This Part IV of John and Honza Bear. If you haven’t already…..you may wish to read Part III: Warning: The Bear Has Been Poked or skip back to Part I: John and the Lumbering “Honza Bear” prior to reading this one.
As the Blackhawk got ready to take off, Army Specialist John Nolan heard Sergeant Celeste says, “You won’t find shit out there man. There is nothing to be found.”
“I guess that’s good,” John said. “I mean, no improvised explosives means no one is getting blown up, right?”
Celeste looked down at John’s Specialized Search Dog (SSD) Honza, a.k.a. “Honza Bear,” and smirked.
Honza was rolling on his back and groaning trying to hit that sweet spot that was itching him. He must have succeeded because he rolled onto his stomach, stared up at John, and yelped at him.
John couldn’t resist. He knelt and scratched a spot of yellow fur right by Honza’s belly, about where his ribs were.
John started to get pissed. This Celeste dude had already talked smack to one of the guys on the Special Forces Operations Detachment-Alpha (ODA) team because Honza wasn’t attack-trained. Like that frigging mattered in Afghanistan anyway.
As his and Celeste’s two dog teams transitioned, John listened but took everything Sergeant Celeste said with a grain of salt. Celeste just rubbed him the wrong way.
To make it all worse, if John had one success, Celeste had three. Any feat John accomplished Celeste could one-up him. He was just one of those guys. So John listened to him but didn’t hear a thing.
John watched as the Blackhawk became smaller and smaller and eventually disappeared into the grey murky sky. He was glad to see Celeste go.
He surveyed the dried mud walled qalat. It was in the middle of a small village and had once been a wealthy Afghan family’s home. They had fled when the Taliban were forced out of power. Now it was home to a United States Forces Special Forces Alpha Team. The qalat was now also home to Specialist John Nolan and Honza Bear.
The qalat was about the size of a football field. There was a small parking area for vehicles, wooden steps that lead down into the troops living and common areas. There was a small wooden building built by a former ODA team that served as the morale, welfare, and recreation center. Inside the building was a television where they men watched movies, and gathered for meals and meeting.
John and Honza were going to living in an actual mud hut with the ODA medic. He knew this was going to be one hell of a year.
He knelt back down and Honza leaped up on his knee and licked his face with his wet slimy tongue. The warmth of his tongue made John smile.
“We are going to do things our own way, Honza Bear. We are going to do things the John and Honza Bear way. This is our ODA team. Those Taliban fucks have no idea that I am about to unleash The Bear on their ass.”
“Woof, woof,” replied Honza Bear.
Honza Bear pushed himself against John’s chest and held his head up high. John knew he was ready. All those problems they had during certification were in the past. In Afghanistan you played for keeps.
“Nolan, the detachment sergeant wants to see you. We just got information about a possible cache of homeade explosives buried in the side of a wadi near our qalat,” said a team member named Maxwell.
John looked down at Honza with his eyes bulging and said, “Holy crap, pal, it looks like we’re getting thrown into the game in the first quarter.”
As he walked to meet the detachment sergeant, Master Sergeant Ramey, he couldn’t help but drift back to when Honza searched too quickly and ran past explosives. And those had been explosive aides. If Honza missed anything out here it would get John and half the ODA team killed.
A couple hours later John’s shoulders were sore from carrying his heavy gear. The men had loaded up on ammunition because, if they got into any trouble, reinforcements were a long way away. They would have to fight their way out.
Honza Bear was on his retractable leash which was attached to a carabineer on John’s vest. A local national had pointed the team in the general direction but was not 100% sure where the explosives were located.
Master Sergeant Ramey nodded at John and said, “All right, Nolan, let’s see what you and your dog have. The shit is buried that way,” as he pointed past John’s 12 o’clock direction of travel.
This was the moment they had been training for. All the trials and tribulations of certification were in their past. This was prime time now. This was for real. A Soldier and his dog—leading a group of men to safety or to their death.
As John approached the wadi his heart began to race and he was sweating his ass off. This was it. He could feel it. He took Honza Bear off of the leash.
John took a deep breath and commanded, “Seek.”
Honza took off, his nose down low and tail wagging. He looked happy to be off of the leash and was actively working.
John just prayed that we didn’t miss the explosives like he had in training. The explosives here in Afghanistan could kill them all.
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