Monthly Archives: May 2012

Former Cpl. Megan Leavey pets Military Working Dog Rex during his retirement ceremony and adoption at Camp Pendleton's K-9 unit, April 6. Leavey, who was previously Rex's handler, had written a letter to Congress requesting to adopt Rex since he was being forced to retire due to facial paralysis. Rex served in three combat deployments and provided over 11,575 hours of military working dog support consisting of over 6,220 vehicle inspections during random anti-terrorism searches. Rex was constantly put in harm's way during multiple firefights, mortar attacks and improvised explosive devices during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (May 30th, 2012) SGT Rex Retires!

Former Cpl. Megan Leavey pets Military Working Dog Rex during his retirement ceremony and adoption at Camp Pendleton’s K-9 unit, April 6. Leavey, who was previously Rex’s handler, had written a letter to Congress requesting to adopt Rex since he was being forced to retire due to facial paralysis. Rex served in three combat deployments and provided over 11,575 hours of military working dog support consisting of over 6,220 vehicle inspections during random anti-terrorism searches. Rex was constantly put in harm’s way during multiple firefights, mortar attacks and improvised explosive devices during Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Photos by Cpl. Michelle Brinn)

MIlitary Working Dog Sergeant Rex

 

 MIlitary Working Dog Sergeant Rex

 

 Many of you have asked so I wanted to close the loop on this one. SGT Rex retired and is home with Megan.

If you want to read about some of SGT Rex’s exploits in Iraq check out the book bearing his name.

 

In case you missed or want to revisit prior weeks. Here are the links.

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (May 23th, 2012) Welcome Home Marines!

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (May 16th, 2012) K9 Trials!

Military Dog Picture of the Week (9 May 2012): Tennis Balls!

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Bosnian destruction

Danica: Child of War Part I

According to the Cape Breton Press in 2010, “Of the 138 Canadian soldiers who have died during the Afghan mission, more than 120 were killed by IEDs or land mines, including one that killed five soldiers and a Canadian journalist.”

So what is a country to do when they are struggling to find ways to protect their 2,800-soldier force in Afghanistan from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)?

Remember when I asked you Are Dog Teams Hired Guns? That post was in a different context but still relevant because it is true. Dog teams can easily (relatively speaking) integrate into foreign units and effectively save lives. This happens every day in Afghanistan and I know that many handlers feel like hired guns. But I digress.

The Canadian Army went out and hired some “Paws” and some handlers. Here is what the American Company, American K9, said about the contract on their website.

Afghanistan – November 10, 2009 – The Canadian Forces Contracting Cell in Afghanistan has selected American K-9 Detection Services, Inc., (AMK9) to provide Explosive Detector Dog (EDD) Teams to support Canadian Military Forces within Southern Afghanistan. This contract will provide the Canadian Forces with both entry control point security as well as support to forward operating units, which rely on EDD Teams assistance to locate hidden Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and weapons caches.

AMK9 has provided Detector Dog Team support to the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan for several years. AMK9 EDDT routinely accompany Canadian Troops in hostile regions and provide the forces with an irreplaceable tool that directly contributes to the safety and security of every single Canadian soldier.

I didn’t personally deal with the Canadian “Hired Paws” in Afghanistan but I frequently dealt with the management of AMK9. I remember standing in the AMK9 country manager’s office and on a board he had a picture of all the “Hired Paws” of the Canadian contract.

I often wondered who these “hired paws” were. I mean, they were charged to lead patrols in an IED-infested land with their dogs. Who the heck would volunteer to do that and why? I knew that they must be very special people to put their lives on the line like that.Danica and her working dog in Afghanistan

Sure, our military dog teams are doing this as well. But if they are injured or killed they have the United States Military and government as a support network. What do contractors have? Who takes care of their family if something tragic happens? I’ve always wondered about those handlers of the Canadian contract.

As I studied the photos of these contractors, one person really stood out to me.

Why?

She was the only woman on that board.

Fast forward 15 months and who should I find on the internet? The woman from the Canadian contract! She is Danica Dada Djikov and her story is amazing.

As I’ve gotten to know Danica better I now have the answer to my question of why.

Danica grew up in the war-torn country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. During her teenage years her hometown of Trebinje, a border town with Dubrovnik in Croatia, became engulfed in war. For four years she lived every day not knowing if her soldier father would ever return home. Her city and neighborhood was shelled constantly. The once bountiful and lush fields of crops became killing fields. Death, destruction and terror were a way of life for those four years in Trebinje. Danica lived every day not knowing if it was her last.

In 2000, six years after the Bosnian War ended, the country was still littered with mines. It is estimated that there have been over 1,700 casualties from land mines in Bosnia Herzegovina since 1996. According to Wikipedia, “By the end of 2008 some 220,000 land mines and unexploded munitions remained scattered in 13,077 locations. A total of 1,755 km² (3.4% of the country’s territory) is mined.” I have read other reports that say that the number of land mines may be closer to one million.

The Canadian International Demining Corps established a dog school for mine detection dogs in Trebinje. Danica, who grew up with dogs, leaped at the chance to enter the school and begin to help her country clean up and rebuild. It was a dream for her to work with dogs and save lives.

Danica, a child of war, wanted to help.

What happens when Danica hits the minefields of Bosnia and then Kosovo?

How does Danica find her way to Afghanistan?

This is part I of Danica: A Child of War.

Don’t miss Part II: A Child of War Clears Her Country of Landmines

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Improvised Explosive Dog Thor with his ESS

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (May 23th, 2012) Welcome Home Marines!

 Wonderful News! A friend of the site, Frankie Taylor Fisher, is out at Camp Pendleton California this week. She is welcoming home her son, Marine Joey Taylor

Joey is redeploying from the treacherous Sangin Valley, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Returning with Joey is his best pal, Improvised Explosive Detector Dog Thor.

Yeah I know right… a couple weeks ago I gave you and an Ace and now this week I present to you a Thor!

Thor, the dog, I mean the god of thunder and protector of mankind! He doesn’t need a hammer….he is a hammer! Improvised Explosive Dog Thor

 Semper Fi!

 

 Welcome home, Joey and Thor!

In case you missed or want to revisit prior weeks photos. Here are the links. 

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (May 16th, 2012) K9 Trials!

Military Dog Picture of the Week (9 May 2012): Tennis Balls! 

Military Dog Picture of the Week (2 May 2012): Desert Dogs of Afghanistan 

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (April 25th, 2012) Cool Dogs Wear Shades!

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Military Working Dog Veteran

A True Call to Arms: Contact Your Senator Today!

Last Friday on my Facebook page I posted breaking news about the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act. The act, which was incorporated into the house version of the National Defense Authorization Act, passed the House of Representatives handily.

 

This is wonderful news, but it is NOTover yet! Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act is far from being reality. The next step for the bill is parallel legislation in the Senate.

According to www.Govtrac.us, the bill only has a 4% chance of passing the Senate. (It should be noted that they gave the bill a 2% chance of passing the House, so we have doubled our odds!)

The bottom line, though, is that the fight to get this bill passed isn’t over.

Our military dogs don’t have a voice. They need you to contact your senators to tell them that the current policies are antiquated. Below are the senators who have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill:

Sen. Ron Wyden [D-OR] (joined Mar 05, 2012)

Sen. Jon Tester [D-MT] (joined Mar 08, 2012)

Sen. Mark Begich [D-AK] (joined Mar 12, 2012)

Sen. Charles Schumer [D-NY] (joined Mar 19, 2012)

Sen. Patty Murray [D-WA] (joined Mar 27, 2012)

Sen. Kent Conrad [D-ND] (joined Mar 28, 2012)

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse [D-RI] (joined Apr 24, 2012)

Sen. Patrick Leahy [D-VT] (joined May 16, 2012)

Sen. Tom Udall [D-NM] (joined May 17, 2012)

Military Working Dog Anax hugging Marc

Anax lost his leg fighting for his country. He now has three. Specialist Marc Whittaker wants to adopt Anax. Anax saved Marc’s life countless times in Afghanistan. If this bill doesn’t pass then Marc may not be able to afford the veterinarian bills to care for Anax.

One of the problems is that there is a lot of misinformation out there, even from places that mean well. They are confusing the issue. Even the ASPCA and Save a Vet, plus several people on change.org, have gotten it wrong.

I mentioned this weekend on my Facebook page that I had written the ASPCA about their call to arms for this bill. An email that the ASPCA sent out began with Military Dogs Should Be Adopted, Not Abandoned.

As I told them in my correspondence,

“Your call to arms is a complete misrepresentation of this wonderful act. It is also an insult to the thousands of military dogs that have been adopted by wonderful people since the Robby Law was passed. Please change it to accurately depict the purpose of the act.

An online petition has already been started on www.change.org in which they quote your call to arms. You are promulgating an idea that our dogs aren’t adopted or cared for when they retire. This is false. The act is meant to enhance this care and streamline their adoption and properly care for them upon retirement.

The military dog program is full of animal lovers. Your call to arms is an insult to us all and prevents us from supporting your initiatives to garner support for the act.

Again, I urge you to do the right thing here. Set the record straight. I would love to jump on your bandwagon through my website.”

Writing the email and sending it made me feel better. But did it do anything? One thing I know is that I can’t find that misinformed call to arms on the ASPCA web site any longer.

Military Working Dog Honza with doggles

Military Working Dog Honza is currently in Afghanistan fighting for our country. Does “Honza Bear” look like equipment?

OK, a little more ranting for you.

Even Save a Vet, which is a great organization, got it wrong on their petition. They have almost 1,100 supporters.

And this week I wanted to start a petition on www.change.org in support of the bill but was disappointed with the petitions already created to support the act. They had such calls to arms as:

  1. Help our military get working dogs adopted, instead of euthanized! (652 supporters; started by Ilya Bukshteyn)
  2. Congress: Stop euthanizing military dogs — instead allow the dogs to be adopted (only three supporters)
  3. Retire Military Dogs – Don’t Kill Them (956 supporters; started by Annie Hughes)

There are many more and I could go on with my list, but I think you all get my gist. I didn’t start my own for three reasons:

-I questioned their utility

-I was just disheartened to see so many BS ones already on the site

-I didn’t want to further confuse folks

 

A United States Marine and his MIlitary Working Dog

Improvised Explosive Detector Dog Ace is a living, breathing Marine.

The true story is that military dogs have been saved from being euthanized at the end of their service since Robby’s Law was adopted by Congress in 2000. Since then, it is the law of the land that military working dogs be available for adoption by their trainers, their trainer’s famlies, or by qualified members of the public.

The problem now is that, although there are many people who want to adopt these dogs, their veterinary care and transport to their new homes can carry prohibitive costs. This law would change that by making these valuable dogs no longer pieces of equipment but “canine members of the armed forces. It also provides for their care and transport through fundraising efforts, not through additional costs to the taxpayer. An awesome thing about the ASPCA is this link. They have made it so easy to send a letter to your Senator. So please click on this link and write your senator. You can do it in less than one minute. Can you spare one minute for a four-legged vet?

I urge you all to help me spread the truth about the purpose of this bill. If you know any of these people or know someone from Save a Vet, please urge them to correct their petitions. Please have them contact me and I will be happy to rewrite it for them.

Military Working Dog Chuck in Afghanistan

Military Working Dog Chuck recently re-deployed from Afghanistan. He spent a year sniffing out explosives. He saved countless Soldiers lives. He is a Soldier.

OK, lets take it back to what is important—the dogs! Please write you Senators. Use this link to do so. It takes about a minute!

Please comment and let me know you sent a letter to your Senator!

Should I start my own petition?

Is there any utility to this www.change.org site?

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us_army-logo

Are Leaders Missing What’s Important?

The Army is a results-oriented organization:

How many pushups can you do in two minutes?

Fix that truck. We need it for mission.

Secure that supply route.

Do whatever it takes to take that hill.

Rebuild that police station.

Rebuild the Afghanistan National Army.

I can only assume that many civilian organizations are results-oriented as well.

I think sometimes folks get caught up in the results and forget what is important: the people that get you these results.

An incredibly smart man once told me, “Kevin, the Army will chew you up and spit you out.  It will forget about you the day you leave.  You’re replaceable and your accomplishments will be outdone by someone else eventually and thus forgotten.”

I was befuddled by the words spoken by a man from whom I deeply respected and thought was a career professional officer.

I asked, “What do you mean, Sir?”

He smiled and asked, “Do you know what the greatest impact you will have on the military will be?” He stared intently at me.

I rattled through my prior accomplishments in my mind but wasn’t sure if any merited mentioning.

He looked at me, knew I was unsure, and said, “My greatest accomplishment is you.  My greatest accomplishment will be the people I leave behind to run the Army after me.  You are the greatest gift I can leave the Army.”

The way I lead soldiers changed forever that day. That was almost ten years ago.

It was pretty sound advice and has guided me throughout my career.  My leadership strategy is to invest in people, empower them, and let them grow.  It’s okay if they falter and things aren’t perfect all the time.  It’s my job to pick them back up and guide them.  They are learning, growing, and will be stronger for it.

That wise man has been selected by the Army to Command a Brigade of 3,000 Soldiers.  I live by his creed and spread his theory to this day.

So what is missing when your organization is singularly results-oriented?

What happens if your boss is only results oriented?

How does that make you feel?U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Evan Frickey, a 21-year-old improvised explosive device detection dog handler with 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and native of Idaho Falls, Idaho, plays with Cookie, an improvised explosive device detection dog, while providing security on the perimeter of the Safar School compound here, March 18. (Photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Evan Frickey, a 21-year-old improvised explosive device detection dog handler with 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and native of Idaho Falls, Idaho, plays with Cookie, an improvised explosive device detection dog, while providing security on the perimeter of the Safar School compound here, March 18. (Photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

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TsGT Brown and Military Working Dog Ooakley

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (May 16th, 2012) K9 Trials!

Hmmm, who do you think is doing more work? This was taken during the grueling Iron Dog portion of the DOD K9 competition, on Day 3, of TSgt Larry Brown and MWD Ooakley (a puppy program dog!), representing the 341st itself! Check out this Mal’s mouth. It really goes allll the way back. It’s part of the reason Malinois are referred to as mailigators. A classic photo by my fabulous photog, Robin Jerstad. (Photo copyright Robin Jerstad)

No one quit, no matter how hard it got. Many were completely exhausted, many had to stop and catch a few breaths, but thanks to grit, determination, and encouragement, everyone stayed in the game. What an inspiration for all of us who have far easier tasks in life. I’m so proud of these teams! I want to use some of these photos as motivators on hard days; you just keep going, you don’t throw in the towel.Military Working Dog Mack
 
It looks like MWD Mack is going to leap down off Air Force handler SSgt Pascual Gutierrez Jr and get the bad guy, doesn’t it? This photo, from the Iron Dog portion of the DOD K9 Trials, show off this dog’s utterly unique markings and ears. He is a very memorable-looking dog, one of the few I could ID right away with just glance. (Photo copyright Robin Jerstad)
Army Sergeant Wienke and Military Working Dog Cchance

Army Sgt. Elisabeth Wienke, the only female handler in the competition, lifts her military working dog, CChance (another puppy program Mal!) over one of the obstacles on the course. She makes it look easy, but it’s definitely not. (Photo copyright Robin Jerstad)

A soldier and his Military Working Dog Crouching Over

Here, a handler wearing full gear and a pack containing a sandbag collects himself during a long and arduous crawl with his dog at his side. This part of the event came after the teams had already hiked a few miles and handlers had walked up a large hill carrying their dogs. (Photo copyright Robin Jerstad)

Note: I wasn’t able to attend the Department of Defense K9 trials this year due to the arrival of our baby boy. Maria Goodavage, author of Soldiers Dogs, did attend and was gracious enough to allow me use of her photos for this post. I left her commentary in there as well so you can get a gist of her passion for these dog teams. All photos are copyrighted by Robin Jerstad.

Here is a link to an interview and book review I did on Maria’s book, Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes.

In case you missed or want to revisit prior weeks photos. Here are the links.

Military Dog Picture of the Week (9 May 2012): Tennis Balls! 

Military Dog Picture of the Week (2 May 2012): Desert Dogs of Afghanistan 

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (April 25th, 2012) Cool Dogs Wear Shades!

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Military Working Dog Honza with doggles

Honza Bear Roars and Then Sputters

You may wish to read Part I, John and the Lumbering “Honza Bear”, of this series first before reading Part II below.

“Nolan, this is Lucy. She will be your primary dog,” said the instructor.

Specialist John Nolan looked down at the seven-year-old black lab. He put his hand out for her to sniff. He felt her wet nose and watched as she wagged her tail slowly. She sniffed him cautiously. John stroked her head. She nudged his hand with her snout. John knew she was satisfied with her investigation of him.

John looked over at his other pal, the yellow Labrador Honza, who was watching the meeting through his chain link kennel. Honza let out a groan as he stretched his front paws forward. He placed his square head down on them. He never took his eyes off of John.

John sighed and thought this didn’t compare to the greeting he had received from Honza a week before.

“Lucy is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. She knows what she is doing. She doesn’t take all day to do it,” said the instructor as he eyed Honza, who let out a slight sigh as he opened his mouth wide for a 30-second yawn. John could see the dog’s wet pink tongue fall and hang out of the side of his mouth.

John could feel those brown eyes. He knew Honza was staring at him. He felt his stomach churn. Why did he feel guilty about petting Lucy? Shouldn’t he pair up with Lucy? She had two deployments already. She would be his best bet for survival in a combat zone, right?

During the specialized search dog course that followed their meeting, Lucy became John’s primary dog. But his heart lingered with Honza. His instructors were determined to pair him with Lucy, yet John spent his free time conducting extra training with Honza who he thought might be starting to come around.Military Working Dog Honza at work

One day during training John’s senior instructor pulled him aside after watching him and Honza work a training problem and asked, “Nolan, what have you done to Honza? I’ve never seen him work this well for anyone else. Heck, I’ve never seen him work this well, period.”

John was elated and replied, “He just gets me Sergeant. And I get him. He may be slow, but he is thorough. I’m okay with him being thorough when we are searching for things that could blow us up.”

As his instructor walked away John knelt down to pet Honza who had flipped over on his back. As John stroked his belly Honza began making grumbling noises that sounded like a bear.

Honza Bear was starting to come around.

By the end of the course there was no doubt that Lucy was a better search dog and John’s instructors urged him to choose her instead of Honza. But John’s heart already belonged to The Bear. When John departed dog school for Virginia it was the big yellow head of Honza Bear sticking out of his car, ears flapping and tongue hanging in the breeze. John was ready to take his chances with the Lumbering Honza Bear.

Soon he would wonder, though, had he made a mistake when he followed his heart instead of his brain?

This was the question John asked himself three months prior to his scheduled deployment to Afghanistan. John and Honza were preparing for a deployment with a Special Forces Unit in December. There was one small problem though.

Honza had bombed certification. Certification is a requirement for a dog team to deploy. It is a series of trials to test a team’s proficiency in finding explosives. An explosive team must certify at 95% proficiency or they aren’t allowed to work as a team.

They had failed their first certification miserably. Honza had looked like he was out raiding picnic baskets, not searching for explosives.

That meant that three months before John and Honza were supposed to deploy they were uncertified and unsure of their future as a team.

Once again John wondered, should he have chosen the grizzled combat veteran Lucy?

He knelt down and Honza leaped up on his knee and pushed his body against him. John pulled him tight and pushed his nose against the wet nose of Honza and asked, “Can you do this, pal? You know I need you. I take care of you and you take care of me. That is how this works. Got it?”

Honza let out a crisp series of loud barks. John hoped Honza understood because if he didn’t they wouldn’t be doing anything together for much longer. He would have to get a new dog and who knew what would happen to Honza Bear. John knew they must pass certification on their next chance.Military Working Dog Honza chilling

Did John make a mistake by following his heart instead of his brain?

Should John have chosen the grizzled combat veteran Lucy?

Will they pass certification and deploy as a team?

Click here for the next exciting chapter in this story! 

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A United States Marine and his MIlitary Working Dog

The Marines have the Ace of Spades!

The complete IED detection team
Regimental Combat Team-5, 1st Marine Division
Story by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez

KHAN NESHIN DISTRICT, Afghanistan – A team of two jumped out of the vehicle as it came to a stop at a chokepoint on the road.

While Ace, an improvised explosive device detection dog, wandered around the vehicle, Cpl. Sean Grady, Ace’s handler and a pointman with Echo Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, began preparing his sickle and combat metal detector.

The pair then proceeded with what they do best: clearing a safe path for their fellow Marines.

They moved down the road in a carefully choreographed dance, methodically searching for the disguised and dangerous devices. Grady, a 27-year-old native of Otho, Iowa, launched Ace forward with an array of hand signals and verbal commands, while he swept the path with his CMD.

Grady’s choice to enlist in the Marine Corps was influenced by the loss of a best friend, Sgt. Jon Bonnell, who sacrificed his life in Al Anbar Province, Iraq in 2008 while serving with 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment.

“He was one of my best friends in high school,” said Grady, who graduated with Bonnell from Fort Dodge Senior High School.

Being the pointman for his platoon requires Grady to efficiently utilize all of his tools. With his sickle, CMD, combat experience and Ace’s skills, a complete IED detection team is effectively leading the platoon.

“I volunteered to be a pointman during this deployment,” said Grady. “The only thing I care about is keeping my Marines safe.”

Grady considers their tactical approach atypical. While most dog handlers are usually positioned farther back in a patrol, Grady saw that having Ace at the front of his platoon would greatly enhance their ability to find IEDs. A United States Marine and his MIlitary Working Dog

“As a dog handler, most of the time we’re in the back of the patrol,” said Grady. “They only call us up when they see suspicious things on the road, or when the pointman needs to confirm something.”

“I was a pointman on my last deployment, and I know the danger that comes with dealing with IEDs, and didn’t want anyone else dealing with that,” explained Grady, who previously served in Afghanistan in 2010.

The team’s unusual method has produced uncanny results, with their 16 IED finds since arriving in southern Helmand in October 2011 being the highest of any IED detection team in the battalion.

“Ace has found five IEDs, and also confirmed three suspicious hits,” said Grady. “I’ve found seven during our time here.”

In addition to the tools of his trade, Grady credits tactical decision games – a basic skill set taught to all infantrymen – for much of his success in Khan Neshin.

“In my head during a patrol, I’ll go through my TDGs,” explained Grady. “I ask myself, ‘If I was the Taliban, where’s the best place to put the IEDs?’”

“I would look around the area and focus my attention where I think the enemy would put the IED,” he added.

Grady recalled an incident, where he found an IED using lessons learned from conducting TDGs. He used his sickle to investigate what he figured was a suspicious spot on the road, and uncovered a bucket filled with 50 pounds of explosives.

Grady and Ace have been teammates since July 2011, after Grady attended the Marine Corp’s dog handling course. He was amazed by Ace’s obedience and the skills he had acquired from training with K2 Solutions Inc., before they were partnered together.

A Marine and his Military Working Dog“It blew my mind how disciplined Ace was, the amount of different explosive scents that he could recognized, and how useful his skill can be in the field,” Grady explained.

“He’s a superb dog and he helps me do my job,” he added. “I wasn’t really aware of how amazing the Marine Corps dog handler’s program is until I met Ace.”

Just as he was taught in boot camp and infantry training, Grady keeps his weapons, tools and skills well maintained. He stressed that constantly training Ace is what keeps him sharp and disciplined when they are out on patrol.

“We keep up with his obedience and reset training to make sure he keeps his skills and stays on his game,” explained Grady.

“It’s hard, because I want to love him as a pet but I have to treat him as tool as well, because of the skills he has,” said Grady. “I’m constantly on that fine line of being his friend and master.”

As 1st LAR’s deployment comes to a close, Grady and Ace look to keep their platoon’s path home safe and IED free.

Note: This isn’t my story but I thought it warranted a spot here on my site. Cheers to Cpl Grady and his “Ace” in the hole, improvised explosive dog (IDD), Ace!  Not to mention that Ace is adorable. Look at how much fun he is having out there!

Do you have a dog who is your Ace?

Why? Please share.

You all know Sammy is my “Ace”!

A Marine and his Military Working Dog

 

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Pfc. Steven Olson and Military Working Dog Alex❠take a moment of happiness over an array of tennis balls. The Tactical Explosive Detection Dogs are calm and collected until they see a tennis ball. The balls, nearly 3,000 of them, were donated to the TEDDs team by a family member taking donations.

Military Dog Picture of the Week (9 May 2012): Tennis Balls!

 Pfc. Steven Olson, a dog handler with 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, and his dog, Alex, take a moment to enjoy an abundance of tennis balls. The Tactical Explosive Detection Dogs are calm and collected until they see a tennis ball. The balls, nearly 3,000 of them, were donated to the TEDDs team by a Family member taking donations. (Photo by Capt. Allie Scott/4th BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. PAO) 

The 4th BCT TEDDs team handlers and dogs stand outisde their kennels 29 April 2012. They were waiting for the presentation of 3,000 donated tennis balls to their team.

The 4th BCT, 82d Airborne Division TEDDs team handlers and dogs stand outisde their kennels 29 April 2012. They were waiting for the presentation of 3,000 donated tennis balls to their team. (Photos by Capt Allie Scott/4th BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. PAO)

Pfc Steven Olson prepares his Tactical Explosive Detection Dog "Alex" for mission. Alex is specially trained to detect explosive material which in turns keeps safer stand-off distance for American Troops while on foot patrols.

Pfc Steven Olson prepares his Tactical Explosive Detection Dog “Alex” for mission. Alex is specially trained to detect explosive material which in turns keeps safer stand-off distance for American Troops while on foot patrols. (Photos by Capt Allie Scott/4th BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. PAO)

Tactical Explosive Detection Dogs stand with their handlers April 29 after their long-awaited arrival to Forward Operating Base Pasab. The TEDDs are combat multipliers which provide early detection and warning to paratroopers of explosive materials. The handlers and dogs just completed a four-month preparation pase. All handlers are 4th Brigade Combat Team paratroopers and for the majority of them this is their first deployment. (Photos by Capt Allie Scott/4th BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. PAO)

Note: Check out this article about these teams and Christine Jensen’s drive to supply these dogs with tennis balls. Here is a way to send something directly to our dog handlers. I’ve served with Christine’s son Patrick. Patrick is in Afghanistan right now in charge of a group of dog teams. This is great way to make an impact with our troops in harms way…now! 

In case you missed or want to revisit prior weeks. Here are the links.

Military Dog Picture of the Week (2 May 2012): Desert Dogs of Afghanistan

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (April 25th, 2012) Cool Dogs Wear Shades!

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (April 18th, 2012) Thirsty Pups!

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Dog with book

What to Do and Not to Do During the Query Process

In a prior post, What Not to Do When You’re Writing a Novel, I left you at the point where I had gone on a my first fishing trip for a literary agent and had snagged a big one.

Agent A of Trident Media requested a full submission within five minutes of my emailing him. He requested an exclusive  (meaning I wouldn’t send it to other agents) and said he would get back to me within two weeks. I was elated. It was a dream come true. I had grandiose visions of being that one guy who bucked the arduous and agonizing querying process.

There was one problem though—the manuscript hadn’t been completely edited. I told Agent A I could have it to him in two weeks. My editor, Ginger Moran, dropped everything for me and we went directly into a simultaneous development and line edit because of the compressed timeline. She cut about 21,000 words and would have cut more, but I resisted. This was a bad call on my part because everything she recommended cutting was cut later on. My recommendation, as a general rule–if you pay an editor, listen to him or her.  Also, don’t rush to failure. Complete the developmental edit first. Then go into a line edit. The agents would rather wait for a polished product.

I delivered the now 126,000 word novel to Agent A in two weeks (July 1st) exactly as I had promised. This was another of my mistakes—the novel was still too long.

Looking back at it now it is funny that we worked so hard to get the novel to him on this self-imposed deadline. He wasn’t even in the office when I submitted and didn’t return until the fifth. That is just how I work though: I do what I say I’m going to do.

I waited on pins and needles for two weeks and heard nothing. Should I email Agent A or give him more time, I wondered? I finally emailed him after three weeks. He told me that he was still reading but understood if I queried other agents. So now the exclusive was over and I felt stupid for giving it to him in the first place. What had it gotten me?

I didn’t know this at the time but apparently the entire publishing world pretty much closes down for the month of August. Nothing moves in the month of August, so I would recommend you skip querying in August

It actually worked out well for me because we moved from North Carolina to Virginia in August and were busy settling the house. I also conspired with Ginger about our next plan of attack. She encouraged me not to write Agent A off completely, but at this point I had already moved on.  I had false expectations here. Be more patient as an author. Literary agents are very busy.

By then I was beginning to suspect that querying takes the same discipline, research and hard work that writing does. I spent hours researching literary agents and their querying process. I developed a list of potential agents using Publishers Marketplace and finding books like mine (dog, military commercial fiction) at Barnes and Noble and finding out who the agent was for that author.  Normally an author will thank their agent in the acknowledgment of a book. By the second week of September I began sending out queries again.

So here is how I organized for my “assault”:

  1. One excel spread sheet with agents, agency and submission guidelines
  2. Second sheet with submission requests
  3. Third sheet with rejections

I highlighted the line on sheet number one until I heard back. Once I heard back I moved them to sheet two or three. If I didn’t hear back I highlighted them in red and didn’t worry about them.

Any rejection emails I immediately deleted. There are a ton of agents, so don’t get let a rejections get you down. Just keep going—you only need one agent to sign you.

In the first week I had two literary agents call me directly to discuss the project and request full submissions. Super-agent Susan XXXXX called me the day I queried her and was very enthusiastic about the project. This energized me and I kept querying.

I sent out about 50 queries. Here is how I did it:

Every morning I woke at 5:00 AM with the goal of querying five agents before work. I would go through my list, double check their website for submission guidelines, re-read what the agent was looking for and tweak my query letter for each agent.

So if the agent said on the site, “looking for something fresh, something that will move and inspire me,” I put that words directly reflecting that into the query letter. I said, “Dear Mr Smith, I’m writing to you because you are looking for something  fresh, something that will move  and inspire you.”

At the end of my querying “flurry,” I had a double digit list of full or partial submissions. I knew I was onto something and was confident someone would sign me because of the commercial potential of my novel. I had gotten encouragement from agents and even some who, though they didn’t take it, said they would read a revision. But I didn’t have an agent.

What is your process for querying agents?

What tips would you add to garner agent’s interests?

Are there any “hole-in-one” wonders out there–i.e., the first agent you queried signed you?

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