Monthly Archives: January 2013

Happy One Year Anniversary!

Has it been one year already?

Yep, I launched this site this week last year and have been consistently writing and posting for the site since. So why did I start this site?

I need a platform if I am going to be a professional writer someday. Right?

That is what the experts say. But this site is more than just a platform for me—it is how I express myself. It provides me the ability to publish my work now through my blog posts. The site allows me to tell stories and share what I think is important and relevant in my world. Plus writing for the site makes me happy.

So let’s take a look at some stats for the year:

First subscriber: Pam Garrity

First commenter: Ginger Moran

Thank you, ladies!

Subscribers: 775

Comments: 2,358(Non Spam)

I really have nothing to compare these numbers with. I believe this is a great start for my website. That is good enough for me. I’ve also watched my average daily visitor count creep from around 100 this spring to 150-200 this summer to 200-250 this fall. I am now reaching over 300 folks daily. That is pretty damn cool!

Visits: 98,191

Page views: 160,735

Countries reached: 169 (To name a few: China, Congo, Peru, Estonia, Australia, Mexico. That makes six continents!) I’m going to be huge in China…..or maybe just in my head!

Hey, my dogs think I’m cool!

Yes, I feed and give them treats everyday.

What are you trying to say?

Anyway………..

So what are most people interested in? What are the most popular posts? You might think the dog team stories, right? Well you might be surprised at the results!

Here is a recap of the ten most popular posts of my first year of blogging.

#10: “Memories that Never Fade.” Army Specialist Marc Whittaker’s struggled to carry on after his dog Anax took a bullet that was meant for Marc in Afghanistan. This is a story of terrible tragedy, heartache, and resolve through the eyes of a combat veteran struggling to reclaim his swagger. This is my first original series and as an Army leader taught me so much about struggles our soldiers face.

#9: A Marine and his Dog.”  Written by Lawrence Dabney and shared on my site, this story’s ending will have you reaching for the tissues. I was stunned that this made the list because I just placed it on my site this month. It is a great story. I recently published the second part.

#8: Seal Team 6 and Cairo.” I was sitting in the Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan chow hall waiting for a flight home when I first heard the news. We got Bin Laden. News of a dog involved in the raid was reported immediately. At the time I wondered what the hell the big deal was—of course a dog was there. Boy, was I wrong! It was a huge deal to lots of people. This story, shared with permission from Texas Monthly, is a fictional depiction of the events. It’s pretty damn cool!

#7: Gabe the Street Dog.”Before he was Gabe the 2012 AHA Hero Dog and hobnobbing with Miss America and Betty White, he was Gabe the Street Dog. A shelter puppy turned Military Working Dog serving the U.S Army in Iraq, Gabe’s story is an inspiration to all down on their luck.

#6: Women Shouldn’t be In Combat Units.”I wrote this piece originally because I always found our government’s restrictions on women in combat to be hypocritical. Women are dying on the battlefield, receiving battlefield awards for valor, and performing successfully in every capacity allowed by our government (and many not allowed). Yet we patronize these brave Americans simply because they don’t possess the same hardware as their male counterpart. I was shocked when this piece received over 400 views in the first day. This was a breakout post for me.

#5: Returning Heroes.”I’ve been to hundreds of ceremonies for returning troops. But I knew since Sergeant John Nolan and Honza deployed as individual augmentees and not with a group that there would be no ceremony or fanfare. There was just John and his faithful partner Honza returning from war late on a nondescript Saturday night. So I was there, with a group of his fellow handlers from the Fort Eustis Working Dog kennel, to greet and welcome them home. It is just something Service Members do for each other. I put my thoughts of this event into my iPhone while driving home from the airport. I wrote this post the next morning.

#4: What Makes a General Cry.” My buddy Major Steve Caruso wrote and posted this piece on his Facebook page while serving in Afghanistan. I knew immediately I needed to share it. This true story will tug at your heart strings too.

#3: Picture of the Week: Troops and their Puppies.”Two undeniable forces for good here–puppies and service members. These are some of my favorite pictures of the year.

#2: Reason Why Women Should be in Combat Units.”With the success of the first post I immediately wrote two more in this series. It was easy because after the first post I immediately began to receive hate emails and nasty tweets. I stood my ground, ignored the BS messages, and addressed every counterargument with merit in these future posts. I really enjoyed writing and debating my position.

#1: More Reasons Women Should Be in Combat.” This post went viral! Well not really, but I had nearly 17,000 views on this post—that is viral for me! There were over 1,000 views by 9:00 A.M and over 4,000 the first day. I’ll never forget this day because it is the day we took our new son, Brady, home from the hospital. These women in combat posts were meant to make folks think. I’m happy that I reached over 28,000 people with this series.

You might have noticed the update to the website today. I wish the sliders were smart (meaning they updated with the new posts) but they aren’t. But with the help of my web designer I’ve figured out a more useful purpose for them. Click on one and check it out!

I’m always looking for new ideas and suggestion for the site. Please don’t hesitate to mention your thoughts in the comment section.

I just started working with two new dog teams. One currently deployed to Afghanistan and the other preparing to deploy. I’m looking forward to bringing their stories to you!

Thank you for all your support. I am looking forward to what this year brings. 

The next chapter in the Marc Whittaker series will be posted on Monday. Marc was the first handler I linked up with to share his dramatic story.

How is Anax the dog that took a bullet for him fairing?

Can Marc finally shake his funk and certify with his new dog?

All this and more is coming up!

Need to get caught up on his dramatic story? Chick here!

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3 Military Working Dogs in an ATV

Top Military Dog Pictures of the Year

 So this week is my anniversary on one year since I launched this www.khanrahan.com. It has been a crazy year and I’ve learned a ton.

untitledI’ve also had the opportunity to connect with some fabulous people- thank you.

On Thursday (the actually one anniversary) there will some new designs to the site. The sliders on the entry page to the site will be new and will rotate adding a fresh new look to the site.

U.S. Air Force Military Working Dog Suk waits to begin a day of training and patroling at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., Aug. 15, 2012. Military Working Dogs are commonly used for detecting narcotics, explosives and other harmful materials.My goal is to make the dog team stories easier to find and navigate. So you can read one story from start to finish (or were we are in the story).

Marine kissing dogI’ll also add other storylines such as my journey from the idea of writing a book to becoming an agented author. (Hopefully this year I will become an author with a publishing contract)

Pic of Soldiers and their dogs crossing an irrigation ditchTo celebrate I’m posting some of your favorite pictures of the year. To include everyone’s favorite A-team at the top of this post!

Laying down

February is going to be a great month with a Marc, Anax and Dark- will Marc and Dark be successful during their second certification?

I also have the child of war, Danica’s journey from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Afghanistan where she pairs with a viscous and “untrainable” working dog!

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Mann, a dog handler with Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and native of Arlington, Texas, sights in with his infantry automatic rifle while providing security with Ty, an improvised explosive device detection dog, during a patrol here, Feb. 16. Marines and sailors with 1st LAR and India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, conducted clearing and disrupting operations in and around the villages of Sre Kala and Paygel during Operation Highland Thunder. Marines with 1st LAR led the operation on foot, sweeping for enemy weapons and drug caches through 324 square kilometers of rough, previously unoccupied desert and marshland terrain. Mobile units with1st LAR set up blocking positions and vehicle check points while India Company, 3/3 conducted helicopter inserts to disrupt insurgent freedom of movement.

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Mann, a dog handler with Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and native of Arlington, Texas, sights in with his infantry automatic rifle while providing security with Ty, an improvised explosive device detection dog, during a patrol here, Feb. 16. Marines and sailors with 1st LAR and India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, conducted clearing and disrupting operations in and around the villages of Sre Kala and Paygel during Operation Highland Thunder. Marines with 1st LAR led the operation on foot, sweeping for enemy weapons and drug caches through 324 square kilometers of rough, previously unoccupied desert and marshland terrain. Mobile units with1st LAR set up blocking positions and vehicle check points while India Company, 3/3 conducted helicopter inserts to disrupt insurgent freedom of movement.

On Thursday I have a fun post to celebrate the one year anniversary of the launch of www.khanrahan.com so stay tuned. Thanks for all your support and words of encouragement!

 

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Skills not Gender are What Matter in the Military

When I wrote my first post, Women Shouldn’t be In Combat, supporting women in combat I was quite nonchalant about it. I wanted to poke fun at what I believe is an antiquated way of thinking. To me women in combat aren’t a big deal. On the ground, in combat we are pretty much past that point already.    

I’m an Army officer and have worked with and witnessed women successfully serving in every capacity allowed on today’s battlefield.  

But the post received a ton of attention so I wrote another addressing the reasons why folks were against women in combat. That post, Reason Women Shouldn’t be in Combat Units received even more attention than the first and I continued to receive arguments against my position.  

So wrote a third post titled, Here are More Reasons Why Women Have no Place in Combat Units. That post had 4k hits in the first day- my record so far! 

Finally I wrote the last piece in this series, Women in Combat Units = the Evolution of our Military to explain my feeling and thoughts on the background. This is the genesis of my belief that it shouldn’t matter what hardware you have under the hood. If you can meet the standards (One standard) then you should be allowed to do the job. 

Those four posts and this one are my personal opinion. I don’t speak on behalf of the United States Army.

So lately I’ve been noticeably silent about the topic (at least to me). It began when I started my new job. My new office is spearheading many initiatives that may lead to the opening of military occupational specialist which currently exclude women. Bottom line is that I am too close now. Before when I was just speaking my mind and giving my opinion based on my 20 years of service and three tours to Iraq/ Afghanistan there was no issue.  

Now I know too much about what is actually going on in the Army.  So you won’t hear a peep from me.  I won’t comment or say a word about the subject. 

Trust me when I say I want to. I just received a really cool offer from US News and World Report to write a piece on the topic.  

I won’t do it though.  

Flattered yes but foolish no. My loyalty is to my Army. 

But I still stand by everything I wrote  last year in the series of four posts. 

So what is the purpose of this post? 

Maybe you missed the news?  

CNN is reporting that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will make the announcement today and notify Congress of the planned change in policy. Military to open combat jobs to women

This post is just a reminder that there are many, many people in the military that feel the same way as I. There are also many, many that don’t. Also to let you all know I am delighted by the news.

I will leave you with a very profound quote from my boss’ boss. 

“We are just looking at the future and saying that someday there are going to be knowledge, skills, and attributes without respect to gender, physical attributes, personal attributes,” General Robert W. Cone, commander United States Army Training and Doctrine Command. 

I say kudos to you, Sir!  

Kudos!

Note: If you are so kind to leave a comment. Pleasure ensures it is not unconstructive or inappropriate. Of course contrary opinions to mine are always welcome.  

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A Marine- After the Death of his Working Dog in Afghanistan

 Two weeks ago I posted the heart wrenching story of Marine Working Dog Archie written by Lawrence Dabney. Here is the second part of the story. 

Corporal Cluver and his fellow Marines, after Archie saved their life.

The kennels at Camp Hanson, the marine headquarters for Marjeh district, have been named in Archie’s honor. They currently house four of the thirteen dogs attached to 3/6 Marines and their two extra companies. The other nine reside with their handlers’ units at other bases across the district. Staff Sergeant Ricky Allen supervises the dogs and their handlers, all of whom underwent weeks of specialized training to establish a bond between the marine and their personal dog.

Corporal Cluver now works with a three year old female black lab named Jawdy, one of three dogs he tried working with at the provincial headquarters, Camp Leatherneck, after Archie passed away. Although Jawdy had previously worked with a handler in the field during Operation Moshtarak, Helmand province’s part of the surge, she was unassigned when Cluver came up. They clicked. When Cluver lets her out of her kennel she wriggles up at his feet, tail wagging furiously, and sets to licking his hands. When he gives her a command to sit, heel, or return to her kennel, she responds so fast that the response seems hardwired into her nervous system.

The dogs are trained initially by a civilian company, American Canine Interdiction—AK9I—who also keep a trainer on base to work with the dogs and their handlers during deployment. Handlers spend a minimum of three to four hours each day working with their dogs, says SSgt. Allen. “We try to push it to where [the handlers] don’t have extra duties, so they have more time to concentrate on sustainment training with the dogs.”

Sustainment training involves a variety of activities, but at the core of it is a mock-detection course set up by the battalion’s explosive ordinance disposal unit. SSgt Allen uses samples of different explosives’ scents to create marks for the dogs to sniff out while working under their handler’s commands. The civilian trainer from AK9I is also present at every one of the hour-long, twice-daily individual training sessions that each dog receives.

Occasionally, the exigencies of the battlefield can push training towards the bizarre. “When we got out here there was a big problem with—mainly the males—but some of the dogs would actually kill the local chickens.” So they went to a local Afghan shop and bought a large white chicken, and started inserting it into training exercises. If a dog started to go for the fowl, they’d get a quick zap from their training collar.

The chicken’s name is Bait. It is the same chicken Allen purchased back in June, and has its own cage in the kennel with the dogs. “Nope, no chicken casualties,” SSgt Allen smiles. “Couple have grabbed some feathers off him, but that’s as far as they’ve gotten.”

All this training does what it’s supposed to do—save lives—even when things don’t go as planned. During a patrol in a windstorm in eastern Marjeh, an IDD dog named Rodeo was rendered nasally ‘blind’ by the swirling air currents around him and his handler, LCpl Mathew Cato. Moving about as he attempted to locate a trace of anything at all, Rodeo knocked a rock over with his hind leg—exposing an IED buried beneath. Rodeo took one sniff and immediately covered. His handler was three paces away. No-one was hurt.

The dogs’ senses can be acutely sharp in the right conditions. SSgt Allen estimates that the dogs cover on false positives about fifty percent of the time, but most of these are not actually ‘false’. The dogs’ noses are so sensitive that they can detect now-empty cache locations where explosives were stored and removed, or ancient ordinance up to six feet underground that has decayed into harmlessness. Rusted-out Soviet landmines from the 1980’s are a not-infrequent discovery for marines on patrol with an IDD dog.

On a recent op in the Bari desert another of 3/6’s dogs, Rambo, covered repeatedly on a spot near a wall which a conspicuous kite handle’s string ran down into. The ground was hard-packed, though, and on inspection with a robot no weapons or explosives were found. LCpl Duvalle, Rambo’s handler, and the EOD team concluded that there may well have been a cache, but it was likely emptied at least two or three months previous.

The dogs’ training gives them an almost indefinite working life. As long as the dog is physically capable of keeping up, he or she can continue to work. Cann, one of the first dogs to come through AK9I’s program, is now eight years old and currently serving his seventh deployment with another battalion in Helmand province. This may be his last deployment, though, as age is beginning to take its toll.

When a dog retires, the most recent handler has the first option to adopt them. They generally do, if circumstances allow. “Obviously,” SSgt Allen says a little ruefully, “if the kid’s living in the barracks, he can’t keep a dog there.” IDD dogs are also sometimes moved to civilian agencies, like SWAT or police departments, where bomb detection duties are less physically strenuous than in a warzone.

The handlers themselves almost universally have dogs back home. Cpl Cluver, Archie and Jawdy’s handler, has two basset hounds named Winston and Rommel (he admits through a grin that he and his wife are both history majors). SSgt Allen grew up surrounded by beagles, coonhounds, and Labradors. But their connection with these dogs, half a planet and a whole reality away from home, is as palpable as the thump of the dogs’ tails whenever their handlers come near. It is a connection that may just end up saving both of their lives

RIP Archie.Military Working Dog Archie

Here the first part of Marine Working Dog Archie‘s story

(C) Lawrence Dabney 2011

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Iian, 8th Security Forces Squadron military working dog

Military Working Dogs Deserve a Snow Day

Staff Sgt. Mark Bush, 8th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, takes a break from validation training with Iian, 8th SFS military working dog, at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Jan. 4, 2012. The Wolf Pack enjoyed their first snow day of the year. (Photo by Senior Airman Brittany Auld)

Do you ever just need a snow day?

I know I do!

It looks like our Military Working Dogs are no different!

Iian, 8th SFS military working dog

Staff Sgt. Mark Bush, 8th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, takes a break from validation training with Iian, 8th SFS military working dog, at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Jan. 4, 2012. The Wolf Pack enjoyed their first snow day of the year.

U.S. Army Pfc. Justin Walker, a dog handler,

U.S. Army Pfc. Justin Walker, a dog handler, plays with his dog on Combat Out Post Baraki-Barak, Jan. 5, 2013, Logar province, Afghanistan. Walker is assigned to the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alexandra Campo/Released)

U.S. Army Pfc. Justin Walker, a dog handler,

 

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Sgt. Garrett Grenier, a dog handler, and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Drake, a mine-detection dog, conduct training at Bagram

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Sgt. Garrett Grenier, a dog handler, and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Drake, a mine-detection dog, conduct training at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 8, 2013. Grenier and Drake are both members of the 49th Engineer Detachment (mine dogs), and train on a regular basis with real explosives in order to sharpen Drake’s detection skills. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Bonebrake, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan –U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Allen, a mine-detection dog, and U.S. Army Sgt. Brian Curd, a mine-detection dog handler

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan –U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Allen, a mine-detection dog, and U.S. Army Sgt. Brian Curd, a mine-detection dog handler, search for “mines” during a training session at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 8, 2013. A series of explosive materials were placed along the road to keep Allen’s skills sharp in order to better support counter-mine operations in Regional Command-East. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Bonebrake, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Did you get a change to read the latest update on the Canine Member of the Armed Service Act? If not click here.

 In case you missed or want to revisit a prior week’s military dog picture of the week. Here are the most recent links

War Zone Puppies That Will Make You Smile

Military Working Dogs Strike a Pose

The British Army in Afghanistan Goes to the Dogs

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Staff Sgt. Allison Price, 87th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, gazes at Military Working Dog Gino while taking a break between obstacles Feb. 3 at the military working dog obstacle course here. The military working dog handlers use the course to train the dogs for situations that may occur on the job.

Did Senator John McCain Cut the Military Working Dog Legislation?

There has been a lot of confusion and misinformation about the Canine Members of the Armed Service Act.

The original act, sponsored by Congressmen Walter Jones (R-NC) and Senator Blumenthal (D-CT), addressed three main tenets of Military Working Dog rights:

1. Retirement and Adoption of Military Working Dogs:
Authorizes the Secretary of the appropriate military department to transport retiring military working dogs to the 341st Training Squadron or another suitable location for adoption, if no suitable adoption is available at the military facility where the dog is located.

2. Veterinary Care for Retired Military Working Dogs:
Directs the Secretary of Defense to establish and maintain a system to provide for the veterinary care of retired military working dogs beginning on the date on which the dog is adopted.

3. Recognition of Service of Military Working Dogs:
Directs the Secretary of Defense to create a decoration or other appropriate recognition to recognize military working dogs that are killed in action or perform an exceptionally meritorious or courageous act in service to the United States.

Lucca, a 8-year-old Belgian Malinois military working dog, rests in the shade at Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 2. Lucca deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan where she was injured by an improvised explosive device. The injury led to the amputation of her left front leg and retirement from military service. Cpl. Juan M. Rodriguez, miliary dog handler with 1st Law Enforcement Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force, is scheduled to escort the veteran K-9, July 5, from the base to Finland where she will reside with Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham, Lucca's original trainer. During a turnover at O-Hare International Airport in Chicago, Ill., Lucca will be honored during a ceremony by American Airlines, which will provide transportation to Rodriguez and Lucca through its partnership with Air Compassion for Veterans. ACV is an organization that provides medically related air transport services to service members, veterans and their families. During her military service, Lucca uncovered more than 40 IEDs and saved countless lives.

Lucca, a 8-year-old Belgian Malinois military working dog, rests in the shade at Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 2. Lucca deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan where she was injured by an improvised explosive device. The injury led to the amputation of her left front leg and retirement from military service. Cpl. Juan M. Rodriguez, miliary dog handler with 1st Law Enforcement Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force, is scheduled to escort the veteran K-9, July 5, from the base to Finland where she will reside with Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham, Lucca’s original trainer. During a turnover at O-Hare International Airport in Chicago, Ill., Lucca will be honored during a ceremony by American Airlines, which will provide transportation to Rodriguez and Lucca through its partnership with Air Compassion for Veterans. ACV is an organization that provides medically related air transport services to service members, veterans and their families. During her military service, Lucca uncovered more than 40 IEDs and saved countless lives.

The act passed the House of Representatives last spring and the Senate this fall. The Canine Member of the Armed Service Act can be seen in this Senate Bill Text. The next step was supposed to be a simple signature by our President.

So this was a huge victory for our Military Dogs, right?

Somewhere along the way the act was attached to the conglomerate National Defense Authorization Act for 2013. That beast of an act was signed into law by the President right before Christmas 2012.

So Canine Members of the Armed Service and their advocates win, right?

Unfortunately, the whole of the original Senate Bill Text wasn’t included into the National Defense Act and signed into law. For details, you can see for yourself here (go to p. 167) what part of the original Canine Member of the Armed Service Act made it into the National Defense Act for 2013.

The short of it is we got the transportation and medical care for our retired military dogs, but we took a swing and missed with our government’s recognizing our Military Working Dogs as members of the Armed Service.

So what happened? I thought we made it through the House of Representatives and Senate?

According to Ron Aiello, President of the United States War Dog Association, “The Senate did not pass the full resolution. It was decided by the Senate that to get the bill passed they had to take out a portion of it. That portion was the reclassification of the Military Working Dogs from Equipment to Canine Members of the Armed Forces.”

So what happened in the Senate? Why did they “have” to remove a portion?

Cpl. Bret Reynolds and Bernie, a retired military working dog, sit on their bed. Once her handler, now her proud owner, Reynolds is excited to be able to bring her home. Unlike many law enforcement working dogs, military working dogs live in kennels aboard the air station. Bernie's friendly nature makes getting along with Reynolds' other dogs a breeze, and Bernie enjoys playing with them, even at 11 years old.

Cpl. Bret Reynolds and Bernie, a retired military working dog, sit on their bed. Once her handler, now her proud owner, Reynolds is excited to be able to bring her home. Unlike many law enforcement working dogs, military working dogs live in kennels aboard the air station. Bernie’s friendly nature makes getting along with Reynolds’ other dogs a breeze, and Bernie enjoys playing with them, even at 11 years old.

According to Lisa Phillips, CEO of the Retired Military Working Dog Assistance Organization, “Senator McCain, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, did not want any part of the bill/amendment to go forward at all.”

Lisa was told by a member of Senator Blumenthal’s staff that Senator McCain was the Senior Committee Member on the National Defense Committee and he had ultimate say.

I called Senator McCain’s office but was unable to confirm what Senator Blumenthal’s staff reported. I plan to draft a letter to his office this week. I’ll keep you all posted on the outcome.

I would like to know the truth but honestly doubt that Senator McCain (if this went down the way Senator Blumenthal’s staff reported) would admit this publicly.

This is disappointing. But don’t forget—we have taken a huge step in the advancement of Military Working Dog rights and care.

So we won right?

We sure as heck did!

But there is more to do!

Senator Blumenthal’s staff indicated that Senator McCain heard plenty from WMD organizations and you, the constituents, who contacted his office and other members of the National Defense Committee. They felt the pressure from all of you!

2013 is a new year and the fight for Military Working Dog rights isn’t over. Both Ron and Lisa indicated that the reclassification issue will be re-addressed this year!

The more we talk about it–the more you contact your politicians in support of MWD rights, the more press and attention these four-legged service members receive–the more the pressure on our politicians to recognize their contribution increases.

Your dog at home isn’t just your pet—he or she is a family member!

Military Working Dogs aren’t equipment—they are service members!

So please keep it up! This year is a new fight, and we won’t rest until our four-legged service members are officially recognized by our government! 

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Soldier find a puppy in Afghanistan

War Zone Puppies That Will Make You Smile

An Afghan and coalition force arrested a Taliban leader in Narh-e Saraj district, Helmand province, Dec. 24, 2012. The detained Taliban leader coordinated direct fire and improvised explosive device attacks against Afghanistan officials. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Spc. Matthew Hulett)

I saw the above picture the other day and immediately smiled! Here are a few more that will warm your heat. 121224-KM292-A-003

An Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban leader in Nahr-e Saraj district, Helmand province, Dec. 24, 2012. The detained Taliban leader coordinated direct fire and improvised explosive device attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He directed the assassinations of Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan officals. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Spc. Matthew Hulett)U.S. Army Spc. Tommie Collier, from San Antonio, Texas, a veterinarian specialist assigned to the 72nd Medical Detachment, holds a puppy he found behind a school in Jalrez, Afghanistan, while Kirby, a military working dog licks the puppy's face during an Afghan Medical Personnel Skills Improvement Mission, Nov. 11. Collier is working in support of special operations in Afghanistan.

U.S. Army Spc. Tommie Collier, from San Antonio, Texas, a veterinarian  specialist assigned to the 72nd Medical Detachment, holds a puppy  he found behind a school in Jalrez, Afghanistan, while Kirby, a military working  dog licks the puppy’s face during an Afghan  Medical Personnel Skills Improvement Mission, Nov. 11. Collier is working in  support of special operations in AfghanistanClarksville, Tenn. native, Sgt. Steven Olesen, and Spc. Bryce Wiltermood, a native of Sacramento, Calif., both with the personal security detachment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), pose for a picture with a puppy at Joint Security Station Ghazaliyah 1, Feb. 24. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James P. Hunter, 2nd BCT PAO, 101st Abn. Div., MND-B)Clarksville, Tenn. native, Sgt. Steven Olesen, and Spc. Bryce Wiltermood, a native of Sacramento, Calif., both with the personal security detachment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), pose for a picture with a puppy at Joint Security Station Ghazaliyah 1, Feb. 24. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James P. Hunter, 2nd BCT PAO, 101st Abn. Div., MND-B)

In case you missed or want to revisit a prior week’s military dog picture of the week. Here are the most recent links

Military Working Dogs Strike a Pose

The British Army in Afghanistan Goes to the Dogs

The Puppy Program

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A Marine and his Dog

August 9th dawned scalding and dry across the Marjeh district of Helmand province, Afghanistan. In the blocks, a fertile swath of land watered by a canal network stretching dozens of square kilometers, farmers roused their mules early in order to complete ploughing before their relatives came visiting for Ramadan. A convoy of marines, accompanied by Afghan Local Police, rattled down a dusty strip between fields known as Panther road.

Corporal David Cluver and his black lab, Archie, sat in the back of one the humming tan personnel carriers that rumbled through the western blocks that morning. They were on their way to set up a vehicle checkpoint, to count cars and see how many travelers would be passing through the region during the Muslim holy month. Archie, three and a half years old, bore the uncomfortably nested acronym-title of IED (Improvised Explosive Device) Detection Dog, or IDD (often called “IDD dog”, a more comfortable redundancy).

As they established the checkpoint, the local police deputies informed the marines that they had heard an explosion last night not far from their post, a kilometer and a half up the road. The marines had heard nothing, which was unusual. Corporal Cluver’s squad was dispatched to investigate.

“When we got up near the post my squad leader asked me if I wanted to go check it out and I said yes, because there’s a lower danger factor for the marine when you’re using a dog,” Cpl. Cluver recalled. “A dog has a better range than a metal detector, obviously, as long as he’s downwind.”

As they neared the intersection, Cpl. Cluver allowed Archie to range ahead, sniffing at the ground and roadside ditches. But Cluver had some difficulty getting Archie to turn at the corner and head up the crossing path. “I wasn’t sure if he had something he wanted to check out or if he just wanted to pee on something. So I thought if I got a little closer I could get him to turn and hunt up the path.”

Cluver took three steps towards Archie before the dog turned on the spot and lay down, known as ‘covering,’ the IDD dog signal for having detected explosives. Cluver froze, but only for a split second. Archie had lain down directly on the pressure plate of an IED. The bomb detonated beneath him.

RIP Archie. Thank you for saving the lives of your fellow Marines.

Used with permission. (C) Lawrence Dabney

Don’t miss Part II of this story here.

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2012 Year in Review

67 whidden Ave

The house I grew up in.

2012 will absolutely be a year I will never forget. Full of trials, tribulations—tragedy and celebration, this year was a rollercoaster for my family and me. During a layover a few days before Christmas I was pondering this crazy year. Actually I was making laps with a stroller through the Chicago Airport trying to keep someone (#1 on this list) occupied during a layover and my mind wandered like it always does. What resulted is the list below of the nine most significant things to happen to me this year.

#9: Became homeless. Well, not exactly, but it sort of felt like that. My childhood home in Whitman, Massachusetts went out of our family this summer. WOW! the memories at that place! Of course, I am happy for my mom. She didn’t need the hassle of managing a large older home. She doesn’t need to deal with the New England winters any longer. I support her decisions and have urged her for years to unload that puppy. But I can’t help feel nostalgia for the home I grew up in.

#8: Second novel nearly completed. I was on pace to finish this book by Thanksgiving, but life took priority. I am at 90K and expect to wrap it up with 8-10k additional words. I need about two weeks and expect to finish it by mid-January.  After I wrote my first novel, Paws on the Ground, in Afghanistan I was just impressed that I had written a book. I worry that the second novel can never compare to the raw emotion that flowed for Paws on the Ground. Hopefully my writing training and experience will compensate.

P1000118

No more four hour Saturday rides on this puppy.

#7: Health declined. Endurance events are no longer part of my life. Leading the pack on runs and killing it in the gym are not an option. It is very hard for me to admit this. Fitness has been very big in my life for so long. But the wear and tear on my body from 60 parachute jumps and five deployments have finally caught up with me. I simply strive to be healthy, do physical training with soldiers, and pass the Army’s physical fitness test now. I still hate saying that. It is like I lost a part of myself.

#6: Website created. You may have noticed that I have a website. I learned at the James River Writers Conference in 2011 that I needed a website. I built my own, but it was hideous. Fortunately for me my mentor and editor Ginger Moran’s brother is a branding expert and web site designer. Chuck Moran at Bald Guy Studio built this site. I love telling amazing stories about dog teams, advocating for dogs, sharing stories of soldiering and my adventures with writing. But honestly the best part has been meeting all of you.

#5: New job acquired. So the Army sends me to Fort Hood, Texas to evaluate a unit for a month this past June. While I was there I learn that I’m leaving my then current job in the Provost Marshal’s Office. I was selected to be the Executive Officer for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Deputy Chief of Staff. I went from basically a 9-5 laidback job to a grueling, high-intensity position working directly for a general officer. Am I strange for liking this new grueling position more?LTC

#3: Army promoting me to Lieutenant Colonel. Yes, you saw that correctly. Sometimes I wonder what they were thinking as well! I’m actually pinning the new rank on January 4, 2013 because I wanted my mom to be present, but it is close enough to include on this list. I’ve come a long way since I went to basic training as Private Hanrahan in 1993.

#3: Literary agent landed. I actually teetered on which was more significant—my promotion or my agent. Lieutenant Colonel status took longer, but the probability of landing an agent is lower. Really they are both huge steps, so I decided neither was more significant than the other. While I was in Texas this past summer (getting retired from my chill job), I received an email from Victoria Skurnick at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She said she was halfway through Paws on the Ground and loved it. Victoria said she would get back to me in a few days. She did and offered me representation. It took me a year to land an agent and this link will explain how I accomplished this feat.

#2: Brother Brendan died. He was 40 years old and left behind three children and a loving wife. The cancer started in his nonsmoker lungs and spread to his brain before they caught it. By then it was too late. Here is a tribute I wrote for Brendan and the town that rallied around his family this summer. I miss him the most during football season. I miss calling him on Mondays to recount the Patriots game. I hate that he is longer in my life.1IMG_6770

#1: My clone born. My life changed forever on April 17, 2012. My wonderful wife Megan gave birth to our little boy Brady Thomas. I rush home every day from work trying to arrive before he goes to bed. On weekends I’m excited to be the one that gets him when he wakes in the morning. When I want to sleep in or am just feeling lazy, I cast those thoughts aside because I want to provide a better life for Brady, just like my parents did for me. I want to be the best father, husband, man—and example that someday he will hopefully emulate. Brady Thomas makes me need to be a better man.

What a crazy year! I’m writing this post-Christmas Eve morning while the entire house is asleep. We are at my in-laws in Springfield, Missouri. My brother-in-law Jack and his family are here from Portland. The house is alive and vibrant this holiday season. It’s been a roller-coaster of a year, but I know I’m a lucky man.

Happy Holidays and here’s to hoping your New Year’s wishes come true!

PS: I’ll be back to my normal Monday and Thursday postings next week. 1IMG_8079

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