Our Four-Legged Warriors: They Serve, They Sacrifice, They Retire and, Sadly, They Leave Us.

Paris, a coalition force military working dog, stands in a tactical vehicle during a patrol stop in Afghanistan’s Farah province, Nov. 24, 2012.

It has been a while since we have posted about “man’s best friend,” in particular about those “four-legged warriors”: military working dogs.

Just to recap some background on these brave and loyal animals:

In addition to being man’s best friend, dogs have 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 School, at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

The school — the modern day follow-up to the original U.S. Army Canine (K-9) Corps — procures, trains and provides military working dogs (MWDs) used in patrol, drug and explosive detection, and specialized mission functions by DoD and other government agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration at more than 80 major airports throughout the country. It also conducts the training of the MWD handlers and provides a breeding program, veterinary care, and research and development for related security efforts worldwide.

The fact sheet tells us that the best breeds of dogs for MWD are the German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois, describes the “basic military working dog,” the differences between a sentry dog and a patrol dog and how the dogs are selected, acquired and trained and also describes the very special roles and training of “detector dogs.” Also, how the detection roles have progressed from detecting marijuana and other drugs in Southeast Asia, through the detection of cocaine, hashish and heroin (today the Department of Defense has more than 500 drug detector dogs in service at various bases around the world), into explosives, bombs and ordnance and how they finally expanded into the detection of the deadly Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But enough “background.” Here are some recent photographs of these wonderful animals serving our country.

“Maj. Butch,” a therapy dog, concludes her tour interacting with service members in Afghanistan at Bagram Air Field, Feb. 1, 2013.

Paris, a coalition force military working dog, shows his gentler side as he interacts with children in a village in Farah province, Afghanistan, Dec. 11, 2012.

“Paris” is quite a popular military working dog:

A coalition force member pets Paris during an Afghan-led security patrol to deny the enemy freedom of movement in Khak-E-Safed in Afghanistan’s Farah province, Oct. 30, 2012.

U.S. Army Sgt. Jared Donnell, left, and U.S. Army Pfc. Shelby Coldiron examine a dog at the veterinary treatment facility on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Jan. 24, 2013. Donnell and Coldiron, animal care specialists, are assigned to Public Health Command District Western Pacific. The veterinary facility, responsible for the health of Andersen’s military working dogs and Defense Department’s working animals, also provides care to privately owned pets.

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.

Navy Seaman Conrad Schonacher carries Malibu, a 9-year-old military police working dog nearing her retirement, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Oct. 25, 2012. The military uses working dogs to apprehend suspects, and to detect explosives and narcotics while searching buildings, ships and submarines. Schonacher, a master-at-arms, is assigned to the Naval Station Pearl Harbor’s military police working dog unit.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Ryan Bodge, 366th Security Forces Squadron commander, pins a Commendation Medal on retired military working dog Tanja while the canine’s last handler, Tech. Sgt. Roseann Kelly, looks on at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Jan. 31, 2013. Tanja, a detection and patrol dog, retired after more than 11 years of service and five deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton)

The distinguished career of Jessey, a military working dog with 5th Security Forces Squadron, came to a close after six years of dedicated and honorable service to the Air Force. Jessey served Minot Air Force Base, N.D., for five years and was attached to only three handlers. In June, Jessey‘s annual blood work revealed life threatening bone marrow cancer that led to loss of sight in her right eye barring her from further service. Staff Sgt. Eric Rod was Jessey’s final handler and best friend when she was officially retired from duty Nov. 20, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Secondi, 49th Security Forces Squadron, speaks about his late partner, a military working dog named Roky, during a memorial service at the base chapel at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Oct. 11. Secondi was Roky’s handler, and he spoke about his many memories with his canine partner. Roky, a five-year-old German Sheppard, died after a demonstration at Holloman AFB Oct. 2. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Leah Ferrante)

All photos and captions: Department of Defense

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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24 Comments

  1. It almost looks as though the children in those photos aren’t quite sure of what to do. I suppose dogs aren’t a common sight as pets in Afghanistan.
    Well, those universal smiles say it all. How we love them!!

  2. What I find amazing, sheknows, is how these dogs — some trained to tear you apart — can be so friendly and gentle with these kids.

  3. LOL, True. Just look at the expression on the face of Paris in that first photo. That is one serious doggie.

  4. Mr. De Wind, thank you posting this, as someone who has the privilege of working with these amazing animals, it’s nice to see them get their accolades. Without the MMSS dogs, many a battle would have been lost.

  5. Thanks Dorian…great post… i read and tear up… the pictures reveal such pure deep connection with their people and vice versa….they do give their best and just looking at the pictures it appears the draw the best from us two legs also…

    I was not familiar with the Dutch Shepherd so did a information search… That breed has such an interesting history.

    Laurashapirowaddell … thanks for your service, would love to hear more about your experiences of working with these noble creatures… Dorian writes lots about military issues, hope you come back and share more…

  6. Good morning Laura,

    I join Ordinarysparrow in thanking you for visiting TMV, for your Service and your kind comments.

    I share with Ordinarysparrow the desire to hear more about your experiences with these wonderful animals.

    Dorian

  7. Are service animal deaths investigated with the same rigor as military personnel? I am a little perturbed to hear that Roky died after a demonstration and there is little info about why.

  8. Hi ShannonLeee,

    Here is a link to the U.S. Air Force story on Rocky:

    http://www.holloman.af.mil/new.....=123321833

    At the time of the news release the cause of Rocky’s death had not yet been determined.

    From the love and respect that military personnel have for Military Working Dogs, even in death (“Like all other active duty members, Roky was provided full military honors, which included presentation of the colors, playing Taps, a flag-folding ceremony and a three-volley firing party.”) I would be very surprised if his death was not properly investigated.

    Thank you for your comment.

  9. Thanks DDW, I went looking myself and could not find anything.

    I realize that military working dogs are afforded practically every honor, even in death, but I have never heard of the results of a doggy autopsy after death.

    I guess I have cynical questions…

    are the honors more to help the healing process of the handlers and personnel that worked for the dogs, or are they truly just for the dogs.

    and does the military spend a significant amount of time trying to figure out why a sudden and unexpected death like this occurs? If not just for the monetary benefit for keeping such a thing from happening again. These dogs are not cheap to train.

  10. are the honors more to help the healing process of the handlers and personnel that worked for the dogs, or are they truly just for the dogs.

    The same question could be asked — to a certain extent — about the honors given to a fallen comrade, or loved one.

    I would suggest that such acts and ceremonies are genuine signs of respect and appreciation. But that is just me — I am not into the heads of everyone.

    and does the military spend a significant amount of time trying to figure out why a sudden and unexpected death like this occurs? If not just for the monetary benefit for keeping such a thing from happening again. These dogs are not cheap to train

    I have a similar positive answer for your second question. But, then again, as retired military, I am somewhat biased and would give more credit to our military perhaps than others would.

  11. you are entirely too positive ddw :)

    dont you know that it is dark grey snowy and miserable where I live!!!

  12. Thanks for your compliment, SL :)

    And I do commiserate with your “grey, snowy and miserable.” Have been there done that — four years in the Netherlands and two years where you are now. Stay warm and have some Glühwein.

  13. are the honors more to help the healing process of the handlers and personnel that worked for the dogs, or are they truly just for the dogs.

    SL i think all funerals and memorials are for the living…but that would leave us with the question, if a handler is killed, do the dogs come as honor guards…but that is not a good question for it treats the subject too lightly…

    This is a bit off topic…learned recently the military also utilizes dolphins…

  14. OS, I think you would have a hard time keeping the dog away. I read a story somewhere about a dog that turned up at his/her owners funeral home visitation.

    DDW, Glühwein!

  15. Dolphins in the military

    State Department photo, courtesy of U.S. Embassy Montenegro

    OS,

    Funny you mention that because I have been meaning to say a little bit about specially trained dolphins used by the military. But, yes, they are.

    I don’t know if the image will show above, but if not, you can go to the link and see one example: “U.S. Navy teams work with specially trained dolphins during an exercise designed to help the Montenegrin navy detect underwater explosives left over from war.”

  16. Dorian is there a link posted or am i not seeing it? Would like to read more on the Navy’s use of dolphins…Thanks…

  17. I am on the civilian side of the training, our service had three components, to rehabilitate dogs coming back with PTSD, to train dogs as service animals for returning soldiers, and to transition the MMSS detection dogs (usually Belgian Malinois) to pet homes once they are decommisioned. A great job for sure, but not so fun when you can’t fix the problem or you have a drivey Shepherd hanging off of your arm because he still feels the need to catch a bad guy instead of gracing your couch with his presence :P.

    To answer Shannonleees question, a full necropsy is usually performed in the case of sudden death, as many of these dogs are purpose bred and can cost upwards of $65,000 to train, so finding out if its a genetic issue is imperative to the future breeding programs.

  18. thanks Laura… for the info and your service.

  19. thanks Laura..what a great job with heart and meaning… good to hear there are ones like you that help them re-adjust to civilian life and find good homes… good for you and thanks….

  20. Thanks, DDW. Love those dogs.

  21. Thank you, Laura.

    Please come back and share some more. I can assure you, in addition to politics our readers love animal stories.

  22. DDW, although I rarely comment, I come here for breath of fresh air of the politics and the civility of the discussions ;).

  23. Now, that is mighty nice of you to say, Laura.I am sure all those who comment and write here will appreciate that.

    Thank you!

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