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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