K-9 PTSD? Some vets say dogs stressed by war, too
Top of Form
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.”
Bottom of Form
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.
“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.
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
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 8½ 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
3/25/2010 By Jason M. Webb , Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany
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, MCLB Albany; 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.”
HOUSE OKs LANCE RESOLUTION HONORING MILITARY WORKING DOGS FOR THEIR SERVICE
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
- By Mike Baird
FULTON — 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.
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.’
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
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.
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.
Then 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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 BombsBy Christian Davenport
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 29, 2009; A01Rambo 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.
Staff writer Josh White contributed to this report.
Dog trained in military prison to help amputee
By Amanda Greene
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.
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
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 http://www.uswardogs.org/new_page_5.htm for more information. For an outline of the adoption process, click on the small picture of Benny.
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 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.”
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.
|Kennel’s ‘top dog’ sent to Iraq for second time, sniffing out weapons, terrorists
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.
Valuable MCLB Barstow employee retires at age 11
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.”
|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.
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.
Fort Knox renames dog training complex, street after fallen soldiers
By ERICA WALSH
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 email@example.com.
|Airmen track terrorists off base
by Senior Airman Colleen Wronek
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs3/4/2005 – 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.
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.)