," said Cress. "So we treat whatever problems they have and, like people, sometimes they have to go on light duty until they fully heal. We handle their dental work also and have even had to give a dog a gold cap for a tooth one time."

Even for working dogs, hard work in Iraq can eventually take its toll.

"The biggest danger to the dogs out here is really themselves," said Maj. Timothy P. Loonam, commanding officer, 248th Medical Det. "They work like machines and so their handlers have to take extra care to keep them healthy. Some dogs are their own worst enemy because they just want to work, work, work, even when they are in their kennel and off duty. This is how they tend to develop stress diarrhea."

Loonam, who is also an airborne ranger, added that, like their human handlers, it is important for working dogs to drink bottled water to stay hydrated and to rest in a cool shelter out of the heat to avoid heat related injuries.

If a working dog needs medical attention, they are normally driven to Al Asad but they may also be taken by air to a veterinary facility if the injury is serious enough, according to Loonam.

Loonam added that in addition to providing all levels of veterinary care for military and civilian working dogs, including surgeries, his unit also performs food inspections throughout the AO.

"For instance any time fresh fruit or vegetables are brought in, we inspect the food to make sure it's suitable for human consumption," said Loonam. "It is just another part of our duties as a medical company."

From check-ups to surgeries, the 248th is working hard to keep Iraq's military working dogs healthy and in the fight.


Four-legged sentinels key to force protection

by Capt. Mae-Li Allison
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

11/26/2004 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- Dogs are rarely permitted anywhere these days. Whether it is the grocery store or a crowded rock concert, dogs are often turned away at the door.

However, at a forward-deployed location here, the dogs have free reign and an important job to do.

From detecting explosives to searching buildings and sniffing out suspects, the 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron’s military working dogs and their handlers help keep the base secure 24 hours a day. This mission ensures their attendance at nearly every base event, and people said they gladly welcome their presence.

“Our military working dogs are a force multiplier and a compliment to the human and technological security elements we have here,” said Lt. Col. Keith Harris, 379th ESFS commander. “Because these dogs have more than a 90-percent detection rate regardless of the environmental conditions, we know our detection capability is really as good as it gets.”

Despite the harsh, hot and dusty environment, the military working dogs maintain their sharp skills because of regular training and their breed. Some breeds can withstand more extreme temperatures than others.

It is still challenging to keep dogs proficient at doing their jobs, said the unit’s dog trainer, Staff Sgt. Duane Stinson, who is deployed from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. However, a consistent training regimen using the natural drive of the dogs and positive feedback keeps them at peak performance.

“We focus on behavior modification and conditioning to train them, and build upon their natural instincts to form packs, find prey and defend themselves,” he said. “In our training, the dogs are always successful at their tasks.”

Dog handlers in the squadron said the best type of working dog is one that is obedient and wants to please the handler.

The training Sergeant Stinson gives is for the dogs and their handlers.

“We actively work to pinpoint weaknesses in the handlers as well,” Sergeant Stinson said. “If we find one, we’ll work one-on-one with the handler to fix the problem.”

Sergeant Stinson said that he is confident of the skills of all the people in his unit, who are all experienced security forces Airmen and well-trained dog handlers. Each person had to be proficient and be recommended by the kennel master just to be eligible to attend the two-and-a-half month dog-handler program at Lackland AFB, Texas.

“It’s a very selective program, and we’ve got top-quality people,” he said.

Besides having previous security forces experience, the dog handlers have another obvious trait in common -- they all love dogs.

Staff Sgt. Andrea Kenney had two dogs of her own at home and said she feels lucky that her job required her to deploy with one as well.

“I enjoy the companionship with my dog,” said Sergeant Kenney, who is deployed from Dyess AFB, Texas. “I know he has my back 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

That is not far from the truth.

Besides the 12-hour shift she shares with her 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, Sam, Sergeant Kenney said she must care for and feed him, which results in their spending about 18 hours of each day together.

Another handler from Peterson AFB, Colo., said the match up with his Belgian Malinois was perfect.

“We get along really well,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Frank, of his military working dog, Ggina. “Every time we’re assigned to a new base, the kennel master there tries to match the dog with the personality of the dog handler. I don’t have a very stern personality, and Ggina responds well to me.”

Besides the good working environment each handler and dog shares, the entire unit also works well together, said the kennel master, Tech. Sgt. Jason Keyser, who is also deployed from Peterson.

“We have a hard-working group of dog handlers who get along great,” he said. “Most of us would agree that this is one of the best deployments we’ve had because of the people we work with, the duties we perform and the base we’re here to protect.” (Courtesy of Air Force Space Command News Service)


New kennel for working dogs opens at LSA Anaconda
By Ron Jensen, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Ron Jensen / S&S
Brig. Gen. Oscar Hilman, commander of the 81st Brigade Combat Team at Logistics Support Area Anaconda, Iraq, cuts the ribbon to open a new military working dog kennel at the base.

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Iraq — As the kennel was being built to house the military working dogs at LSA Anaconda, Capt. William Allen Jr. was struck by a bit of inspiration.

The kennel, he believed, should be named for a military policeman, Staff Sgt. Arthur S. Mastrapa, killed at the base during a rocket attack in June.

“We responded to the attack. He died at the scene,” said Allen, commander of the 362nd Military Police Detachment, a reserve unit from Ashley, Pa., but made up of soldiers from several states.

Mastrapa, 35, was not part of Allen’s unit, but the kinship between military cops made the link an easy one. Plus, Allen said, there was something he saw in the news coverage of Mastrapa’s funeral in the States.

“His daughter was clutching a puppy near the casket,” Allen said. “It just kind of … I don’t know.”

The kennel opened Thursday afternoon as the sun set on Veterans Day. In a short ceremony, prayers were offered, Mastrapa’s biography was read, and Brig. Gen. Oscar Hilman, commander of the 81st Brigade Combat Team, cut the ribbon.

Allen’s unit was the first to have military working dogs at this base. The dogs are capable of detecting bombs and drugs or can be used for simple patrolling.

“It’s a prestige job to have,” said Allen, because the military spends a lot of money training the dogs before placing them in the hands of a soldier.

Hilman called the dogs a “combat multiplier” in the effort against insurgents. Because of security concerns, the exact size of the kennel could not be released, according to military officials.

Mastrapa had been an MP while serving on active duty in the 1990s. He joined the reserves on June 16, 2000, and worked as a mailman in civilian life in Altamonte Springs, Fla.

He was assigned to the 351st Military Police Company from Orlando, Fla., and worked as a driver and gunner during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After his death, he received a Bronze Star Medal.

He and his wife, Jennifer, were parents to Marisa and Reece.

A plaque will be placed on the kennel to honor Mastrapa’s memory.

Allen said he spoke with Jennifer Mastrapa about the kennel dedication. She told him it was a good thing to do.

“She said she felt like the Army hadn’t forgotten her,” he said.






Flying dog’s parachute lands at U.S. Air Force Museum

by Rob Bardua
Air Force Museum Public Affairs

9/21/2004 - DAYTON, Ohio (AFPN) -- A parachute made for a dog that flew alongside pilots during the Berlin Airlift was recently added to the Berlin Airlift Exhibit at the U.S. Air Force Museum here.

The parachute, donated by Clarence Steber, was worn by his boxer, Vittles, during their flights on C-47s and C-54s to help deliver food to West Berlin. The city had been blocked by the Soviet Union in an effort to force West Berliners to accept communism.

The parachute is a significant addition to the Berlin Airlift exhibit, said Terry Aitken, the museum’s senior curator.

“Throughout the history of the Air Force, animal mascots have provided unit identity and made valuable contributions to esprit-de-corps,” Mr. Aitken said. “The parachute allows us to tell the story of the Berlin Airlift's mascot and the special bonds between Vittles and the pilots (who) he flew with as a 'crew dog.’ It's a wonderful story and already a special hit with our visitors.”

Mr. Steber said it did not take long for him to grow fond of Vittles and soon realized that he would make a great companion.

“I had a friend in Germany who had a 1-year-old boxer (who) I fell in love with, and he sold him to me,” said Mr. Steber, a former Air Force pilot.

Mr. Steber said he soon discovered some of his missions required him to be away for two to three days at time. So he started taking Vittles with him, and soon other pilots began to fly Vittles on their missions as well.

“In Berlin, as soon as we were unloaded, we had to take off again,” Mr. Steber said. “Sometimes, Vittles would be nosing around other airplanes, and I had to take off without him.”

The dog began catching rides with other pilots, and sometimes it would be several days before they would meet up again, Mr. Steber said.

“Everybody knew who Vittles belonged to and eventually got him back to me,” Mr. Steber said. “The other pilots would feed him and even take him to the officer’s club.”

Sometimes pilots would give Vittles pans of beer until he got so looped that his legs would go straight out and he would have to be carried home, Mr. Steber said.

Eventually, Gen. Curtis E. LeMay heard about the dog and summoned then-Lieutenant Steber to his office.

“General LeMay called me in and said, ‘Are you the pilot who owns the dog who is flying in our airplanes?’” said Mr. Steber, who confirmed he was, thinking he was in a great deal of trouble.

“General LeMay replied, ‘Without a parachute? That dog is one of the best morale builders that I’ve had over here. I want that dog to have a parachute!’”

Soon afterward, Vittles had a parachute of his own, designed with a static cord that would automatically open the dog’s parachute in case they needed to bail out.

Although Vittles accumulated thousands of flying hours, including flying on 131 missions with Lieutenant Steber during the Berlin Airlift, he actually never needed to use his parachute.

Lieutenant Steber was not quite as fortunate, needing his parachute once when the C-47 he was flying went down over Soviet-controlled territory. Lieutenant Steber was able to bail out just seconds before his plane crashed.

“My parachute opened, and I hit the ground at nearly the same time,” said Mr. Steber, who was knocked unconscious from the crash and then captured by the Russians.

Mr. Steber said he was interrogated and “roughed up” by the Russians for three days, but eventually released when he could not provide them with any information.

Despite his own ordeal, Mr. Steber said he was just thankful that Vittles was not with him on that flight.

“It’s a good thing the dog wasn’t with me that time, or we probably both would have gotten killed,” Mr. Steber said.

At 6 years old, Vittles contracted a disease and died.

When contacted by Air Force Museum officials about donating the parachute, Mr. Steber agreed, but only after he fulfilled a promise to display it for two years onboard the “Spirit of Freedom.” The C-54 aircraft serves as a flying museum dedicated to telling the story of the Berlin Airlift at air shows and events around the world.

The exhibit was immediately a huge hit with children, Mr. Steber said.

“The kids just loved it because they see a dog wearing a parachute and they get interested and learn more about this humanitarian airlift,” he said.

Mr. Steber said he hopes many more people will see the Vittles display and learn more about the Berlin Airlift now that the dog’s likeness is at the U.S. Air Force Museum.

“He loved flying, and I’m very proud that Vittles is now part of an exhibit at the Air Force Museum,” Mr. Steber said. “That dog would have loved it!”

Military Working Dogs Protect Forces, Bases During Terror War

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, Sept. 3, 2004 — Army Col. David Rolfe's military career has gone to the dogs.

As director of the Defense Department's Military Working Dog Program based here, Rolfe and his staff are responsible for the health and welfare of some of the most unheralded members of the fighting force: its estimated 2,300 working dogs.

These dogs, along with their handlers from every military service, are deployed worldwide to support the war on terror, helping to safeguard military bases and activities and to detect bombs and other explosives before they inflict harm.

With an acute sense of smell five to 10 times stronger than a human's, working dogs are able to detect minute traces of explosives or drugs and alert their handlers of their presence, Rolfe explained.

But at the same time, dogs have ability to inflict fear in an aggressor in a way a human — even if armed — often can't, and will defend their handlers to the end. "People see a dog and don't want to mess with it," said Staff Sgt. Andrew Mier, a military working dog trainer who has deployed to Southwest Asia three times as a handler — twice to Saudi Arabia and once to Qatar. "A dog creates a strong psychological deterrent."

The vast majority of U.S. military working dogs are German and Dutch shepherds and Belgian malinois, breeds Rolfe said are "very aggressive, very smart, very loyal and very athletic."

"We expect so much of them that we need them to be strong and athletic," he said. "We want a high-strung dog with aggressive tendencies because that's what the mission demands."

Dogs have long been recognized as "force multipliers" by military fighting forces around the world, Rolfe said. The Romans put razor-sharp collars around their dogs, then sent them into the enemy's ranks to bite and cut their foes.

The U.S. military has used working dogs since the Revolutionary War, initially as pack animals, and later, for more advanced uses, such as killing rats in the trenches during World War I, he said.

But World War II witnessed the biggest surge in use of working dogs to support military operations. The U.S. military deployed more than 10,000 specially trained canines, most as sentries, but others as scouts, messengers and mine detectors, Rolfe explained.

Today, "a couple hundred" working dogs are serving with U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan as patrol dogs and explosives and drug detectors, Rolfe said, adding that contractors use additional dogs in the theater. Nearly 2,000 more working dogs provide similar services at U.S. bases and operating posts around the world.

Meanwhile, the military is increasing its reliance on working dogs. Before Sept. 11, 2001, Rolfe said Air Force security forces trained about 200 working dogs a year for the Defense Department. That number is up to more than 500, with the vast majority of dogs being trained as sentries and bomb-sniffers.

The 120-day program teaches the dogs basic obedience as well as more advanced skills, such as how to attack and how to sniff for specific substances. Rolfe said the initial training program, conducted by the 341st Training Squadron team, is based on "positive rewards" -- generally a ball or rubber toy rather than food. "We learned long ago that food works only so long. What the dog really wants you to do is play with it."

Once the dogs receive their initial training, members of the 37th Security Forces teach the dogs and their trainers to work as a team. "One of the biggest challenges is getting a handler to recognize what a dog is showing him," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Sean Luloffs, an instructor at the school.

"But the big gratification is watching the teams improve and be able to perform at a higher level, and knowing that you had a part in it," added Mier.

While the Air Force trains military working dogs and their handlers, Army veterinarians posted around the world help keep them fit for duty and treat their ailments.

Telemedicine, so popular in the civilian health realm, is being used to provide expert consultation for military working dogs. "We want them to stay in the field and be treated in the theater," said Army Maj. Kelly Mann, chief of radiology for the Military Working Dog Program at Lackland Air Force Base facility. In addition, Rolfe and his staff operate a fully equipped veterinary hospital at Lackland.

As working dogs become increasingly important to the military mission, work is under way to help protect them from enemy threats. Rolfe oversees a research and development program that's looking at improved body armor and gas masks for military working dogs.

No good method exists to protect a dog from a nuclear, biological or chemical attack, he said. "But it's definitely something being looked at," he added. Meanwhile, the Walter Reed Institute of Research is studying the use of pills that can help military working dogs survive a nerve-agent attack.

Research is also under way to create an "artificial nose" capable of duplicating a dog's — but Rolfe predicts it's a long way down the road. "Some people say it could be 50 years before we'll have an artificial nose that can replace a dog," he said.

Besides, dogs possess something Rolfe said a machine probably never will: immense loyalty and a desire to please. "A machine doesn't care if it finds something," Rolfe said. "But a dog wants to please its handler. A dog will go looking for something on its own where a machine won't."

The bottom line, he said, is that "dogs have a heart — something that makes them an invaluable asset to our fighting forces."


Dogs of War
Monroe treats working canines to hero’s welcome


They don’t know the meaning of the word hero.

And it’s a safe bet Sgt. Carey A. Ford from Fort Sill, Okla., congratulates his partner Rex during  an awards ceremony in front of post headquarters here June 3.they don’t even remember the heroic actions they were credited with during recent tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For Rex, Nessy and Nouska, chasing down an escaped prisoner or alerting a patrol of possible explosive devices is just part of the job — their contribution to a relationship between handler and canine. Nevertheless, it would be wrong not to recognize the actions of these three TRADOC military working dogs. Simply put, their continued dedication to duty saves Soldiers’ lives.

With that thought in mind, a representative of Fort Dodge Animal Health traveled from Overland Park, Kan., to Fort Monroe June 3 to present Rex, Nessy and Nouska, the ProHeart Hero Award in recognition of their “demonstrated heroism through acts of courage.”

The awards ceremony was held in front of post headquarters and attended by various dignitaries, to include military police dog handlers: Sgt. Carey Ford from Fort Sill Okla., and his dog Rex; Sgt. William Currier from Fort Jackson,, S.C., and his dog Nessy; and Sgt. Richard Saucier, from Fort Knox, Ky., and his dog Nouska.

“Use of military working dogs began in World War II when the Army Quartermaster Corps started U.S. Armed Forces war dog training,” said Kelly Goss, Fort Dodge Animal Health representative, during the ceremony. “Since that time, dogs have become recognized as vital to our war and security efforts, as well as true heroes to those with whom they serve.”

Goss used one word — “incredible” — to describe Rex, Nessy and Nouska following the presentation. “I’m very proud to represent our organization as it pays tribute to these animals that went above and beyond the call of duty,” she said. “And I think this is a tremendous story. A lot of the time we don’t get to hear about the positive stuff … the great things that are being done in the performance of everyday duties over there. This is a positive testament to the wonderful things that have gone on and continue to go on.”

Nessy "detains" Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Dawson of the TRADOC Command Provost Marshal Office during a military working dog demonstration June 3. Three working dogs were brought to Monroe to receive awards for their heroic actions while deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.In addition to the award, Fort Dodge will make a $3,000 donation to the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners on behalf of Rex, Nessy and Nouska.

“All of this is just amazing,” said Currier, who has worked with his 10-year-old Belgian Malinois for just over a year now. “I’m really glad the dogs had this chance to be in the limelight. They deserve it.”

In Afghanistan, Nessy and Currier worked in tandem with a Special Forces unit and were part of the first group of dog teams to be deployed when Operation Enduring Freedom began. Their duties included vehicle searches at random checkpoints and cordon searches of makeshift villages in and around a 100-mile radius of Kandahar.

All of the searches proved fruitful with more than a dozen alerts on weapons and improvised explosive devices; yielding a combined seizure of more than several hundred items. Nessy was also cited for locating and securing local nationals trying to infiltrate an Army base camp.

“It’s really all about the dogs … they are the stars of the show,” Currier said. “And I’m sure if she (Nessy) could talk, she’d say the same thing about me. But really, it’s all her … I’d say the relationship is 80 percent dog and 20 percent handler. I bring her the food and water and look out for her, but she’s the expert when it comes to being on guard and keeping us safe.”

In addition to her accomplishments while on patrol “over there,” Currier also gave credit to Nessy for winning over the hearts and minds of many Afghan people. “They were scared. Their religion states very clear that if a dog, which they consider an unclean animal, bit them they would not get to heaven. But we both were very patient and she earned a lot of respect.”

As part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Rex and Nouska, both German Shepards, also had their opportunities to shine. Weapons searches and alerting troops to unseen threats was only the tip of the iceberg in their case, however. Teaming up with their handlers, the canines played a major role in the recapture of an Iraqi prisoner who had “fled to an area known to have caches of weapons,” according to an account read during the award ceremony.

While the fugitive had a substantial lead on them, the handlers and their dogs were not daunted by the task, the account continued. Determined to locate the dangerous fugitive, and with little regard for their own safety, the teams began tracking the prisoner — ultimately entering what was suspected to be an unexploded ordnance and anti-personnel minefield.

After hours of relentless searching, the teams located and apprehended the fugitive without incident. Not only did the teams apprehend the prisoner; their actions also provided the psychological deterrent necessary to prevent and further escape attempts, the account concluded.

Nouska is one of three military working dogs that were presented Pro Heart awards during an awards ceremony here June 3.“It was one of those moments when your training just takes over,” Ford said of that dark Iraqi evening. “You don’t really stop to think about it too much, you just act.”

Like each of the handlers, Ford gave full credit to his canine partner for the positive turnout of that night. “Of course, I was elated. You know, it was like the winning shot of a ballgame. There was a lot of high fives and atta-boys (by humans and working dogs alike).”

And it was the sort of moment Ford and Rex — who would be described as having a “type A” personality in the human world — live for. Both reenlisted recently for six more years and Ford said they’d jump at any chance to deploy again.

“I love this job,” he said. “It’s one of the most unique jobs in the Army.

“And you know in your heart what you’re doing is important,” Ford said. “You say to yourself, ‘not on my watch.’ Nobody’s going to harm Soldiers or escape if they’re a prisoner … not on my watch.”

March 12, 2004

A lair of one for a few good K-9s

by Spc. Jason L. Johnson
Pentagram staff writer

For years Fort Myer's military police and public works experts designed and revised plans, hoping to build a new kennel for canine coppers and their partners. But, icy shortfalls of funds pushed them into sleepy hibernation.

Now, in the spirit of Army Chief of Staff's jointness movement, they have teamed up with neighboring Marine military police to merge funds to erect a lair of one for a few good K-9s.

Thursday the Fort Myer and Henderson Hall commanders will come together in a ground breaking ceremony for the new kennel project. Construction should begin by the end of March and carry on near completion in December.

"A big plus [to this project] is the new administrative building for the Soldiers and Marines," said Capt. Benefsheh Shamley, deputy provost marshal. "Right now, the old building that was supposed to be temporary is now falling apart."

The current administrative building went up as a temporary building two decades ago. It's dilapidated, too small and insufficent for the handlers' mission of caring for their K-9s, project manager Charlie Chalfont said.

But, it was kind of like home, described Staff Sgt. Claudesedric Grace, military dog handler and kennel master at the site from July to March.

"You don't talk bad about where you live, but we had 20 people and it was cramped," said Grace. "When it snowed the little heaters we had would freeze, so we'd end up using space heaters."

When the design of the new kennels began three years ago it's intentions were solely for the Army. With the Marine Corps in the picture now, the outside design remained the same, but inside -- the layout took on a whole new life.

"[Fort Myer] wouldn't have been able to [start this project] if the Marines wouldn't have gone in with us," Shamley said. "The [community] didn't have the funds to do it on its own."

"[Then] the knights in shining armor on the Marine Corps side volunteered to help us fund approximately half the project," said Chalfont. "Without their money this project wouldn't have happened.

With Henderson Hall and Fort Myer combining two pots of gold into one, the $1,380,167project was awarded Sept. 17.

The project will consist of razing the old administrative building and replacing it with a 2700 square foot facility and adding eight more runs and a service area to the existing kennels.

"I've got sentimental value attached to this project," said Chalfont. "I've been through two or three kennel masters and with each one of them -- if you actually saw the working conditions they were working out of ... "

The new administrative building will have kennel master offices, men's and women's bath and locker rooms, storage areas for the K-9s supplies, drug vaults, a kitchen area, multi-purpose room and office area for the troopers.

"I'm charged up [about this], I feel it's a very valid project in support of the troops who are supporting these bomb and drug detection K-9s," said Chalfont.

The military working dog handlers over at the old administrative building have moved to the old firehouse and when construction begins the K-9s will be right with them.

For the next nine months the handlers are faced with little problems being next to the Caisson Platoon, but the handlers are optimistic that it's well worth the wait.

Even in the temporary building where the handlers and their furry partners will be staying until the completion of the new administrative building, morale levels have changed.

"The conditions are a whole lot better," said Grace. "You can actually see the Soldiers morale heighten a little bit."

Things will be different with the current situation and being placed beside the caisson platoon presents possible training problems, but the handlers are optimistic it's well worth the wait.

With the Army going through several transformations and more joint service operations with the Defense Department, the Marines and Soldiers working together in the same environment makes sense to Provost Marshal Lt. Col. Mary Beam and Shamley.

"[When the new administrative building is complete] the Soldiers will have more space and adequate latrine areas with [many other features]," said Shamley. "[Additionally], there's going to be both Marines and Soldiers working together with joint workstations and training."

The Army's going through more joint type situations and the fact Soldiers and Marines can do joint training and work together really opens up the community, Shamley said.

When training is done with other services, the mission and the job will remain the same, but it's always "One team, one fight," said Grace.


Marine K-9 units given expensive protective armor

Despite high costs, deployed dogs in the Marines receive high-tech protection because they are `hard to replace.'

Los Angeles Times Service

When Marines head for war zones overseas, they're outfitted with the latest in protective gear. Now their K-9 units are being similarly equipped.

Since December, all military dogs deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have been issued state-of-the-art Kevlar vests, which cover the animal's body from the shoulders to hindquarters, protecting the heart, lungs and stomach from knife attacks, bullets and shrapnel. The vests weigh approximately seven pounds and cost $550 to $1,200 apiece.

Providing dogs with body armor is ''a priority because they're hard to replace,'' said Marine Sgt. Nestor Antoine, kennel master at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Ga., one of several bases housing K-9 units.

The Marines' K-9 units in Iraq and Afghanistan are used for sentry duty and detecting explosives. Although no dogs have been killed in Iraq, some have been injured, prompting the decision to provide the vests, said Bill Childress, coordinator of the Marine Corps' Working Dog Program, based at the Pentagon.

Some stateside Marine K-9 units also have been issued the armor for their work guarding base entrances and civilian airports and accompanying Secret Service missions, Antoine said.

Childress declined to disclose how many dogs are in Iraq and Afghanistan but said the corps has obtained more than 150 vests for its K-9 units worldwide.

Although the vests may seem expensive, they are worth it, Antoine said, because they help protect dogs that play a crucial role in the military and are expensive to train. It costs more than $40,000 to breed and train a drug-sniffing dog, he said, and the cost for a dog trained to search out explosives can reach $60,000. All military dogs are trained at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog School at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

''With the war on terrorism, we have to take extra precaution not to lose them,'' Antoine said of the highly trained dogs.

The body armor includes pouches for cooling packs to help dogs cope with high temperatures; the average high in Baghdad in July, for instance, was 110 degrees. The vests also are equipped with rappel loops and a harness should the animals need to scale a steep slope or be deployed via parachute.

Police departments in Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Chicago and Washington began outfitting their dogs with vests several years ago.


From biscuits to gravy
by Master Sgt. Cliff Anderson and Staff Sgt. Shon Tiechiera, 90th Security Forces Squadron

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. (AFPN) -- Barry has retired from the 90th Space Wing Security Forces here after 11 years of battling crime. He was obedient, loyal, vigilant and protective.

Barry was an ideal military working dog.

The Air Force purchased Barry in 1991 for $3,500 from a Belgium breeder. He was one of only three Belgium Turvueren dogs actively deployed in the entire Air Force. The breed is distinguished by their long hair and charcoal color.

After completing a physically demanding and mentally challenging K-9 training course at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Barry was assigned to Warren -- his first and only duty station -- as an explosives detection dog.

Throughout his career, Barry served in a variety of roles, including four deployments overseas supporting Operation Southern Watch.

During his tour here, Barry searched thousands of vehicles and buildings, and he provided special protection to dignitaries like Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

He served with nine different handlers and earned a 98 percent proficiency rate in explosive detection.

Until recently, retirement wasn't an option for military working dogs. Those dogs that could no longer perform their full duties in a field assignment were either sent back to Lackland to train new handlers or were offered to civilian law enforcement agencies.

Now Barry and other dogs like him can be adopted after their military service, thanks to the Robby Bill, passed by Congress three years ago. Robby was the first military working dog to be formally adopted, opening the doors to hundreds of dogs following a successful military career.

A dog's retirement from the military is similar to a person's -- some paperwork has to be done before they go.

First, a veterinarian identifies the dog as physically unable to perform assigned duties. This usually occurs between the 10- to 12-year mark. At the end of a military working dog's career, the dog is worth an estimated $75,000 based on experience and training. As a valuable asset, the next step is to deem the dog "non-deployable or stateside deployment only."

The dog's records are then sent to Lackland for a full medical review board. In Barry's case, the board concurred with the veterinarian's request to retire him.

Next, the dog is offered to local law enforcement or prior Air Force handlers depending on how old the dog is and its aptitude for continued law enforcement service outside of the military. Then, an interview process is conducted to find suitable homes for the dogs to live out their remaining years.

Staff Sgt. Rodney Dove, a base dog handler, was part of Barry's interview process. Dove's adoption application was approved after Barry was not claimed for local law enforcement duties. Dove's adoption approval was a popular one, not only with the handler, but also with squadron members.

"This is the first retirement of a military working dog that I've witnessed in 12 years of active duty service," said Staff Sgt. Jack Waid of the 90th Security Forces Squadron commander's support staff. "It was great to see a handler adopt him."

Upon retirement, the 90th SFS commander presented Barry with retirement orders and an unofficial but highly appropriate "Meritorious Service Medal." 


K-9 partners operate on vigilance, trust
by Master Sgt. Darrell Lewis
9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force Public Affairs

03/25/03 - OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (AFPN) -- At base gates, military working dogs and handlers are doing their part in the war with Iraq while guarding against the threat of terrorism. 

These threats mean there are more reasons than ever to suspect that America's enemies will target its most valuable resources with explosives or hazardous materials. Air Force K-9 teams are on guard to detect such attempts.

"We ensure everything that comes on the installation is safe and doesn't jeopardize our people and our mission here," said Tech. Sgt. Chris Goll, the kennelmaster at a forward location. Goll is deployed from the 35th Security Forces Squadron at Misawa Air Base, Japan.

Dogs and handlers deploy together, usually for 135 to 140 days. This predictable process was disrupted by the build-up and military action to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein's regime. All the while, memories of terrorist strikes against America on Sept. 11, 2001, remain.

"The whole culture now after 9-11 in force protection is all about looking for stuff coming on the base," Goll said. Guarding against this danger has become a constant job. "We're the first ... line of defense. It's very important that our guys are vigilant and making sure that these dogs are working hard because sometimes they get tired. It's up to our handlers to keep them going.

"A good handler -- and all of our handlers are good -- can motivate a dog to work past (its) threshold. There are so many ways to hide things in vehicles; a trained eye can only find so much. That's the biggest thing (the dogs) provide."

The two primary breeds of working dogs used in the Air Force are German shepherds and Belgian malinois which are similar in appearance, Goll said. Handlers have to take precautions to keep the dogs working at peak performance in temperatures that can reach 120 degrees. The dogs work inside climate-controlled search areas whenever possible, Goll said. Patrols, however, may take them out in the heat of the day.

"If it gets too hot we have cool vests that go on the dog," Goll said. Other (preventative) measures include swapping out a dog's work schedule from days to nights. "This will shorten our week so they get more time to rest. But there's some days you just have to (work) through it."

The importance of the K-9's mission was not always apparent to those outside the law-enforcement community before 9-11, Goll said. "They knew we were there if they needed us. Now you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone -- the commanders, the senior enlisted leadership -- who aren't focused on the dog's mission."

Military working-dog handlers are a special breed themselves, Goll said. "It is important that you like animals, because you're with these dogs a lot. It's a friendship that grows out of trust for each other. The dog has to come to trust you as well as you trust the dog. Once that happens you've got a real good team." 

Staff Sgt Sloan Kalina graduated from the Department of Defense military working-dog school at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in August after nine years in security forces investigations. Deployed from Kirtland AFB, N.M., he is teamed with Torro, a Belgian malinois.

"It's a great responsibility protecting all these people and all these assets," Kalina said. "Planes don't fly if these people aren't safe."

Kalina said Torro has alerted twice on suspicious scents. The first was on his third day on the job. Kalina said his training told him what to do next.

"You just pull (the dog) out of there, get everybody out of the location and let (the explosive ordnance disposal airmen) come and do their job."

Although nothing was found on either alert, Kalina said he would "rather not have something there than let something through that was."

The staff sergeant said he trusts the dog with his own life every day that he sends him in after potentially deadly materials. "I've got all the faith in the world in him. He'll find it if it's there." 


Airmen train Navy's 'Rocky' to become contender

by 1st Lt. Shaloma McGovern
437th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

2/23/2004 - CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFPN) -- In the 1980s, Rocky Balboa knocked out many contenders. At Charleston a new Rocky is poised to arise and become victorious in 2004.

The 437th Security Forces Squadron canine unit here is helping the Charleston Naval Weapons Station develop a kennel program. The unit here has opened its doors to house and train Rocky, the naval canine, with the 437th SFS dogs while the Navy builds a kennel of its own.

After Sept. 11, 2001, the NWS security forces stepped up homeland security and began developing a kennel program for the station’s brig.

"Having the opportunity to work with the Navy ... allows us the advantage to see how the other branch works with their respective mission," said Tech. Sgt. Toby McKnight, 437th SFS kennel master. "It also increases the capabilities and abilities of the dogs due to the combined knowledge and training of the Navy and Air Force."

The Navy recently received Rocky from the 341st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where all Department of Defense dogs and kennel masters are trained.

Because both the Navy and Air Force dog handlers attend the same training and receive their dogs from the same location, the partnership seems only natural.

"The Navy and the Air Force have similar missions and work hand in hand," Sergeant McKnight said. "The kennel program will be a great asset to the Navy once the program is up and running."

Dog handlers here will help the naval dog handlers train Rocky for his qualification test, which is administered by the naval installation commander.

"It's been a learning experience working with the Air Force, and I am a better handler because of it," said Petty Officer 1st Class Kenneth Spade of the NWS security forces.

Once Rocky is qualified he will be the first canine member of the NWS and will be capable of detecting narcotics and explosives. Rocky, who arrived here last month, will work at the station’s brig and continue to be housed here until the naval facility is complete.

Rocky is one of seven military working dogs maintained here, with the rest assigned to the 437th Airlift Wing. The Charleston kennel program has existed for more than 30 years and trains dogs to search for narcotics and detect explosives to support homeland security.

With the help of his trainers, Rocky will be ready to go a few rounds with the bad guys in only a few short months. (Courtesy of Air Mobility Command News Service)


Air Force K-9 Dogs in Iraq


 BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A 12-inch-long mortar round lay partly hidden in the overgrowth near a checkpoint at Baghdad International Airport. It was found and safely destroyed thanks to the keen senses of a four-legged member of the 447th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron.

Rudy, one of several military working dogs deployed supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, alerted his handler, Staff Sgt. Albert Branch, of his find. Branch, deployed from the 60th Security Forces Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., recognized the instant change in his dog’s behavior

  “(He moved side to side trying to locate the scent) -- something he’s been trained to do,” Branch said. “He knew something was there, but he was trying to pinpoint exactly where it was.”

The mortar round, along with other dangerous items -- improvised explosive devices, rocket propelled grenades, and shell casings from small arms fire -- are routinely found by 447th ESFS military working dog teams. The dogs also support the U.S. Army’s 1st Armored Division by patrolling at and near the airport checkpoints.

“We’re helping them out by conducting explosives detection and making a physical presence at the gate,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Renner, 447th ESFS kennel master and handler. He is deployed from the 21st SFS at Peterson AFB, Colo.

When items are found, they are marked and identified for the Army’s explosive ordnance disposal team, which destroys the objects.

Working as a team, a dog and handler’s typical day averages 13 to 14 hours working air-base defense and force protection.

“We’re here as a physical deterrent and to keep people from either trying to smuggle explosives in or infiltrating the base,” Renner said. “But our main purpose here is explosives detection.”

The military working dog teams search vehicles daily at the Air Force checkpoint.

“If it comes into our section of the base, we’re searching it to make sure that it’s explosives-free,” he said.

When U.N. employees were treated here after the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in downtown Baghdad on Aug. 19, the military working dogs were the first line of defense. The animals played a critical role in ensuring the safety and security of 447th Air Expeditionary Group airmen.

“(The dogs searched) for explosive devices or weapons of any kind when patients came in, and another dog patrolled the 447th Expeditionary Medical Squadron for security,” Renner said.

Along with foot patrols around the base, searches and real-world events, the handlers are constantly training their dogs. The dogs are given various explosive-detection scenarios and controlled-aggression training, where a “suspect” is pursued or attacked by the dog.

One type of training scenario consists of having the dogs search for simulated explosives in a vehicle. The dogs’ reactions upon finding the “planted” scents also help train 447th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron airmen.

It is important to be familiar with the dogs’ reactions, according to Senior Airman Rob Cook, 447th ECES explosive ordnance disposal team member. He is deployed from the 452nd Civil Engineer Squadron at March AFB, Calif.

“We try to learn from them, and we take it back to train our squadron,” he said. “The dogs pinpoint what they find -- if they find it in the front quarter panel, that’s where we’re going to detonate the explosive. So the dogs help us as well as (helping) security forces.”

Temperatures in Baghdad soar higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but Renner said the animals have acclimated well. When the dogs and handlers arrive on station, the handlers give them a couple of days to adjust and limit their movement in the heat.

“We basically give them one hour on when they’re searching, and a two-hour down time period where they can go and do scattered searches. (This gets the dogs) used to the heat in small amounts,” he said.

The dogs are also provided air-conditioned shelters and are kept as cool as possible during daytime activities to prevent heat stress injuries.

The biggest challenge for the handlers is keeping the dogs motivated, Renner said.

“Going out every day doing the same thing is very monotonous for them, and they really start to get discouraged with it,” he said. “So … (we) try to play with them as much as possible to get them really positive and motivated about what they’re doing here.”

Whether it is walking the dogs or taking out their favorite chew toys, the handlers are always coming up with new ways of making everything a game for the animals.

Branch has worked with Rudy for about three months, and watching his dog progress has been rewarding despite the challenges.

“Rudy is turning out to be a better dog each day, and it’s good to see the both of us growing as a team,” he said. “He definitely has the potential to be even greater than what he is right now as we work together more and more.”


 ~ Air Force News Service



Ruff 'n Ready: K-9 Unit works, trains 'round the clock
by Nancy Nichols Jagelka
MDW News Service

Fort Myer, Va., Oct. 6, 2000 — Rik, Brenda, Kiko, Allan, Adar, Don, Beer, Hector, Kira and Dusty are some of the names associated with the Fort Myer Military Community's K-9 unit, but loyalty and dedication also identify this elite group of dog detectives and their handlers who assist federal and local law enforcement agencies throughout the nation.

The FMMC Working Dog Section, more commonly known as The MP's K-9 unit, serves not only the Fort Myer Military Community, but also networks with outside agencies — those that serve the White House and Drug Enforcement Administration, among others. Approximately 80 percent of missions support the United States Secret Service.

The unit contains 13 dogs, 10 of which are with the explosives team. The three others work the narcotics section. Each dog at the K-9 unit is dual certified in patrol and either explosives or narcotics.

The Explosives Dog Detection Team handles missions involving bomb threats, VIP security searches and Force Protection Operations. The Narcotics Dog Detection Team supports health and welfare inspections and gate searches, as well as equipment and vehicle searches.

In addition, the unit provides support for the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force units throughout the National Capitol Region. The unit served recently during the Republican and Democratic National Conventions and with the DEA and U.S. Customs in El Paso, Texas, and Baltimore, where two teams discovered over $1.75 million in illegal narcotics.

It's a labor of love for the dog detectives and their handlers, despite the strain of missions which may take them away from home for weeks or sometimes months at a time.

"It's something I wanted to do ever since I came into the MPs," Sgt. Roger A. Hood of the K9 unit said. Hood is paired with "Rik" a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, but he still speaks highly of his previous dog, "Kino," whom he worked with for two-and-a-half years in Hawaii.

"My screen name on my computer is still Kino's name," Hood said.

Hood said it takes six to eight months for the dogs and their handlers to bond, but that it's difficult not to develop a deeper bond with the dog after that.

"You're not supposed to get attached to the dog, but you do," he said. Hood and Rik recently placed second in a field of 75 teams in the Virginia Police Working Dog Association Iron Dog Challenge.

Sgt. Eric Harris has been with the unit for two years as a handler and appreciates the diversity of the missions and daily routine that the job offers.

"It's a little of everything. It's never the same thing," Harris said.

"I don't think there's anything that I don't like about it. You learn something about dogs every day."

That learning also includes travel to numerous locations. The dog teams have worked with other federal agencies to search all ports of entry in support of the counter-drug operation.

"It can be stressful," Harris said of the missions away from home. "But we must all be flexible. We do get to see a lot."

Harris also said that liaisons with the other offices allow the officers and their dogs unique opportunities for professional growth.

"We assist groups such as the Customs Police," Harris said. "It's a good chance for us to learn. It also helps the dogs that are not used to that environment. It strengthens their ability."

The canines require constant care and maintenance, and Staff Sgt. Melvin J. Avis, who currently heads up the unit, said that between the care and missions, the K-9 unit is a round the clock job.

"A dog handler's job is never done," Avis said.

In addition to the physicals and daily grooming, there is continuous training where the dogs are led through A-frames for agility or tested for their vigilance when guarding a suspect. Some training is held at FMMC, while other sessions are conducted off-post at locations such as Fort McNair and the Washington Navy Yard.

An important component of this training and the completion of any mission is the reward system. Officers reward their dogs for their achievements — always with words of praise — and often with a ball to play with. Feeding treats is not recommended due to dietary and weight constraints.

"When we praise them, it's a reward for them knowing that they pleased their handler," Harris said. "They recognize words of praise."

Avis said continuous training is a necessity to maintain a high level of expertise. We come in at all hours of the night to train, " he said. "We have continuous training to increase the team's proficiency."

Avis likens the training to child rearing. "The dogs are almost like kids," he said.

"You watch them learn and progress from the crawl, to the walk phase and finally the run."

The dogs train up to 80 days to be dual certified in either patrol and explosives or patrol and narcotics. The handlers have 75 days or so of initial training, and both take their initial training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

The dogs' dedication to their handler is also a lesson in loss when officers leave their positions for another permanent assignment. Dogs are weaned of a handler's care for a week to one month before a new handler is introduced.

"It makes the bonding process with the new handler easier," Avis said.

"Both the dog and handler's personalities are taken into account when pairing new teams," he added. "For example," Avis said, "we'll match an energetic person with an energetic dog."

Once the bonding has taken place with the new handler, Avis said, the dog will protect that handler at all costs.

On command, the dogs can either attack a suspect or keep watch over that person as the handler tends to another task. Any movement made toward the handler or away from the scene is a cue for the dog to attack the suspect. It's a dedication and vigilance that exceeds any human expectations of loyalty, Avis said.

"I like the loyalty between the handler and his dog," Avis said. "It's an unspoken bond."

Avis said there is a real commitment within the unit and K-9s in general. It's also a skill and service that is valued on the outside.

"It's real hard to get out of the dog program," Avis said of the service commitment, "but on the outside you're hired quickly."

For all the respect and care given to the dogs at work, there is a touch of irony among the handlers at home:

Said one handler, who wished to remain anonymous, "I have a cat."

(Jagelka is a staff writer with the Fort Myer Military Community's Pentagram.)



Four defenders work like dogs

by 2nd Lt. Nancy Kuck 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (AFPN) -- Working like a dog. This simile relates to someone who works tirelessly throughout a busy day. For four exclusive members at the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, "working like a dog" is more than a simile. It is their daily life.

Arkie, Tasja, Athos and Dutchy are part of the military working dog team at a forward-deployed location. These fabulous four put forth all their effort to ensure base residents sleep safer at night, protecting them from any explosive that may enter the base.

"The dogs go through extensive training before getting deployed here," said Staff Sgt. Damion Tineo, part of the 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron K-9 patrol who is teamed up with Tasja. "Dogs are getting deployed now more than ever before," he said.

A three-month deployment is nothing new to these four dogs. Each of them has been in the area at least once before.

Arkie, who is designated as the veteran of the group, is currently on his fourth desert deployment according to his partner, Staff Sgt. Louis Smith, 380 ESFS K-9 patrol. The only German shepherd here, Arkie is the oldest dog of the four.

The military working dogs are treated in the same manner that their trainers are when arriving in theater.

"When the dogs arrive here, they have to get adjusted to the new environment as we do," said Staff Sgt. Robert Odom, a handler with the 380th ESFS K-9 patrol who is teamed up with Dutchy. "They are just like people, (and) they get stressed out too," he said.

Their days here include lengthy hours and rotating shifts at the vehicle search area. It is here where people can see these base members examine vehicles for any suspicious materials.

"Their instincts are 10 times better than ours," said Tineo. "They are awesome with their senses." Training never stops for the dogs while they are here. On days when they are not at the vehicle search area, they are either training in various areas such as patrol and protection, resting or just being dogs.

"We can't have them work all the time because it is not fair to them," said Odom. "We let them relax and make sure they are not always cooped up by coming in on our off days and letting them out to be dogs."

Their scheduled training revolves around two days of patrol exercises and two days of protection exercises. Done in various buildings throughout the base and on the flightline, the dogs participate in exercises where they are required to complete certain tasks. After accomplishing the required tasks, they get rewards that range from praise to squeaky toys.

Although these dogs appear approachable, these selective four are not family pets by any means and are not to be petted without permission by their trainers.

"A lot of people do not realize that these dogs are trained to attack," said Staff Sgt. Patrick Smith, who is teamed up with Athos. "These dogs are meant to be petted by their handlers, and if strange people just come up and pet our dogs ... they may lose their edge, and we are not going to let that happen."

Athos, Arkie, Dutchy and Tasja show base residents what it is really like to work like a dog.

(Courtesy of AFPN News Service)


 Animal Soldiers
By Karen Fanning

A U.S. Navy dog-handler issues commands to his military working dog, Argo, while conducting a simulated training drill in Kuwait. Argo, who is trained as a bomb and patrol dog, has served in the Navy for about one year. (Photo: U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Ario K. Abrahamson)
They're loyal soldiers in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. But these are no ordinary warriors. They're the proud battalion of elite military dogs who will accompany American soldiers onto the battlefield.

While the U.S. won't reveal just how many dogs are called to duty, nearly 1,400 currently serve as American soldiers. They are trained to detect bombs and land mines, and rescue wounded soldiers. Two breeds in particular, the Belgian Malinois and the German shepherd, are favored for their strength and work ethic.

Like their four-legged counterparts, nearly two dozen sea lions are participating in the Persian Gulf. Their assignment? Patrolling offshore waters to detect enemy intruders. The sea lions spend their days practicing combat drills. Their endurance and speed—they can swim up to 25 miles per hour—make them well-suited for their duties as underwater detectives.

Not all Americans are applauding the military's use of animals in combat. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has openly criticized what they consider inhumane tactics.

"These animals never enlisted; they know nothing of Iraq or Saddam Hussein, and they probably won't survive," says Arathi Jayaram, a spokesman for PETA, an animal rights group. "The military can detect weapons and find wounded troops with some very sophisticated equipment."

That isn't always the case, say military officials. Animals have unique gifts—low-light vision, biological sonar, and directional hearing—that can't be duplicated even with the most-advanced technology.

The U.S. military also points to a long history in which America's creatures have successfully served their country. Until the end of World War I, horses provided transportation for soldiers. In the late 1950s, the Navy began using bottlenose dolphins to locate mines. During the Vietnam War, dogs tracked down booby traps and lugged wounded soldiers to safety.

"For thousands of years of his history, man has made use of the capabilities of animals—their strength, extraordinary senses, swimming or flying ability," says Tom LaPuzza, public affairs officer for the U.S. Naval Marine Mammal Program.

Presidential candidate and Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman is so impressed with the military's heroic canines, he has proposed building a national war dog memorial in Washington, D.C.

"[They] have contributed to the security of our nation and the freedom of our people," he says. "These are not ordinary dogs, but loyal, spirited, and courageous animals."



MPs Get Iraqi Canine Unit Underway
By Sgt. Mark S. Rickert
Army News Service
September 25, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- U.S. Army Military Police soldiers renovated an abandoned torture chamber, and the cells are now air conditioned, clean and filled with dogs.

Reservist Sgt. Emily Frasca, a police academy instructor with the 382nd Military Police Battalion, from San Diego, Calif., helped kick start the new Iraqi canine unit. Along with other soldiers in her unit, Frasca teaches classes at the police academy in Baghdad. When someone asked her to help with the canine unit, she jumped at the opportunity.

"I love working with dogs," said Frasca. "And when they offered me the opportunity to be the liaison for the trainers and coordinate with the 18th MP Brigade to get equipment for these guys, I saw an opportunity to share what I know and what I've learned."

The canine unit is quickly progressing. The Iraqi trainers are learning new methods of training, and the dogs are multiplying -- one German shepherd has already given birth to five pups.

But the
Baghdad canine unit has not always received this kind of support. Before the war, the canine unit was moved to a facility outside of Baghdad. Here, the trainers received very little support. They lacked the money to buy training equipment, vaccinations and training manuals. Frasca said that the unit became so out of touch with the other police officers that they eventually became ineffective.

"The trainers were cut off from money and other dogs to breed theirs with," said Frasca. "They ended up inbreeding the dogs and working with the older training styles. They started training dogs that weren't fully capable of being police dogs."

After the coalition forces became involved with the
Baghdad police force, they decided to bring the canine unit back into Baghdad. They cleaned out one of the old prison facilities and transformed it into a kennel for the dogs.

"When I saw the old torture camp, I looked into the cells and saw the potential for a kennel," said Frasca. "We turned the prison into a 13-room kennel, with an office in the back and a room for trainers to stay in overnight, so they could protect the dogs."

Aside from coaching the trainers on new methods of training, Frasca also helps assess the animals for strong and weak points. The dogs are then chosen for specific job training, such as bomb detection, attack or narcotics. If, for example, a dog has a favorite toy as a puppy, it is easier to train that dog for bomb detection.

"We look for the love of a toy," said Frasca. "This makes it easier for us to instill sniffing behaviors. We can test the dog to find the ball in a bush or in rubble. If they have a good sniffing behavior, it is easier for us to carry that behavior into searching patterns later on."

Frasca says the dogs are also learning a new language. Because Frasca teaches in English, the Iraqi trainers bark English commands to their canines. In a way, this provides the trainers and their dogs with a coded language.

"This allows police officers to communicate with their dogs without the (Iraqi) locals understanding," said Frasca. "And in some situations, this can give us the upper hand."



 Scripps Howard News Service
DENVER _ Lots of American soldiers stationed overseas bring home foreign brides. But as far as he can tell, Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Jim Hines is the only one to bring home a dog.

"Everyone said it couldn't be done," says Hines, 39, of the 220th Military Police Company in Denver. "My only words to that are, love does amazing things."

The object of his affection is Lanya, a 5-year-old German shepherd whom Hines first spotted while on patrol one frigid winter evening in 1999 in an isolated area of Tazar Air Base in Hungary.

  Today, Lanya is a strapping family pet. But on the fateful night Hines first spotted her, Lanya was near death.
 Winter time in Hungary, there's nothing to do," said Hines. "There was quite a bit of snow on the ground, and it was downright cold. We were just on patrol ...when we saw something moving in the distance.
We thought at  first it might be a coyote. Our second thought was that it was a Hungarian army dog. They periodically got loose. But this dog was completely

The starving dog could walk only a few feet at a time, then had to stop and rest. Finally, even that was too much effort. She just laid down and let the soldiers approach her.
"She was so weak and cold and malnourished," Hines said. "I walked up to her and she looked at me, and that was it. It was love at first sight."

Hines took her back to the small room he shared with his patrol partner.He sneaked food from the mess hall to feed her."It took her about two weeks to get her strength back," Hines said.

They named her Lanya, which means "daughter of" in Hungarian.Eventually, they were caught, and the base commander ordered Hines to get rid of the dog.
Army regulations prohibited keeping pets on base.
Hines was heartbroken _ until he learned about an obscure Army regulation that says any company-sized element on an overseas deployment for six months or more can have a mascot.

"So we presented that to the commander, and she said, 'Well, it's an Army regulation and that makes it legal. So you can legally keep her here."

Hines arranged with an Army veterinarian to get Lanya all the shots she'd need to come to the United States.
He got Lanya on a flight to Italy, then a connecting flight to Denver,where a friend would meet her at the airport and keep her until he returned home two months later.

Lanya arrived safely. Two months later, Hines went to pick her up. "I called ahead of time and said I'm coming around the corner. Just open the door and I'll be standing there," he said. "And that's what I did. And she
 just stood there, looking at me.
She was processing the uniform. She was thinking 'I know that uniform, I recognize it.' Then I called her name,and it was heaven. She was just crying and jumping and whining, and I was crying. Everybody was crying."

Coalition crew helps injured K-9

5/29/2003 - OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (AFPN)  -- The 376th Air Expeditionary Wing showed its true coalition colors May 25 as a medical team composed of Army, Air Force and Korean people prepared to perform surgery on Clinton, a Danish military working dog.

Clinton broke one of his upper canines May 22 while chewing on his cage.

“I guess he was hungry,” said E-4 Soren Bech, a Danish security policeman and Clinton’s handler.

The 6-year-old German shepherd was not in any pain from the tooth, but Clinton would start to feel the exposed nerve as time went on, said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Steven Wire, the 376th Expeditionary Medical Group dentist who performed the procedure.

To fix the future problem, Wire had to use his human dentistry skills on the animal.

“I have to give him a root canal,” Wire said before the surgery. “It’s pretty much the same procedure for a human being. After the root canal, I’ll put in a composite plastic-bonded filling.”

To prepare the dog for his day under the drill, Army 1st Lt. (Dr.) Tammy Stevenson, a veterinarian, started Clinton on antibiotics and sedated him before surgery.

With help from his Korean counterparts, Wire made sure the dental office was set up with all the necessary equipment. This included an operating table, a digital X-ray machine, vital-signs monitoring equipment, and most importantly, blankets to keep Clinton warm.

At 7:30 a.m. May 25, a nervous-looking Bech carried Clinton into the operating room. Clinton is more than Bech’s co-worker, he is part of the family, the handler said.

“In Denmark, we keep our dogs at home,” said Bech. “He’s great with kids. We have a great relationship.”

An anxious Bech watched as Wire, with assistance from Korean Capt. Sang il Lee and his staff, drilled and filled the broken tooth. Bech joked with Stevenson about how much his son missed Clinton.

“He misses the dog,” said Bech. “Not his father, but the dog.”

Everything went as planned as Wire finished up Clinton’s new and improved tooth. Stevenson checked the dog with a stethoscope and smiled. A sigh of relief came over Bech’s face as Stevenson said, “Everything is good,” while giving a thumbs up.

“It went great,” said Wire following his part in the surgery. “I give him a real good prognosis. He’s the best patient I had all day.”

Monday, May 26, 2003
Military dog honored for 12 years of service

By Ron Jensen, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Sunday, May 25, 2003

Ron Jensen / S&S
Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Crawn and Harras, his military working dog, await the start of a retirement ceremony for Harras Friday at RAF Lakenheath, England. The dog was retired from service after 12 years of service to the Air Force.

Ron Jensen / S&S
Staff Sgt. Edward Keenan holds aloft a bone given to Harras, a military working dog, who was retired from service in a ceremony Friday at RAF Lakenheath, England. Keenan, a member of the 48th Security Forces Squadaron, was master of ceremonies for the event.

Ron Jensen / S&S
Harras, a Belgium Malinois, has been a military working dog for 12 of his 13 years. He was retired from service during a ceremony Friday at RAF Lakenheath, England.

Ron Jensen / S&S
Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Crawn and Harras, a military working dog, prepare Friday for a retirement ceremony for Harras. The dog ended 12 years of service to the U.S. Air Force.

RAF LAKENHEATH, England — Harras lost his commissary privileges Friday.

The military working dog ended 12 years of service to the U.S. Air Force in a ceremony that was high on humor, but also tinged with solemnity.

“Those 12 years are really 84 in dog years,” said Lt. Col. Bill Delaney, commander of the 48th Security Force Squadron, “so Harras is really ready to call it a day.”

When Harras was presented with a bone from the base shoppette, Staff Sgt. Edward Keenan said the dog would have “a lot of time on his paws to enjoy it.”

But the jokes didn’t hide the heartfelt appreciation that was tossed at the Belgian Malinois. He was presented with several certificates of appreciation and a plaque from the Enlisted Wives’ Club.

“We asked a lot of Harras, and he gave us everything he had every time his handler picked him up from the kennel,” Delaney said in his remarks. He said Harras and all military working dogs are more than just a piece of equipment, which is how they are classified in the Air Force.

Harras was born in April 1990 and began his military service at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He became a certified patrol and explosive detector dog on June 8, 1992, beginning an assignment at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, soon afterward.

He was assigned to the 48th Security Forces Squadron at RAF Lakenheath in May 1994 and has served at the base ever since.

In that time, he has assisted the FBI, CIA and Secret Service. When President Clinton visited London, it was Harras’ nose that sniffed for explosives before the commander-in-chief’s arrival.

Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Crawn, the last of Harras’ six handlers in his career, said arthritis has robbed the dog of his stamina for a full shift of work.

“His mind is there,” said Crawn before the ceremony. “His body just doesn’t want to do it for him anymore.”

As far as Crawn knows, Harras has never once detected explosives. But, he said, “that’s a good thing.”

Never has there been a tragedy because Harras missed something.

Crawn said the dog’s inability to keep up the pace was noticed a few months ago, and Harras was relieved of duty. He will now retire to the kennel at the base, where his care and feeding will be provided by volunteers and donations.

“He’s had a good life,” said Crawn.

With the squadron at attention, Delaney officially retired Harras from the Air Force, ready now for a well-deserved life of leisure.

As Delaney said, “He worked his tail off.”

Soldier fights to bring dog that served U.S. forces home

Copyright © 2003
Scripps Howard News Service
By LISA HOFFMAN, Scripps Howard News Service

(May 17, 2003 12:54 p.m. EDT) - He's an adopted commando dog with the improbable name of Fluffy, a fast learner who served nobly during combat in northern Iraq.

Now, his best friend is battling to bring the war dog home to the country for which he fought.

"This dog was used in many combat operations in northern Iraq and proved to be a wonderful 'soldier,'" U.S. Sgt. 1st Class Russell Joyce, an Army special forces soldier, wrote in a plea for help with his mission to have Iraq-born Fluffy "live his retirement with me here in the U.S."

Air Force and Army officials are sympathetic, but it is proving neither a quick nor easy thing to approve Joyce's unconventional request. There are strict rules - military, health, customs and others - about bringing animals into the United States, and the fact that Fluffy, in effect, enlisted on the battlefield just complicates matters more.

"We are trying to work something out," Maj. Gary Kolb, a spokesman for the U.S. Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, N.C., said Thursday. On Friday, the unofficial word was that the two might be reunited sometime "in the near future."

Fluffy's still-unfolding saga began when Joyce's unit, working behind-the-scenes in the Mosul area, needed a canine to provide security for the soldiers and otherwise help them in their battle to oust Saddam Hussein's regime.

Trained to improvise on the battlefield, these elite troops didn't requisition an Army working dog; instead, they asked their local allies, the ethnic Kurds, to find them one. The Kurds brought back a malnourished German shepherd who apparently had been maltreated by the Iraqi army.

Assigned to be the dog's handler, Joyce, 35, gave the young animal his irreverent name, set to teaching him English as his second language and added pounds to the scrawny dog's frame and trust to his heart.

By Joyce's account, the dog - who he estimates is no older than 2 years - took to his new life with enthusiasm and performed admirably as Joyce's team fought for control of a mountain north of Mosul. Joyce said he and Fluffy went through several "shootings and a minefield" together.

When it came time for Joyce to come home, he scrambled for permission for Fluffy to accompany him. He had the dog immunized and checked out by Army veterinarians, and got initial Army permission for the dog to leave.

But bureaucratic roadblocks developed, and Joyce had to come home alone. He found temporary quarters for Fluffy with the Army's 506th Security Force Squadron, a dog-handling team now based in Kirkuk.

That unit, however, couldn't keep Fluffy for long. Joyce feared the dog would be euthanized within days, or simply turned back to the Iraqis, whom Fluffy had been trained by Joyce to dislike.

So from virtually the moment he returned home to Fort Bragg last Sunday, Joyce, who is married and the father of two, mounted a frantic effort to find a way to cut through the red tape and bring Fluffy over via Air Force transport. He offered to foot the travel bill himself.

For help, he contacted the U.S. War Dogs Association, a group of former GI dog handlers familiar with the deep devotion that grows between dogs and soldiers in combat, as well as with the pain of leaving their canine comrades behind.

"He was so upset. You could hear the desperation," said group president Ron Aiello, who walked "point" on patrol in Vietnam for 13 months with his beloved Stormy, who he said saved his life countless times.

While the U.S. armed forces have used combat canines since World War I, it was in Vietnam that they really earned their stripes. More than 4,000 dogs served in that long, jungle war, where they are believed to have saved 10,000 U.S. soldiers, and were so effective that the Viet Cong offered a $20,000 bounty for their capture - twice as much the reward paid for a GI, according to war-dog histories.

But at the end of the war, barely 200 of those four-legged troops were brought home to the United States. Thousands were deemed surplus "equipment" by the Pentagon and either euthanized by the U.S. military, turned over to the South Vietnamese army or simply abandoned.

That fate still gnaws at the veterans who, to a man, say they owe their lives to their dogs and found leaving them behind the hardest thing they have ever done.

"As a Vietnam veteran, I don't want that to happen again," George Augustine, of Sarasota, Fla., wrote in an e-mail this week, one of thousands of messages from veterans and animal advocates that flooded the in-boxes of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on down this week.

"I think that the origin of the dog is irrelevant," Augustine wrote. "The dog served the Army and now I think he should be reunited with his trainer."

Iraqi war dog gets to retire with SF handler

by Staff Sgt. Marcia Triggs

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 20, 2003) -- An Iraqi-born German shepherd, who put his life on the line to guard U.S. Special Forces, escaped euthanasia and will soon travel to the United States to retire.

Sgt. 1st Class Russell Joyce, the Special Forces soldier from Fort Bragg, N.C., nursed the malnourished and abused dog from northern Iraq back to health and trained him. The dog guarded Special Forces soldiers who accomplished missions like taking control of Maqlub mountain, and removing the last of Mosul's defenses.

Upon arriving back to Fort Bragg, Joyce frantically sent out two e-mails to friends and family asking for help to get the faithful guard dog, Fluffy, shipped to the United States.

Those e-mails somehow traveled through cyberspace and reached numerous war dog associations and members of congress, who are lobbying to get Fluffy a ticket to the States.

An Air force Squadron at Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq, is currently taking care of Fluffy. However, as soon as the Department of Agriculture and the Office of the Secretary of Defense approves Fluffy's flight, he will begin his journey to the states, officials said. Approval is practically guaranteed as agencies from the Department of Defense, Army, Air Force and the consultant to the Army surgeon general for Veterinary Clinical Medicine scurry to expedite Fluffy's retirement.

Fluffy's fate was first in question May 11. He wasn't allowed to board the homeward-bound plane with the Special Forces soldiers.

"We purchased him from the Kurds to perform military operations, but the officer in charge of loading said that since he didn't originate in the States, and wasn't on order, he was not authorized to travel to the U.S.," Joyce said.

"Myself, and other people on my team, tried to explain that an Army veterinarian said Fluffy was fit for travel, and that I had the proper paperwork to prove it."

Joyce left Fluffy with an Air Force K-9 unit, but he was told that the unit could only hold onto the Shepherd for 72 hours.

"As his handler, I grew attached to him, but the reason I really wanted to see him in the States was because he supported us the whole time we were in Iraq," Joyce said.

"He walked guard with every American soldier in our compound, all night long. He chased stray dogs away. He never ran at the sound of bullets, and we were safe because he was there," Joyce said. "He was a deterrer, and that's an immeasurable success."

Fluffy joined Joyce's team with visible scars on his head and legs, weighing about 31 pounds and missing his front two bottom teeth. The full-breed shepherd spent his first night with the Special Forces so scared that he didn't move, Joyce said.

The soldiers only had two weeks to prepare Fluffy for duty, but he impressed the team by catching onto the commands very quickly and warming up to his new owners. He was trained to guard and be a pursuit dog. Upon release from his handler, he could chase and bring down a perpetrator.

"There's no dog food in Iraq," Joyce said. "So we all shared our food with him, and fed him out of the palm of our hands. He was never aggressive toward us, and his first name, Tariq Aziz, was not befitting of his character."

Tariq Aziz is the name of Saddam Hussein's foreign minister and is the eight of spades in the Iraqi leaders most wanted deck of cards. Aziz was the longest serving member of Hussein's regime but was captured April 25.

"I wanted a name for him that wasn't too macho, and didn't have so many syllables," Joyce said. "The first thing that came to mind was Fluffy, and eventually everyone started calling him by that name."

Fluffy traveled from the most northern part of Iraq, to the south, past the front lines, onto the edge of Mosul guarding his team members wherever they laid their heads.

The reason Fluffy will be allowed to travel to the United States is not based on a sympathetic military that feels for a soldier who was at risk of losing his dog. A U.S. military working dog about to be euthanized at the end of his useful life may be adopted by his former handler according to a law established by Congress Nov. 6, 2000, said Air Force Col. Fred Pribble, the special assistant for International and Security Affairs.

Not only is Joyce and his family anxiously awaiting the arrival of Fluffy, but also are veteran dog handlers who remember having to leave their four-legged comrades behind.

"I spend all night answering e-mails and phone calls from veterans who have fought in past wars," Joyce said.

"Bringing Fluffy to the States isn't about me," Joyce said. "It's about the men who weep on the phone while they talk about the relationship they had with the dogs who served with them in war."



Dogs of War: Inside the U.S. Military's Canine Corps

By Maryann Mott
for National Geographic News
April 9, 2003


Since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, the U.S. security forces have stepped up efforts to train and deploy explosive-detection dogs. This year about 350 canines, nearly double the regular intake, will go through a five-month long training program at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

The base is the only facility in the country that trains dogs for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Canines are dual certified in explosive detection and patrol, which means they will attack on command, or, to protect themselves or their handler. After training, they are posted to military installations worldwide.

Right now bomb-detection dogs are being used by coalition forces in the Iraq war. Details, though, on how many canine teams are in the Middle East, and what kind of work they are doing, are secret because of security concerns, according to U.S. Central Command, in Doha, Qatar.

Major Frank W. Schaddelee, commander of the 341st Training Squadron, which procures and trains all military working dogs, said explosive detection dogs are not used in direct combat situations. Instead, they may be used at "points of entry" or for "VIP sweeps," where buildings and cars are searched for bombs before dignitaries arrive.

On average, these four-footed soldiers are 98 percent accurate in their detection abilities, he said, and depending on the task and climate, can work up to 12 hours a day.

Belgian Malinois (pronounced MAL-in-wah) and German shepherds are used because they are intense, intelligent, and known for their ability to work hard. At first glance, a Malinois might be mistaken for a shepherd. Both breeds are the same size and have similar coat coloring and markings.

Peace of Mind

The  majority of these medium  sized dogs are bought from European breeders. About four times a year military personnel travel overseas and look at hundreds of animals, ranging in age from 12 to 36 months. About one third of the dogs viewed are purchased. Each dog costs U.S. $3,100, said Schaddelee, but once trained, they are worth about $11,000.

He's quick to point out, though, that their value is much greater.

"I don't think you can put a real price on their heads because of the peace of mind that they give the troops with their capability of detection/deterrence," he said.

During the hundred-day training program at Lackland, the dogs are worked five days a week, using a repetition and reward system. As a reward, they are given a ball or rubber chew toy.

"It all turns into a great big game for the dog," said Technical Sergeant Curtis Henthorn.

Schaddelee would not say how many, or what types of explosives the dogs can detect. But in a war situation, for example, he said if there is an unfamiliar substance being used, they can quickly be trained to detect it. Handlers are also taught at the base and go through an 11-week course.

The Nose Knows

Dogs rely on their sense of smell much the same way humans rely on their eyesight. And for good reason.

"The number of smell receptors in a human's nose ranges from 5 million to 15 million, whereas in a dog, it can range from 125 million to 250 million," said Donald Perrine, a veterinarian at Parkside Animal Medical Center in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

In addition to more scent cells, Perrine said the olfactory portion of a dog's brain is four times larger than a human's.

Their wet, black noses are so sensitive they can detect minute odors. In fact, researchers at Auburn University in Alabama discovered dogs can pick up scents as little as 500 parts per trillion.

At Lackland, canines are also trained for drug detection. In the future, Schaddelee said, dogs may be taught to sniff out land mines and chemical/biological agents.

Man's best friend has faithfully served in wars since 1939 as scouts, sentries, messengers, and much more. During Vietnam, the United States War Dogs Association estimates these brave animals and their handlers saved more than 10,000 lives.

But the country hasn't always shown its gratitude. For decades, veteran dogs deemed too old to serve (ten years and older) were euthanized. Now that's starting to change, thanks to a law passed in 2000, which allows retired military dogs to be adopted by their current or former handlers, law enforcement agencies, or individuals capable of caring for them.

"Our goal is to eventually retire about 50 percent of working dogs," said Schaddelee. "They're good soldiers and served their country well. We want to see them get a good retirement package."



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