Military Working Dog Chuck in Afghanistan

Noah and Military Working Dog Chuck: The Stubborn Puppy Grows Up

 Note: This is Part II of this series. If you haven’t read Part I you might want to read that post first.

Spectacular brown jagged mountains surrounded the Konduz Airfield in northern Afghanistan, reminiscent of Sergeant Noah Carpenter’s home in Arizona. But Noah couldn’t focus on the spectacular scenery. His focus was squarely on the fact that he was standing on a flight line alone, with his Military Working Dog Chuck faithfully by his side.

“What the hell should I do now?” thought Noah?

He looked down at his two duffle bags, rucksack, ferry kennel and a “tough box” full of Chuck’s gear and supplied and shook his head in disbelief. There was no way he could “hump” all that gear anywhere.

“Crap!” he said under his breath.

The soldiers that had landed with him at the remote camp were already picked up by their units. When he spoke, a group of Afghan soldiers eyed him curiously. They talked amongst themselves, pointed at Noah and Chuck and nodded. Noah tensed and the hair on Chuck’s back rose as he eyed the AK-47 bearing, Afghan army soldiers.

“Are they friend or foe?” Noah thought. “Can they be trusted? Who the hell is supposed to pick me up? How the hell did I get into the situation?

30 days earlier Noah had arrived at the major hub for United States Forces in Afghanistan, Bagram Airbase. He knew he was arriving in a combat zone with an inexperienced, “green” dog. He and Chuck had barely passed explosive detection certification back in Hawaii and now they would be expected to spend time at Bagram to train on  explosives commonly found in Afghanistan before being sent out to a unit. He knew that those few weeks would be spent imprinting his stubborn knucklehead of a dog Chuck on homemade explosives (HME) such as ammonium nitrate, rocket propelled grenades, land mines and other explosives not available to him for training back in Hawaii. These explosives are key components of the Taliban’s effective improvised explosive device (IED) tactic.

“How is your dog on odor, Sergeant,” asked Staff Sergeant Darrel Wade, the Combined Joint Special Operation Forces kennel master.

“He is excellent. He can find anything,” Noah said confidently.

“Good, how about your dog’s OB?” the Staff Sergeant asked, using the shorthand for “obedience.”

Noah hesitated and admitted with reluctance, “He needs some work, Sergeant.”

Military Working Dog Chuck in AfghanistanChuck let out a series of barks from his ferry kennel that was resting in the back of the Toyota SUV.

He seemed to be saying, “Stop talking about me, Dad. I’m right here.”

For two weeks Noah and Chuck trained on the explosive odors common to Afghanistan. Chuck was a natural at picking the scents up and Noah was excited. He started to wonder if his dog could be turning into “Chuck, the Natural” and not “Chuck, the Stubborn Puppy”?

“Seek,” Noah directed.

Chuck didn’t hesitate as he stretched the extendable 26-foot leash connected to Noah’s body armor by a black metal carabineer. His tail wagged, nose remained low and eyes focused. Chuck was a natural. Or was he?

Noah saw Chuck jerk his body back at a spot in the ground that appeared to have darker dirt that for a seasoned dog handler is a telltale sign that the dirt was recently disrupted. Chuck sat and then plopped his mahogany body on the ground focusing on the dark spot of dirt with his almond shaped brown eyes.Military Working Dog Chuck in Afghanistan

“Come,” Noah commanded. Chuck edged closer to the dark dirt spot.

“Come,” Noah demanded. Chuck began pawing at the dirt. His nose was buried in an instant.

“Crap,” thought Noah as he ran up and pulled the dog off of the explosives. He didn’t want Chuck chewing on a live land mine. Chuck wagged his tail happily and rubbed his black muzzle against Noah’s leg.

He seemed to be saying, “I did good, Dad. Look, I found it. Can I have some love now? How about tossing me that Kong, pal?”

Noah sighed and shook his head at the hardheaded Belgian Malinois.

“The damn dog does whatever he wants out there. His detection skills are better than any dog I’ve ever had, but I can’t control him,” he told Wade. He brushed the grainy sand from Chuck’s nose.

“Carpenter, I think I know what’s wrong. Let’s go back to the kennels. I want you to watch a video,” said Staff Sergeant Wade.

As Noah watched the video made by the renowned Doctor Hilliard from the Department of Defense Canine School at Lackland Airbase the light bulb went off in Noah’s head. Everything he had learned at canine school seven years earlier had been replaced. Instead of compulsion training, dogs were coming out of Lackland being trained in Clear Signal Training.

“So you mean I’ve been speaking Spanish to him and Chuck only knows French?” Noah asked.

Staff Sergeant Wade nodded, “Yep.”

The word about the new training technique hadn’t made it to his kennel back in Hawaii, so Noah had been trying to control Noah with commands and signals that Chuck wasn’t trained on. Chuck wasn’t a stubborn knucklehead!

With the help of Staff Sergeant Wade, Noah received a crash course on Clear Signal Training. After that and hundreds of hours of training with Chuck, Noah and his dog smoked validation and were shipped to Konduz.

Newly anointed, Chuck the Natural began to growl menacingly as several Afghan soldiers stepped toward the pair on the Konduz Airfield tarmac. Noah slid a hand onto the pistol grip of his M4 Carbine rifle and put his thumb onto the safety mechanism.

The sun had disappeared over the scorched brown mountains 30 minutes prior and Noah knew it would be dark soon.

He glanced down at the ammunition pouches strapped to vest. His magazines were each loaded with 30 rounds of 5.56 Millimeter ammunition. His 9 Millimeter Beretta was strapped to his chest. There were about twenty Afghans against him and Chuck.

Should he unleash Chuck?

Should he pull out another magazine?

Should he flee or fight?

His breathing got heavy; his heart was pounding and his head spinning. It was decision time for Sergeant Noah Carpenter.

Click here for the exciting next chapter in this story!

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15 thoughts on “Noah and Military Working Dog Chuck: The Stubborn Puppy Grows Up

  1. Sally Lowen

    When our retired MWD came she would not mind me – a very astute trainer told us she spoke Dutch. Once we knew that she became a model dog. Now we use a combination of Dutch, English and hand signals and we all are very happy. Love this Belgian!

    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      That is so cool Sally!

      Maybe Noah needs to learn a little Dutch….. I should have used that analaogy…would have been more fitting!

  2. Adriana Johnson

    Hi Kevin,

    The angle of understanding and communication is a great point to show; and at the end of this story ,again, you have a hook. Chuck and Noah what is going to happen, hmmmm. I can only wait and see or wait and read bahah I should state.

    We can all be trained humans and animals in many different ways. Through language and classes understanding cultures and how people like to hear, learn communication styles and how they (animals and humans) like to respond and receive information.

    Chuck! I do hope that dear dog helps his owner well in the heat of such a serious journey of life.

    I have a question regarding dogs that come back from over seas and their journeys. Do they have a problem with aggression or racial profiling so to speak? Are the owners in the US of these war heros able to keep them well stimulated with a good life? My head thinks they must stay very attached to their solider friends. Thoughts of questions in the desert land part of the US:)

    Adriana In Arizona :)

    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Thanks Adriana. Understanding your dog and being able to read your pooch is critical. A dog and a handler are useless unless they have this ability. You should see what happens now that Noah understands Chuck! More to follow on that one.

      I’ve never heard of profiling or aggression issues. All MWD that are adopted must be screened by veterinarians prior to adoption to ensure they can safely adapt to “civilian” world.

      You would be amazed at how most dogs can transition to new handlers or owners. Dogs are very resilient. Of course there are cases where the dogs have terrible adjustment issues but for the most part it is not a problem.

    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      I should have used the Dutch vs English analogy that Sally mentioned above….it is way better than my Spanish and French….but so true…it is an issue we have to deal with.

  3. aj Melnick

    I love this story and can hardly wait for the next installment. Sally’s retired MWD is my “god-dog” and I love her too. I am really hooked on reading about MWD’s now.

    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Thanks AJ….. I love Chuck but what I haven’t revealed to anyone yet is that Noah and I have a deep and personal connection that stems to when he was a young private. I’ve seen him grow and am so proud of the Sergeant and Soldier he has become.

  4. Cassie

    Love your blogs- really want to read the next one!! Please keep us updated as to when the next one is out :) thanks x

    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Thank you Cassie. I normally post new pieces to my Facebook page and push them out on twitter. If you want updates sent right to your email subscribing is easy and convenient.

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