Air Force Senior Airman Brett Carson plays with military working dog, Jago, before his retirement ceremony on MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., July 12, 2012. Carson, a military working dog handler, is assigned to the 6th Security Forces Squadron.
[Please read the update at the end about another hero, Gabe, a retired military dog who completed more than 200 combat missions in Iraq and who was recently named American Hero Dog of 2012 at the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards in Los Angeles.]
At the end of the week, especially after a week full of politics and back-and-forth’s, I like to think and write about some of my favorite people — our military — and about one of my favorite animals: man’s best friend.
What a better subject than those brave, smart, loyal military working dogs, our four-legged-warriors.
I wrote about this a few months ago, so this time I will just refresh our memories and post some recent images and an update.
Dogs have been man’s best friend from the earliest times.
They have also been some of man’s best companions and protectors during hunting, patrolling, in guarding his person and property — and in warfare.
“The Greeks and Romans probably were the first users of dogs in warfare. They sent formations of attack dogs, complete with spiked armor, to harass and cause general disturbance throughout enemy lines,” according to a factsheet published by the Department of Defense (DoD) Military Working Dog (MWD) School, the 341st Training Squadron.
The best breeds of dogs for MWD are the German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois. “[They] have the best overall combination of keen sense of smell, endurance, speed, strength, courage, intelligence and adaptability to almost any climatic condition. The highly developed senses of hearing and smell, along with a generally superior personality and disposition, make [these breeds] the most versatile working dog breeds, and the ones best suited for military duties.”
As seen through a night-vision device, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Sam Enriquez, and his K-9 partner Kally, take part in night operations training during the Inter-service Advanced Skills K-9 course, at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., Sept. 25, 2012. Enriquez, a military working dog handler, is assigned to 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, stationed in Okinawa, Japan.
They perform special roles such as the detection of marijuana and drugs, including cocaine, hashish and heroin (today the Department of Defense has more than 500 drug detector dogs in service at various bases around the world), explosives, bombs, ordnance and the deadly Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) previously in Iraq and now in Afghanistan.
U.S. Army Sgt. Adam Serella bonds with his military working dog, Nero, as children look on during Operation Clean Sweep in Kandahar City in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, Oct. 3, 2012. Serella, a narcotics patrol detector dog handler, is assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division.
A July New York Times article provides some interesting facts about these four-legged warriors:
There are about 2,700 dogs serving in the armed forces; 29 have been killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a military spokeswoman.
The total value of a trained working dog — often German shepherds, black Labrador retrievers, or Belgian Malinois — can reach $40,000. In addition, the units they serve grow emotionally attached to their dogs.
I mentioned that these dogs are brave and I have mentioned the breed Belgian Malinois a couple of times.
A month ago, a Belgian Malinois became the first military working dog honored by the 341st Training Squadron, mentioned earlier, for her heroic actions while assigned to a U.S. Special Forces unit in Afghanistan.
Tech. Sgt. Joseph Null, 341st Training Squadron military working dog adoptions coordinator, places the 37th Training Group medal of heroism on Layka Sept. 12 at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robbin Cresswell)
Layka, a 2½-year-old female, was recognized Sept. 12 at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland for saving several Coalition Forces team members during a June 4 special operations mission.
Layka had been dispatched to clear a building of explosives and help look for enemy combatants after a brief firefight.
During her search, the dog was ambushed by one of the assailants. Layka received multiple gunshot wounds to the abdomen and a limb, which later had to be amputated.
Severely wounded, she attacked and subdued the assailant, protecting the lives of her handler and other coalition team members behind her.
Once the area was secured, Layka’s handler and a physician’s assistant began treating the injured canine. Layka was then flown to a theater hospital for the first of several surgeries, eventually losing her right front leg. She arrived here in early July for rehabilitation at the Daniel Holland Military Working Dog Hospital.
“She surprised the terrorist, who was waiting to lay down fire on the team. I heard from people on the mission that if Layka hadn’t reacted like she did, there was a potential for multiple casualties…Layka needed to be recognized for her sacrifice,” said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Null, the 341st TRS MWD adoptions coordinator.
“This has never been done before by us, but we wanted to thank Layka,” said Maj. Jason Harris, 341st TRS commander, who presented the dog with a medal of heroism from the unit’s parent organization, the 37th Training Group.
“The medal is unofficial because no decoration exists for military working dogs, but we felt Layka deserved recognition,” Harris said. “What these dogs do, day in and day out, is phenomenal. They do save lives.
“Layka was shot and still attacked the person shooting her. She’s been through a lot, and what she did is nothing less than heroic.”
Following the ceremony, Layka was flown to Georgia to be reunited with her handler, who is still on active duty.
No longer able to serve because of the injuries, Layka has been adopted by her handler, who cannot be identified for reasons of security.
“He’s very excited to get her and thankful he had her that day (in Afghanistan),” Harris said. “Layka is very handler protective, which led to what she did over there.”
Finally, even Military Working Dogs retire:
Air Force Senior Airman Brandon Denton plays with his partner, Conny, a military working dog, before her retirement ceremony on MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., July 12, 2012. Denton, a military working dog handler, assigned to the 6th Security Forces Squadron and Conny have been partners for two years. Denton adopted Conny upon her retirement.
Now this is the kind of story one can hang his or her weekend hat on.
Have a great weekend.
The American Human Association’s Hero Dog of the year Gabe poses with his medals. Gabe was the most successful detection dog in Iraq in 2006-2007, receiving more than 40 awards.
The retired military dog spent several years sniffing out insurgent bombs, guns and ammunition in Iraq with his handler, Sgt. 1st Class Chuck Shuck, a drill sergeant leader at Fort Jackson’s Drill Sergeant School.
Gabe won $5,000 for his charity in the previous round of competition, and another $10,000 from last weekend’s win.
Gabe’s charity is the United States War Dogs Association, which provides care packages for deployed Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and their K-9 partners.
The winner was selected by a panel that included Whoopi Goldberg, Kristen Chenoweth and the handlers and owners of last year’s eight finalists. The seven runners-up each won $5,000 for a designated charity.
The ceremony, hosted by Chenoweth, will be broadcast Nov. 8, on Hallmark Channel.
Read more here
Gabe’s photo: www.army.mil Other Photos: DOD
Edited to correct the type of awards earned by the military working dog, Gabe.