Monthly Archives: August 2012

Maxx, an improvised explosive device detector dog, licks the face of his handler, Lance Cpl. Stephen Mader, during a convoy in southern Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 26, 2012. Mader, an IDD handler with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, Regimental Combat

Following the scent: An explosive detector dog and his handler protect Marines

I found this terrific story that I thought you all would like. So instead of doing a picture or video of the week I’m changing it up! Of course the pictures in the article are fabulous.

Story by Staff Sgt. Brian Buckwalter

Maxx, an improvised explosive device detector dog, licks the face of his handler, Lance Cpl. Stephen Mader, during a convoy in southern Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 26, 2012. Mader, an IDD handler with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6, volunteered for the job. He’s an infantry mortarman by trade, but deployed to use Maxx to help sniff out IEDs and other explosive before they can damage vehicles or Marines.

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Riding in an armored truck over Afghanistan’s rutted dirt roads is scarcely a smooth or comfortable experience.

Each bump is felt as leaf springs groan and creak under the weight of the mine resistant, ambush-protected vehicle. The air conditioner circulates dusty air, and unless you’re right next to the vents, you’re drenched in sweat. Body armor weighs down on shoulders and compounds the pain of sitting in one spot for hours on end.

For Lance Cpl. Stephen Mader and his dog Maxx, this experience is routine. Mader is an improvised explosive device detector dog handler with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6.

Their MRAP hits a large bump. Water in a metal dish near the truck’s back entrance splashes onto the floor. Maxx, who was dozing, stands up, puts his front paws on Mader’s lap and nuzzles his head against Mader’s body armor.Maxx, an improvised explosive device detector dog, rests at the feet of members of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6, during a convoy in southern Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 27, 2012. Maxxâ¤?s handler is Lance Cpl. Stephen Mader

Mader wraps his arms around Maxx, gives him a pat on the side, a scratch behind the ears and reassures him everything is alright.
Maxx, settles back down, his chin across Mader’s boots – his spot – and closes his eyes again.

“It’s basically like having a 3-year-old in Afghanistan,” Mader, who is responsible for every aspect of Maxx’s care, said. He feeds him, cleans him and even monitors Maxx’s behavior for signs of stress or fatigue.

And like a 3-year-old, Maxx, a yellow Labrador, always wants attention.

“Otherwise, he’ll start licking me,” Mader said.

Mader and Maxx have been together for seven months since they met at the 5-week IDD handler school in Southern Pines, S.C. The dogs come to the school pre-trained to obey commands and track explosive scents. Human students go to learn how to handle the dogs.

School instructors interviewed Mader about his demeanor and personality and asked questions like, “Are you laid back or a hard-charger?” to get an idea of which dog to assign him (Mader said he’s a mix of both).

Mader, who joined the Marine Corps in 2009, said the dog needs a good rapport with their handler. If there is a personality clash, the dog won’t perform. Maxx is a perfect match, he said.

“If I want to be playful and active, he will be. But, if I want to relax, he’ll lay down next to me,” Mader said.

Overall, Maxx, who is actually 4-years-old, is “pretty chill,” and will sleep when he’s not working, Mader said. But, Maxx does have his wild streaks like when he breaks out of his kennel. He also likes to try to swim in the canals in the southern Helmand River Valley where the battalion’s PSD often travels.

“He’ll try, and I’ll have to stop him,” said Mader.

Unlike some military working dogs, IDDs are not trained to be aggressive. Because of this, IDD handlers have the discretion to allow other Marines to approach or pet their dogs. Maxx is popular with the Marines and gets a lot of attention. But, when it comes time to work, he’s ready to go.

“In the truck, he’s like a pet, but whenever we’re out there, he’s like a tool,” said Mader. And, “they’re a great tool to have if you use them correctly.”

The duo spends a lot of time on the road. Maxx can sense where they are.

“It’s weird, but he’ll know what (forward operating base) we’re going to,” said Mader. When they’re getting close to FOB Geronimo, a larger, more built-up base, Maxx will get excited and start pacing. When they approach a smaller, more desolate place like Combat Outpost Rankle, “he’ll just lay there.”

When Mader and Maxx aren’t on the road or working, they’re training. After missions, while other Marines are relaxing, Mader is making sure Maxx’s tracking skills stay sharp.

Maxx isn’t trained with food, rather, with a rubber bouncy toy called a “bumper.” The bumper is used as a reward for performing a task – either in training or a real scenario – successfully. When the bumper comes out, it’s a morale boost for the dog, Mader said.

Even with the long hours and the extra responsibilities of being a dog handler, Mader said it’s “the best thing to happen to me in the Marine Corps.”

After this deployment, if there is a need and an opportunity, Mader said he would volunteer to be a handler again.

“I love being with the dogs,” he said.

As the Afghan National Army continues to take over more of the security responsibilities in Helmand province, officials at Marine Corps Systems Command said they anticipate the number of dogs currently serving to be reduced in the near future, correlating with the reduction in Marine forces in the region.

If Maxx is no longer needed, Mader said he wants to adopt him.

“I don’t want to give him up,” Mader said. “I’ve bonded too much to give him up.”

Mader looks down at Maxx, who is still asleep across Mader’s boots, unaware of the potential dangers outside of their MRAP. The occasional hard bump in the road is the only thing that stirs him from his nap on this ride.

However, if needed, the pair will be ready to go on a moment’s notice to track down the scent of any explosives on the route, potentially preventing vehicle damage, injuries or worse.

“A local kid asked if he could buy Maxx for 10 dollars,” Mader recalled. “I had to tell him he’s worth a little bit more than that.”

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

Should You Hire an Editor or Join a Critique Group? (Part I)

O my goodness did I receive some outrage from my post on Tough Love and Top Flight Editors a while back. I think that folks thought I was “slamming” critique groups. I wasn’t but will provide you my thoughts now.

But to ensure we provide you a holistic view of the subject I’ve asked my colleague and staunch critique group supporter, Barbara Longley, to join me in this discussion. Barbara is the incredibly talented author of Heart Of The Druid Laird- Carina Press, and she has a new trilogy coming through Montlake Publishing beginning with Far From Perfect releasing October 23rd. To read excerpts of her work, you can visit her website at this link.

Anyway, enough about Barbara….let’s talk about what I think…….

KEVIN: Critique groups are a waste of resources. To me resources equal time, effort and money. I’m not complaining but I easily put in 60 hours a week at work. I put another 15 to 20 hours for writing, 5 hours for social media. (I tweet way too much on my commute to work though).

Then I try to maximize every other second I have available to for my new baby boy and wife. When in the world would I ever have time to meet with a group of kind hearted folks and listen as they talk about their writing? Maybe, just maybe I would get a chance to talk about my own writing? Thanks but no thanks. Just the thought of driving to the group exhausts me!

Do they serve wine at these critique groups?

When I have the time to focus on my writing I want the person I am working with to also be focused on my writing! Pay an editor and you have their time. Yes, I get it….editors aren’t cheap. Well you can find some cheap ones but again you are just wasting your time. I worked with my editor through phone and email…it was quite convenient and on my terms.

I’m a Soldier in the United States Army so you know I’m not rich. But my writing is important enough to me that I sacrifice other things because I value professional advice. Wait….hold on…….I’ll talk about that next.

All right…I’m gonna let Barbara speak because frankly I am scared that she will yell at me if I don’t.

BARBARA: Before I rant, I figured people might be interested in hearing how you and I have connected, Kevin. The trilogy coming out through Montlake Romance focuses on wounded warriors returning home from Iraq or Afghanistan and finding their happily ever after through the healing power of love. (Sappy, I know, but that’s who I am.) I don’t do the super heroic, “special ops on secret missions” veteran characters. I know they exist, and I have the greatest respect for them, but I’m more interested in the regular Joe’s experience.

Anyway, during the research part of the trilogy, I started reading Kevin’s amazing blog about soldiers who are handlers for military working dogs, and the bonds they form. Love it. I started leaving comments, and we connected. We’re also both on Twitter. Kevin very graciously answered some of my military questions, and we’ve been talking back and forth ever since.

Just between you and me, readers, it makes no difference to me how Kevin’s book (Paws on the Ground) gets on the shelves. I just want to freaking read it!

OK. My rant: First, I have to say that I also work a full time day job, plus I raised two kids on my own while working on my masters and writing my first novel, so I get the whole “time is a limited resource” thing. I just don’t agree with it. If something is important enough, you make time. As a writer, I cannot think of a single greater resource than other serious minded writers. There is no greater resource. Period. That’s my position in a nutshell. And, your description of how a critique group works is nothing like what happens, not in my groups anyway.

Depending on how often we get together, here’s how it goes: Prior to our meeting, we exchange chapters. We read each other’s work, make notes, critiques, etc. Then we get together and go page by page through each other’s chapter, explaining what didn’t work, what did, pointing out inconsistencies, characterization/motivation issues, line edits, etc. In other words, if you’re my CP, I’d talk about your work, not mine. Then it would be your turn to talk about my work, not yours. It’s very focused and serious. We get down to business. We rock. Then, I go home with all those marvelous notes and make my novel better than it was without that input. It’s GREAT. The only time we talk about our own work is if we request a brainstorming session when we’re stuck. In which case, we state the problem concisely, and it opens up for discussion after that.

Gah. I wouldn’t be able to tolerate what you described as a critique session either! BORING. Not what happens in the groups I’ve worked with. Ever. Never ever, Kevin. Not once. A writer would be quickly voted off the island in that case.

I work with authors who are committed to their careers and to improving their craft. When one enters into a critiquing agreement, a promise is made. When I am reading your writing, I am giving it my all. I am focusing on your writing 110%, and that includes editing. I do this because I trust my partners to do the same for me. I’ve worked with critique partners since I began writing with the serious intent of getting published, and I wouldn’t be published if I hadn’t opened myself up to that experience. I am eternally grateful to the authors I’ve worked with along the way, and I hope to always have CPs in my life.

My thoughts on unpublished authors hiring editors: There’s an inherent conflict of interest when you pay someone to give you “honest” feedback about your writing. Editors for hire want to please their clients, because it may lead to more money making editing gigs. Just think about it, Kevin. How brutally honest is a paid editor going to be about the marketability of a writer’s book when to do so might mean the job comes to an abrupt, unpaid end? Whereas, critique partners are on the same journey you are. They are learning what works, what doesn’t, developing their own unique voices and helping you to develop yours. It’s a partnership on equal terms. A good critique partner will be brutally honest. (In a respectful way, of course.) They don’t have the client relationship to worry about. They have only your best interests at heart.

Another reason why critique groups are so important: When creative minds get together, good things happen. Say you’re stuck on how to get your plot from point A to point C? Brainstorming with your CPs can open it up for you, give you fresh ideas and help you get unstuck. The brainstorming can be a springboard for so much, including reenergizing your sagging creativity. And yes, sometimes we’ve been known to include wine or beer in our brainstorming sessions.

There’s no bond like the bond you have with a trusted writing partner. You can’t “pay” for something like that. You have to earn it.

I do get that everyone’s path to publication is different. Your way works for you, and my way works for me, but I think you’re really missing out on one of the best things about writing, and that’s the partnerships and the bonds you form with other writers. Once you’re under contract, you’ll have an editor assigned to you. More than one, actually. They’ll do their job, and you’ll do yours, and the next book you might have completely different editors. You don’t choose them; you’re publisher does. Critique partners are writers you choose to work with. You’re all in it together to better yourselves and your craft. It simply cannot be beat. Critique groups decide how often to meet. Some get together once a week, others only once every few months. It’s entirely up to you and your group. It’s an invaluable resource, and a total growth experience.

Back to you, Kevin. I’m certain you’ll have lots to say.

Note: We broke this little spat into two posts. I won’t say it was because Barbara talks a lot….but that was in fact the reason. I forgot to ask Barb…do you think those underline sentences mean she is yelling at me?

So, do you side with Kevin or Barbara? Why?

What has worked for you?

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

Military Dog Video of the Week(August 23th, 2012): Service Dogs

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OK6aydefNs&feature=plcp[/youtube]

Traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder are two medical conditions that are difficult to diagnose and treat. Army Sergeant Peter Holzer tells us about some unique dogs that are giving Soldiers with TBI and PTSD, a second chance at recovery

This video really made me think.

Is this a feasible program for the military?

Can we have troops, who require therapy dogs in order to function, continue to serve?

As a dog enthusiast and having my very own (unofficial) therapy dog, my heart tells me– of course. But as a professional officer in the United States Army I have my doubts.

When I returned from Iraq in 2005 I rarely went anywhere without my best pal, Sammy!

Allowing troops to have therapy dogs at work is a complex issue with many, many layers of complications attached.

I think my position right now is: If you need a service dog then can you really perform your duties as a Soldier, Marine, Airmen or Sailor? My postion is specifically asked as a question because I just don’t know.

I would love to hear others thoughts. I wish this video told us whether the Soldiers are processing out of the Army or continuing to serve.

I think I’ll leave it here today and follow up with another post about this topic.

What do you all think of troops serving who require service dogs?

What would be some of the complications I allude to?

Does anyone work with someone who requires a service dog in the civilian/ military world? How does that work?

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

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (August 16th, 2012): Honza Bear

Military Dog Video of the Week(August 9th, 2012): K9 Healers

Military Dolphin Picture of the Week. (August 1st, 2012): Koa the Sailor

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

Military Working Dog Bony

Daniel and the Wolf Dog Part II

Note: This is part two of the story. You may wish to read Part I prior to reading this piece.

At 5:00 AM Sergeant Daniel Sandoval’s alarm clock barely started buzzing before he clicked it off. He looked over at his pregnant wife Sabrina who hadn’t stirred.

“Good,” thought Daniel. “She needs her sleep.”

He’d been lying in bed, mind racing and deep in thought for the past two hours. Today was his first day back at the kennels in over three years. Today was the day he would meet a lot of the other handlers. Today was the day he started training with Military Working Dog Bony—Bony  the Grey Wolf.

Had he lost his touch as a dog handler?

Would the rest of the handlers accept him?

Would he bond with Bony?

Three years was a long time to be away from the dog world. Of course he hadn’t wanted to be away. He’d been sent away. But that was a long time ago, at a different Army installation, and with different leadership. Now it appeared that at Fort Bragg, North Carolina he was going to get his a second chance at redemption. Or so he hoped.

He dressed in the darkness. Just as he prepared to leave the bedroom, the bed covers stirred. He looked over at his smiling wife Sabrina. She reached for his hand and he placed the other on her growing belly.

“I believe in you, Sandy,” she told him. “Screw all the doubters and disbelievers. Go do this for yourself.”

He nodded, kissed her on the cheek, and then kissed their unborn son through Sabrina’s belly.

30 minutes later he got out of his car and looked over at the Fort Bragg Military Working Dog kennels. He smiled. He could hear dogs barking, a dog team was already out running the obstacle course, and he could hear the 82d Airborne Chorus singing cadence for morning physical fitness training. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1IjaJwLz58[/youtube]

He held his head high, forced his shoulder upright, and pushed out his chest. He was Sergeant Daniel Sandoval and he was here for redemption—redemption for himself and for his family.

“Bony is a 95- pound, furry asshole, Sandoval. He is stubborn, doesn’t listen, and will try to alpha you,” said the kennel master.

“Roger, Sergeant.” He’d dealt with stubborn dogs before, but could he break Bony down and show him who was boss?

“He should be fully recovered from his Pexi surgery. As you know the surgery will prevent him from getting bloat. The vet said he can come out of his kennel and start limited training. So get to work,” his kennel master told him.

He watched Bony race up and down the chain linked fence perimeter of the training area. Bony was powerful and quick for his size. Daniel wondered about his nose as the dog sniffed the damp ground curiously.

Daniel knew Bony was glad to be out of his small kennel. The dog was glad to be out stretching his legs.Military Working Dog Bony

“Hey! Come,” called out Daniel.

Bony looked up from the blades of grass he was “inspecting” and craned his neck forward towards Daniel.

Out of the corner of his eye Daniels saw the kennelmaster and head trainer watching the scene unfold. Crap.

He sucked in his bottom lip and stared at Bony intently. He was trying to will Bony into listening to him. That was his first command Daniel had given Bony when he was off of the leash. Would Bony listen? Bony stared back at him. They were now locked in a showdown.

“Woof, woof,” bellowed Bony the Grey Wolf.

Daniel released his lip, opened his mouth and started to command him to come again.

He didn’t have to finish though. Bony was already streaking across the training area like a freight train heading right towards Daniel. Daniel knelt and watched the heavy-footed Bony spew sandy dirty everywhere.

Bony tried to stop, but his momentum took him right into the waiting arms of Daniel. Bony groaned as Daniel rubbed his head. Daniel knew that he and Bony would work out just fine as a team.

Over the next few months three incredible things happened in Daniel’s life. The first and most important was the birth of his baby boy. The second was that he and Bony developed into a formidable dog team and he was confident going into certification. Bony had a terrific nose and outstanding drive. The third was that he received notification just days before his certification that he and Bony were Military Working Dog Bonyon orders to deploy to Afghanistan.

Daniel’s son was having trouble breathing. He needed to be there to support his wife and take care of his son. But the kennel and command expected him to certify and deploy. He didn’t want to be portrayed as looking to get out of a deployment again. It had taken him too long to get back into a kennel. Now he was back in and was being ripped apart at the same time, forced to choose between his family and his career.

What do you think Daniel should do?

Part III of this story is now published!

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

 

John and Honza looking tough

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (August 16th, 2012): Honza Bear

Normally I wait and use my unseen pictures for my stories but I couldn’t resist this week.

Let’s hear it for Honza Bear this week!

Why?

Well……. why not, right? Let’s admit it folks….you love Honza Bear!

There is just something about this furry yellow goofball that you love.

Is it because he put his handler John Nolan to the test during certification?

Does he remind you of your dog or a dog you used to have?

Maybe you love the fact that he spontaneously rolls onto his back, grumbles like a bear and demands to have his belly rubbed.

All right…I love Honza Bear as well. I ‘m actually stationed in Virginia at the same Army installation as John and Honza Bear.

But that isn’t the reason I am honoring them today. Here is why.

Last Friday I was sitting at my desk well past six 6:00 PM so I clicked on a message from John. He and Honza had just been blown to the ground by an improvised explosive device buried into the ground in Afghanistan. Last week, without notice or warning, their life almost ended.

If Honza Bear hadn’t started acting differently when he picked up the explosive scent. If John hadn’t recognized it and stopped walking forward. This post may very well be a sad…..a very sad post.

But here is the deal…that was yesterday and you can’t dwell on what could have been. They are Soldiers (YES…HONZA IS A SOLDIER!)and even though they just had a near death experience….the mission goes on!

These two fine warriors are still saving lives in Afghanistan today.

So today we Salute John and Honza Bear!

John reads this blog from Afghanistan. He is super helpful answering my questions. Much of the details he provides me are going into my second novel in my Paws on the Ground series.

So please feel free to comment below and send a message to John and Honza Bear!

Please share with us all why you love Honza Bear!

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

Military Dog Video of the Week(August 9th, 2012): K9 Healers

Military Dolphin Picture of the Week. (August 1st, 2012): Koa the Sailor

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (July 25th, 2012): Dog Down Under

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

Noah and MRAP

Noah and the Young MWD Chuck–Explosion?

This is Part IV of Chuck and Noah. If you haven’t read Part III first you may wish to start there or skip back to Part I.

Sergeant Noah Carpenter leaned up against a dirt-splattered tan Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle and sighed. He wouldn’t be in the relative protection of the MRAP today. No, today it would be he and his military working dog Chuck leading a foot patrol.

He had arrived at the remote camp a couple days before from the sprawling Bagram Airbase via Konduz Airfield. The small camp’s concertina-wired and dirt-berm perimeter was protected by battle hardened Unites States Army Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division.

Noah didn’t worry about the Taliban attacking the perimeter. They would have to get through the paratroopers. What concerned him the most was the 30 Afghan policemen that lived in and worked from the camp. The Afghan security force was constantly being infiltrated. While he was at Bagram two U.S. Soldiers were killed by an Afghan border patrol officer in the area.Army Sergeant Noah Carpenter and Military Working Dog Chuck

Fortunately for Noah the Afghans stayed away from him. More accurately they stayed away from his 65-pound dog full of muscle, fur, and teeth: military working dog Chuck—the Natural.

At least Noah hoped he was the Natural. He was still working with Chuck on clear signal training. Chuck was doing well. But what Noah couldn’t shake from Chuck was the puppy in him.

Just the day before he had been working with Chuck on obedience. In the middle of their training session a rabbit dashed through the training area. Chuck didn’t hesitate. Noah tried to stop his dog, but it was to no avail. Chuck tore after that rabbit and chased it through half the camp before the rabbit dashed through the concertina wire and escaped.

This didn’t go unnoticed by the Special Forces team he was there to support. When he reported that night for the mission brief he was asked, “Are you sure your dog is ready, Sergeant?”

It was embarrassing, but that was yesterday. Today was a new day. He knelt down next to the resting Chuck.

Chuck looked up at him attentively and licked his lips as his long tan tail flopped slowly from side to side.

“I need you today, boy. You are my man, right?” asked Noah.

Chuck was panting lightly and his tongue hung low. There was already drool and saliva forming around his lips. Chuck stared back intently at Noah, not saying a word.

Noah hoped Chuck’s response was, “Of course, Dad. How could you ever question me? I am a natural at finding explosives.”

He hoped his response wasn’t, “I’ll consider listening to you if I can fit it in between chasing rabbits or the occasional chicken.”

Noah knew it was time to find out as he watched several of the Special Forces team members and a couple of the Afghan police men begin to muster.

50 minutes later Chuck led the foot patrol into a small village. Barefooted children dashed into the mud huts followed by fully robed women.

The head of their patrol and the lead Afghan policeman met with the long white-bearded village elder who greeted them like long lost brothers. Noah knew they had a mutual interest—both sides wanted something.

The elder wanted a new well dug for water and the patrol wanted Taliban information.Army Sergeant Noah Carpenter and Military Working Dog Chuck

During the meeting Noah noticed there was nothing that resembled any modern conveniences: no running water, no electricity, no automobiles, and certainly no way to make a living. He wondered how people survived like this. Afghanistan really was in the Stone Age.

“Carpenter, we just received information that there might be an improvised explosive device (IED) on the road leading to the next village,” said the Special Forces team leader.

Noah knew they received tips like this all the time. Sometimes it was accurate and sometimes it wasn’t. There was only one way to confirm or deny the information though. He and Chuck were thrust to the lead of the formation again.

Noah watched carefully as Chuck worked deliberately and methodically clearing the ground in front of them. He had to keep Chuck on his 25-foot retractable leash. He couldn’t have Chuck dashing after a sheep.

Noah saw Chuck’s change in behavior immediately. The dog paused and his nostrils began to flair in and out quickly. He moved his head from side to side searching for the source of the scent.

Noah noticed that some of the dirt was darker than the surrounding area and knew it had been recently disturbed. At the same time Chuck zeroed in on the spot and sat.

“F me,” thought Noah.

He wasn’t sure what was in the ground, but he knew if it went off he would be dead. He was only 15 feet from the spot where Chuck alerted.

Noah began to back up and hoped for two things. The first was that the device wouldn’t detonate and blow them to pieces. The second was that Chuck would listen when he recalled him.

Noah would worry about everything else after he got them both to a safe distance from the potential explosive device.

Army Sergeant Noah Carpenter and Military Working Dog ChuckDid Chuck have a find on his first mission?

Does Chuck aggress on a potentially live explosive device?

Is Chuck truly a natural?

Is this the only explosive in the area?

Stay tuned next time for the rest of the story! 

 

 

Click here 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!

 

 

Military Dog Video of the Week(August 9th, 2012): K9 Healers

This video is fabulous because it brings attention to a truly unheralded unit on the battlefield….our military Veterinarian Corps! This is the muscle and brains that keep our dog teams functioning and operating at a high level. It is because of these great American’s that our dog teams are on the front lines protecting our troops!

This is exactly why the heroine in my novel, Megan Jayburn, is a veterinarian technician. I’ve mentioned this kick ass character before in my first Women in Combat Post. (Boy did that post and the subsequent posts on that topic receive a lot of attention!)

My third post had 2,400 hits in the first day!  I remember that day because it was the day we brought our baby boy Brady home from the hospital! But I digress…….

In Paws on the Ground, Megan, is assigned to the veterinarian clinic mentioned in this video! How cool is that?

No you won’t see Megan in this video. But the folks in this video are essential cogs in the military machine!

Cheers to our Veterinarian Corps!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNeIWM8Hpvs[/youtube]

Military Working Dogs in Kandahar, Afghanistan work in the same conditions as their human counterparts, in order for them to continue fighting and keeping troops safe they need extra care to keep them mission ready, that is a primary mission for one medical unit. Soundbite includes MAJ. Bryan Hux – Veterinarian, 438th Medical DET and SGT. Joshua Knight – Military Dog Handler. Produced by SGT. Susan Noga. Hosted by SGT. Jacob Connor.

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

 

 

K9 Heroes1

Interview with K9 Heroes author Nicole Arbelo

K9 Heroes. What a perfect title for a novel about today’s military working dog community. But don’t worry—this book isn’t just about the dogs. Debut author Nicole Arbelo showcases the deep bond between military working dogs and their handlers in this heartfelt and powerful book.

Nicole spent nearly three years working tirelessly on her first book, K9 Heroes. Her admiration for the dogs and the service members they partner with radiates throughout the book.

The book is mainly a compilation of stories (mostly firsthand accounts); direct correspondence with actual dog handlers, their family and friends; and interviews conducted by Nicole. As I read the book I honestly felt like I was talking to the service members. As you all know, I am an active duty soldier, so it was very relaxing for me to read K9 Heroes. The accounts are honest, uncensored, and amazing. I felt like I was having discussions directly with the service members.

Military Working Dog in Afghanistan

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Mosher, a Military Working Dog handler, and his dog, Zix, search for simulated explosives buried along a road at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan on July 9, 2012 during a training exercise while U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Parker evaluates their performance. The handlers and their dogs rotate through Kandahar Airfield for validation prior to moving out to Forward Operating Bases around the country where they will lead combat foot patrols and sniff out IEDs and other explosives. (U.S. Air Force photo/TSgt. Stephen Hudson)

I made a huge mistake when I purchased this book though. I ordered the paperback version. I received a book full of lesser quality black and white pictures. From what I’ve read from others and can tell myself from looking through the book, I missed out on one of the best parts of the hardcover book. There are over a 100 pictures throughout the book. Don’t be thrifty like me. I urge everyone to order the hardcover version so you can experience the higher quality pictures.

Speaking of pictures. Nicole operates a facebook page that would make us all jealous. Soldier, police and foreign–Nicole’s facebook page is a nonstop collage of pictures.

What inspired you to want to write a book about military working dog teams?

Since the War started, I wanted to do something on my part to help our deployed heroes. I began sending care packages via Soldiers Angels and AnySoldier.com It was there on AnySoldier.com, that I discovered the first K9 handler killed in action, Sgt. Adam Cann. I saw that he was from Davie, Florida, which is where I moved from fifteen years ago. I became so interested in learning about his story: there were so many conflicting reports on the internet, especially about his MWD Bruno and whether or not he was alive or he was KIA as well. It was then that I was looking specifically on AnySoldier to adopt a K9 unit, and I saw this message posted by Justin Granado, a Marine K9 handler out of Camp Pendleton.

He wrote something like I am a Marine K9 handler out of Camp Pendleton here with my MWD Bruno. My mouth dropped open! There are hundreds if not a thousand or more people signed up on this site, and I thought, “Could this be the same Bruno?”

 I sent a care package to Justin right away and lots of goodies for the MWDS as well and asked if this was the same Bruno that was with Sgt. Cann. Within less than two weeks, I received an email from Justin stating it was and he couldn’t believe I put that together. From there on in, Justin and I became close; we chatted online almost everyday throughout his deployment, and one day I said in an email, “You know, I’ve always wanted to write a book, and I should write a book about what you do.” He responded, “Yes, you should, you really should!”

It also turns out that I have friends in Florida that are friends with the Cann family as well. It’s a very small world that brought us together!


This is your first book. What part of the writing process did you find to be the hardest? How about the easiest? The funniest?

It is, and since high school, writing was something I loved! Oh, wow, most definitely the hardest part was the emotional aspect. There is so much more that I learned way beyond the book, and I would often hang up with a father or a brother after our interview and cry my eyes out. Sometimes I would wait up to a year to conduct an interview with someone; I always made sure that when they were ready before we would proceed.

The easiest part was putting my thoughts into typing. I was so inspired by the stories and the handlers, and I really enjoyed talking to handlers that were in Italy. I received calls from Afghanistan. It was amazing!

The funniest was hearing the stories even beyond our interviews that we couldn’t put into the book—just funny things that happened behind the scenes that really made me laugh and that made me feel good because there were a lot of tears. Adam Caan

In your book you describe a childhood memory of how your German shepherd saved you from a rattle snake. Can you tell us what happened?

I was so young, around nine, and my mother had recently married. My stepfather at the time had a beautiful German shepherd named Princess. We lived in Delray Beach, Florida, literally out in the woods in the middle of nowhere. Rattle snakes were a very big issue. One day, I was walking outside and literally came face to face with what I would say to this day was the biggest rattle snake I have ever seen! I wasn’t even aware where Princess was. All I remember is this constant rattling and this snake coiling back and I swear before I knew it Princess came out of nowhere and went right at the snake, taking an instant bite. Princess, thank goodness, made it, and she saved me no doubt. We lived quite far from the nearest hospital. 

Your book is wonderfully jam-packed with firsthand accounts from dog handlers. This is something I have never seen before. When you initially set out to write the book was this your goal. If so, why? If not, how did it end up like this.

It was definitely my goal immediately to write this book of first accounts this way. I remember so many days talking to author and Vietnam dog handler John Burnam, who said, “This is the most challenging type of book to write  and will take the longest.” He was a great mentor to me! He loved the idea that I was writing it this way as well.  It was important for me to share the stories firsthand. I wanted to get all sides of the K9 handlers, from all the Military branches.


Do you plan to write additional books or is this it for you?

I would love to! The way I did this first book was very costly, but, yes, I have so many more stories to tell. I have a lot of ideas as well, so I hope one day this can happen.


What type of books do you like to read?

Well,l to be honest back in November of 2010, I wasn’t working and went through months and months of doctor appointments, specialists, etc., to finally get diagnosed with, “Basilar Migraine Vertigo,” which is  very hereditary within my family, so I really can’t read very much at any given time. I think I will start listening to books on audio.

Do you have any dogs now?

I do, I have two very sweet and wild and crazy Yorkies, Mozart and Zoe. I became very allergic to dogs that shed, so there went my dream of having a German shepherd. Of course, I always joke that I could just wear a gas mask around the house. I never knew what it was to have chronic pain, and I can say that having my dogs make everyday life more bearable. Whether it be a Military Working Dog, a guide dog, a Police K9, a house pet, I believe all dogs are heroes to someone!

Nicole is also working diligently to outfit law enforcement K9 with armor vests.  She is an incredible person and her book is a must read for all dog and service member fans. Remember though—order the hardcover of her wonderful book K9 Heroes. You’ll be glad you did!

Don’t forget to check out her facebook page and website!

This is a wonderful post by Nicole on SGT Adam Cann who is featured on the cover and inside  K9 Heroes.

Thank you, Nicole, for what you have done and continue to do for our K9 Heroes!

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

Koa, an Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin, is shown being transported in a rigid-hulled inflatable boat boat, en route to a MH-53E Sea Dragon of Helmineron Fourteen.

Military Dolphin Picture of the Week. (August 1st, 2012): Koa the Sailor

Yes…..I said Dolphin! How cool is this?

Koa, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, is coaxed onto a transport mat during a Rim  of the Pacific 2012 exercise. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and  submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in  RIMPAC exercise from Jun.29 to Aug. 3. (U.S. Navy photo by  Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shannon E. Renfroe)

Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 1 transport Koa, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, to an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter assigned to Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HELMINERON) 14 during a Rim of the Pacific 2012 exercise. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from Jun.29 to Aug. 3. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC, provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2012 is the 23rd exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shannon E. Renfroe)

Koa, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin handled by Explosive Ordnance Disposal  Mobile Unit 1, jumps in his training pool during a Rim of the Pacific 2012  exercise.   (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd  Class Shannon E. Renfroe)Koa, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin handled by Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 1, jumps in his training pool during a Rim of the Pacific 2012 exercise. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from Jun.29 to Aug. 3. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC, provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2012 is the 23rd exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shannon E. Renfroe

Koa, an Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin, is shown being transported in a rigid-hulled inflatable boat boat, en route to a MH-53E Sea Dragon of Helmineron Fourteen. The Navy uses dolphins operated by Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 1, to locate and mark mines for neutralization or exploitation.   (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd  Class Shannon E. Renfroe)

Koa, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin handled by Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 1, jumps in his training pool during a Rim of the Pacific 2012 exercise. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from Jun.29 to Aug. 3. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC, provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2012 is the 23rd exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shannon E. Renfroe

The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC, provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2012 is the 23rd exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shannon E. Renfroe)

Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 1 transport Koa, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, to an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter assigned to Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HELMINERON) 14 during a Rim of the Pacific 2012 exercise. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from Jun.29 to Aug. 3. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC, provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2012 is the 23rd exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shannon E. Renfroe)

Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 1 transport Koa, an  Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, to an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter assigned to Mine  Countermeasures Squadron (HELMINERON) 14 during a Rim of the Pacific 2012  exercise. . (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd  Class Shannon E. Renfroe)

Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 1 transport Koa, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, to an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter assigned to Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HELMINERON) 14 during a Rim of the Pacific 2012 exercise. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from Jun.29 to Aug. 3. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC, provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2012 is the 23rd exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shannon E. Renfroe)

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

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (July 25th, 2012): Dog Down Under

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (July 18th, 2012): Javelin Thrust

Military Dog Picture of the Week. (July 11th, 2012): Lucca

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