Monthly Archives: January 2012

Resting MWD

Paws on the Ground: A Military Program Inspires a Novel

Rin Tin Tin meets the Hurt Locker.  Paws on the Ground is a novel about US soldiers and the dogs who protect them.

Caleb, Megan and Ramon are young Americans who are fighting for the US in the treacherous and alien terrain of Afghanistan — and Brady, Sammy, and Chica are the dogs who stand between them and death or terrible injury.

This is a novel about the true and ancient bonds of friendship, love, and loyalty as they are tested in the world of modern warfare.

What is “Paws on the Ground?”  It’s what the United States Forces – Afghanistan Provost Marshal Office began calling the military working dogs program in Afghanistan when asked…..which was pretty much daily.  It was a joke at first but caught on quickly, so they rolled with it.

Paws on the Ground is a play on the term Boots on the Ground (BOG).  The BOG  references the amount of US Soldiers on the ground.  In 2010, Managing the BOG to ensure U.S. Forces didn’t exceed the Presidentially mandated 98,000 force cap was a constant source of headaches for Headquarters United States Force – Afghanistan.

There was no such problem with the dogs……….they couldn’t get enough Paws on the Ground!

Click here to subscribe and receive my weekly blog posts directly to your email. You don’t want to miss a thing!

 
Anax and Spec. Marc Whittaker shared a bond before the dog was hit by an insurgent's bullet in July and subsequently lost his right leg. The trauma of the event deepened the bond further for Whittaker. "He's like a son to me," Whittaker said

Marc and Anax

A bad feeling

Specialist Marc Whittaker and Anax had been in Afghanistan for about five months, loaned out to various units that wanted their bomb-sleuthing capabilities. The July Fourth mission was to clear the route to a combat outpost before logistics resupplied it. Whittaker and Anax along with some U.S. infantry soldiers and engineers and a group of Czech explosives specialists — about 30 men and one dog — left while it was still dark.

“Before the mission, I had a bad feeling,” Whittaker said. “You still have to do it. I’m a soldier and I have to drive on.”

They arrived at the post without incident after a few hours, with the convoy following. After checking out a report of unexploded ordnance in a nearby town, the group returned to take up position above the first town, to provide cover as the logistics team unloaded on the road.  Suddenly, insurgents launched a rocket-propelled grenade, followed by small-arms fire directed at the logistics team.

Whittaker and the others were ordered to flanking positions.

“The mission changed to engage the enemy,” Whittaker said. “We’re running, we’re jumping over walls, we’re running through alleys and fields.”

“He’s like a son to me,” Whittaker said.

Anax was on a retractable leash attached to Whittaker’s belt. Bullets were cracking overhead, Whittaker said, and there was no cover.

“I thought, ‘I have to protect Anax,’” Whittaker said. “He doesn’t have body armor.”

Anax doesn’t wear body armor because it’s too heavy when walking in the heat.

Man and dog jumped to the road, and Whittaker shielded the dog with his own armor-clad body, with his back to the fire.

Anax was whining, Whittaker said, and bit Whittaker’s hand as he tried to cover him, although Whittaker said he doesn’t remember it. In the confusion, the soldier didn’t know the dog had been hit.

[supertagline] Anax was whining and had blood coming from both hind legs. Whittaker started treating the left leg first, where the most blood was. [/supertagline]

Whittaker saw an empty mud structure and started heading for it.

“But I realize Anax isn’t beside me,” Whittaker said. “He’s almost always ahead of me, so I know something’s wrong.”

Whittaker went back, grabbed Anax by the collar and dragged him to the building.

“I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is not happening,” Whittaker said.

Anax was whining and had blood coming from both hind legs. Whittaker started treating the left leg first, where the most blood was. It turned out that was just a flesh wound. The femur in Anax’s right leg, where the blood had clotted, was shattered.

Whittaker yelled for the medic. The medic gave Whittaker bandages and an IV but left with half the platoon to free an injured civilian trapped in a vehicle.  By then, the shooting had stopped.

Whittaker applied pressure bandages to the dog’s wounds and tried to start an intravenous line, but couldn’t get the IV in. Anax was becoming glassy-eyed and lethargic.

Whittaker worried that he and Anax might not get a spot on the medevac that was arriving about a mile away. He wanted the dog on the helicopter, even if he couldn’t go along.

“I was determined,” he said.

He picked Anax up and started walking to the medevac site. But it was six hours into an exhausting mission, and the 75-pound dog was dead weight.

“I probably made it 10 meters,” Whittaker said.

The Czech soldiers stepped up to help.

In the middle of the combat zone, Whittaker said, a Czech soldier stripped off his shirt to use as a litter, but that didn’t work.

Three legs be damned…..I wanna play fetch!

An Afghan drove up in a truck, and the Czechs persuaded him to let them use his truck to take the dog to the medevac site.

Anax and Whittaker flew from there to Bagram Air Base, and on to Dog Center Europe, the Army veterinary hospital in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Anax’s right leg was shattered too close to the hip to be saved, and after a five-hour operation, the dog became one of the wars’ amputees — and eligible to retire.

“I’m happy the only thing he lost was just a leg,” Whittaker said. “It could have been a lot worse.”

 

Anax and Spec. Marc Whittaker shared a bond before the dog was hit by an insurgent’s bullet in July and subsequently lost his right leg. The trauma of the event deepened the bond further for Whittaker.

Click on Memories that Never Fade  for the next exciting chapter in this story 

Click here to subscribe and receive my weekly blog posts directly to your email. You don’t want to miss a thing!

(Article and photos by Nancy Montgomery. Used with permission from Stars and Stripes. (C) 2011 Stars & Stripes )

Do you know a “Major” Pain In The Ass?

I’ve been reading Karl Marlantes New York Times Best Selling novel, Matterhorn for a few weeks now (It’s a long book, so lay off me!).  The novel is about a unit of Marines in the Vietnam War.  I met Karl at the James River Writers Conference in Richmond this past fall.  He is a great American, Marine, and author. If you’re looking for something to add to your reading list, I highly recommend his books.

http://www.amazon.com/Karl-Marlantes/e/B00383K10U

There was something in the book that stirred me and made my mind race: Corporal Aran and his faithful German Shepherd scout dog, Pat. They are subjected to the same lack of food, water, and rest as the entire unit.  Many of the men succumb to various ailments. Pat’s body completely shuts down.  Corporal Aran carries his 75 pound dog through the dense jungle canopy.  Much of the unit’s agony on this seven day patrol is caused by the Battalion Operations Officer, Major Blakley, who pushes the unit hard, for questionable results

.

This scene brought me back to 2010 in Afghanistan when we were having trouble with some unit leadership that bordered on abuse. There definitely was improper use of their dog teams.  I had many discussions with unit leadership on how to use their dog teams properly. Training leadership on maximizing the dog team’s capabilities is critical for getting the most out of these dogs.

Most of the unit leadership was terrific and receptive. Those units had the best results with the dog teams.  We had one particular unit and one particular battalion operations officer who was consistently a royal pain in the ass.  Our dog teams loathed supporting this unit.  Arrogant, abusive and  strictly results oriented, he listened to no one.    He reminds me of Major Blakley from Matterhorn.  Different war, different services and units–but some things never change!

How do you use a dog team properly?  What happens if you don’t?  In my novel, Paws on the Ground, I show you proper and improper use and what happens when these highly trained animals are used badly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you think dogs should be employed?

There are Major Blakley like people throughout every line of work.

Do you have any “Major Blakley” stories to share?

Click here to subscribe and receive my weekly blog posts directly to your email. You don’t want to miss a thing!

What makes a General Cry?

I wanted to share a Facebook post with you all that my buddy Steve recently put on his wall.  Steve is currently serving with the First Cavalry Divsion in Afghanistan. I’m not going to add or modify anything. Steve already covered it all. Thanks for allowing me to share, Steve.

The 1st Cavalry Division Chaplain went to the hospital here in Afghanistan tonight with one of the Deputy Commanding Generals to pin a Purple Heart on a Soldier that was wounded  this morning by an IED. The Chaplain was telling me that this young hero was severely injured, he was missing his left hand, one side of his face was completely torn apart, and his body was peppered with shrapnel.

Our General pinned the purple heart on the Soldier, then asked him if there was anything he could do for him before he was flown out of theater. The Soldier could not speak so he moved his one remaining hand signaling for a pen. He was handed a pen and paper, then wrote a note to our General.

The Chaplin was telling me he thought it was going to be a request to call his wife or pass a message back home that he was going to be OK, when he looked at the note he saw a list of supplies his Soldiers needed that were still out on the battlefield fighting. Our Chaplin told me that it was the first time he saw our General cry during a Purple Heart ceremony.

This HERO is the reason why I have left my family for five of the past 11 years. There is no higher honor then to stand with these men and women in combat.

Click here to subscribe and receive my weekly blog posts directly to your email. You don’t want to miss a thing!