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.
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.
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.
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!
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