Tag Archives: Military Working Dogs

Military Working Dog Honza with doggles

Specialized Search Dog Honza “Bear” for President!

All right fine! Honza Bear is a dog and can’t be our next President……..though I think he would look fantastic in the oval office!

Then how about we nominate Specialized Search Dog Honza “Bear” for the American Humane Society Hero Dog competition?

DONE!

Yep, Honza Bear is going to rock the 2013 Hero Dog competition but he needs your support!

I had lunch with U.S. Army Sergeant John Nolan yesterday and he told me a great story. When he received his bronze star right before redeploying from Afghanistan he ripped it off his own chest and placed it on his military working dog, Specialized Search Dog Honza “Bear”.

He told me that Honza Bear had done all the work, he’s the one that found all those Improvised Explosives…….Honza Bear is the reason John Nolan and many of the Green Beret Team members are alive today.

John Nolan, Specialized Search Dog Honza Bear and member of a Special forces Alpha Team at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan.

Sergeant John Nolan, Specialized Search Dog Honza Bear and member of a Special Forces Alpha Team at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan.

Honza Bear can’t receive official military awards……but he can receive the American Humane Society Hero Dog Award. This is where we need your help.

Please support Honza by going to his Facebook Page and “Liking” the page. SGT John Nolan is going to post updates on Honza Bear as much as he can on this page.

Wanna see what Honza Bear is up to today?

Wanna see where and how Honza Bear lives?

Wanna meet Honza’s buddies?

Wanna see Honza train?

All that and more will be coming to Honza Bear Facebook Page soon! So please support this true American Military Working Dog Hero! The voting for Hero Dog starts later this Spring, but get on the Honza Bear Facebook Page now!

According to John Honza Bear was the one that deserved that Bronze Star. Please help us get Honza Bear the recognition he deserves!

According to John, Honza Bear was the one that deserved that Bronze Star. Please help us get Honza Bear the recognition he deserves!

Wait a minute….it just occurred to me that some of you might be new to the blog and are asking yourself, “Who is Honza Bear?”

Here is a link to the story behind the Hero, Specialized Search Dog Honza Bear!

One last thing…….. Honza Bear could use some helping hands in his campaign. His lack of opposable thumbs makes it very hard for him to type.

If you have some spare time to help with social media, are good with power point, have contacts in public relations, have some ideas about how to promote Honza Bear, etc., etc…… we are looking to build Honza’s campaign team.

Please email me at kevin@khanrahan.com so we can find you a place of honor on the Honza Bear Hero Dog Committee!

So…..don’t stop now…head over to Honza Bear’s Facebook Page and say hello!

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Dan and Military Working Dog Bony

Guess Who Daniel and MWD Bony Meet?

Note: This is part four of the story. You may want to read Part III or skip back to Part I before reading this piece

Once outcast and shunned from the military dog community, U.S. Army Sergeant Daniel Sandoval had gotten a second chance.

He was accepted into Fort Bragg’s dog kennels unconditionally. When his newborn son Carter was born with meconium in his lungs making the baby’s oxygen level very low just weeks before Daniel and Military Working Dog Bony were supposed to attend certification, Daniel was given no choice.

His leadership ordered him to the Neo-Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the hospital to be with his family.

Team certification and his deployment could wait.

But now it was a two months later, Carter was doing well, and his wife Sabrina had a handle on things on the home front.

Well, the truth was that she was surviving alone with three kids, but he knew she was proud of him. They both knew that deploying to a combat zone as a dog handler was something that Daniel needed to do.

It was a personal journey to redeem his honor.

Bony yawned and shook the plastic Vari-kennel as he tried to stretch his 100-pound body in the cramped space.

Lucky for Daniel he was paired with the Bony, The Grey Wolf.

Dan and Military Working Dog Bony

The Grey Wolf scopes out the ladies.

A pretty, petite female Airman walked by as Bony nosed his snout through the mesh door and let out a short whine.

She stopped, the scowl on her face replaced by a smile as she said, “Oh, look a puppy. Can I pat him?”

Daniel’s buddy SGT James “JB” Bethea looked at him, then stroked MWD Jetta’s square head and chuckled.

Daniel  had warned James during their flight over here.

Friggin’ Bony man, he could be a mean son of a bitch, but for some reason he loved the ladies.

Too bad he hadn’t had Bony as a partner when he was a young single guy.

Daniel obliged the Airman’s request and he watched her eyes light up when she looked at the dog.  He opened up the kennel, snapped a six-foot leash on Bony’s harness, and—before he could even give the Grey Wolf a command to come—the big dog was snuggled up to the Airman’s leg relishing her attention.

JB just smiled at him and was probably thinking the same thing: this 10-year-old greying shepherd knew how to get what he wanted.

They were at Bagram Airbase, the largest point of arrival for U.S. service members in Afghanistan.

There were throngs of Service Members on the street between the Bagram Airbase terminal and the Pat Tillman USO as Daniel stared out toward the horizon and the mountainous territory surrounding the largest U.S. Airbase in the country.

The jagged light brown mountains seemed to rise up and disappear into the clouds. It was anabsolutely spectacular site, even if it was in Afghanistan.

He knew it was the most densely populated base in Afghanistan. It was also home to the Combined Joint Special Operations Forces Military Working Dog Kennel.

Combined Joint Special Operations Forces Military Working Dog Kennel

Combined Joint Special Operations Forces Military Working Dog Kennel, Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan

This is where Daniel and Bony would become acclimated to Afghanistan, conduct theater specific training, and imprint Bony with the explosive scents commonly found in Afghanistan.

These non-traditional homemade explosives (HME) were virtually impossible to secure in the states for training. Because HME was the number one explosive used by the Taliban, it was critical that Bony be trained on detecting it.

A bright red pickup truck approached and Dan’s heart start to thump when he saw “Danger Military Working Dog” in black lettering on the side of the truck.

“We have to go,” Daniel told the Airman as he nodded at the red truck. Two soldiers stepped out of the truck and approached them.

Bony had whined when his new girlfriend had walked away and had already retreated into his Vari-kennel. Most dogs hated the kennel, but for some reason The Grey Wolf loved to lounge around in his kennel.

He and JB loaded up the dogs and their gear and they headed down Disney Boulevard, the main drag of Bagram Airbase. There was construction everywhere. Troops and civilians flooded the sidewalk on the street. Daniel looked out in wonder.

This was his first combat deployment and he was going to do it with a Special Forces units. He knew there would be a steep learning curve.

The next morning Daniel walked to the kennel in order to check on Bony. The Grey Wolf needed to be tended to before he got himself some chow.

Outside the kennel Daniel saw a tall, wiry soldier with a large yellow Labrador Retriever on a retractable 26-foot leash. The soldier’s uniform was faded, his face was deeply tan, and his “special forces” beard grew from his chin.

“Hey, man, you new?” asked the soldier.

“Just got here last night,” Dan started to say. Before he could finish his sentence, the 90-pound yellow Labrador leaped up with his massive paws, planting them on his chest, and caused Daniel’s body to jolt backwards.

He steadied himself and looked at the handler whose name tag he could now read. It said Nolan.

“Cool, man. I’m John Nolan and this knucklehead is Honza.”

John Nolan, Specialized Search Dog Honza Bear and Frenchie

John Nolan, Specialized Search Dog Honza “Bear” and their new French friend!

Honza Bear.”

John pulled at the leash, freeing Daniel’s torso of the powerful dog’s paws. Honza Bear whined, but then began sniffing Daniel’s boots.

Daniel slid his hand down and rubbed the dog’s square head.

“You guys go get some chow. We have training to do today,” Sergeant First Class Jenkins, his new kennel master, called out.

“No rest for the wicked,” John said as he smiled and shook his head.

Sergeant Daniel Sandoval had arrived. But he knew he was no longer in Afghanistan for redemption.

Daniel was now in Afghanistan to keep himself and his fellow service members alive.

How does Bony respond to Afghanistan and the HME scents?

What mischief does John Nolan lead Daniel into?

Where is Daniel heading to next in Afghanistan?

Stay tuned for the next chapter in this true story.  

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Tracer, Trooper & Trigger ... Handler Sgt J White, CD

Military Dog Picture of the Week/ Breaking Iraq

I happened upon the photo above on Twitter from a kind Canadien chap. This is an absolute heart melting photo!

Thanks for sharing Dave……..his caption was, ”Tracer, Trooper & Trigger … Handler Sergeant J. White, CD”

I simply loved it and had to share!

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Completely changing gears here, I wanted to let you all know about a new book coming out that I’m very interested in reading entitled, Breaking Iraq – The Ten Mistakes That Broke Iraq.

The book will be released on March 19, the 10th Anniversary of the war in Iraq and was written by Colonel (Retired) Ted Spain and Terry D. Turchie, a former Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterterrorism Division of the FBI.

U.S. Soldiers assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment provide security as their military working dog drinks water after climbing a ridge in the Spin Boldak district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, March 3, 2013. The unit assisted Afg

U.S. Soldiers assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment provide security as their military working dog drinks water after climbing a ridge in the Spin Boldak district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, March 3, 2013. The unit assisted Afg

Colonel Spain commanded the 18th Military Police Brigade during the ground war and subsequent occupation of Iraq. I served in this brigade with Colonel Spain. He is a great man and leader.

I’ve got a quick and funny story to tell you. In 2003, I flew to Kuwait wearing civilian clothes in business class to fight in this war. These business class tickets were the only ones the government could get us flying into Kuwait at this time. It wasn’t how I envisioned going to war!

I was part of the 709th Military Police Battalion’s small advance party into Kuwait prior to the ground war. Colonel Spain was one of the personnel that met us at the airport and escorted us to the isolated Camp Virginia in the dessert of Kuwait where we prepared for war.

Man I could tell you some great stories about these times…… spending a month in the sand storms of Kuwait or the actual invasion of Iraq.

But back to my point- I need to read Breaking Iraq – The Ten Mistakes That Broke Iraq.

Why?

Lance Cpl. Thomas Foster takes a rest with his military working dog Diamond during a patrol through Boldak, Afghanistan March 6. Foster is a member of Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. (Photo by Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

Lance Cpl. Thomas Foster takes a rest with his military working dog Diamond during a patrol through Boldak, Afghanistan March 6. Foster is a member of Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. (Photo by Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

There were so many things, as a young Captain, that I didn’t understand during Operation Iraqi Freedom I?  I need answers.

I also need to know why Baghdad was essentially a lawless city and the Iraqi Police dysfunctional and ineffective when I showed up with my company for Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

The forward to Breaking Iraq – The Ten Mistakes That Broke Iraq was written by Tom Ricks and in the book Colonel Spain reveals his personal involvement in the pre-war planning, the invasion, and the first year of the occupation.

This is a very short narrative of the ten mistakes:

1.Secretary Rumsfeld’s deployment plans did not include an adequate number of military police to control the routes during the ground war, nor sufficient military police to help control the streets after the ground war. This contributed to the Jessica Lynch fiasco and the chaos on the streets of Baghdad.

2. Law and Order was not given sufficient attention in the pre-war planning. This failed to provide a police system to provide security to the Iraqi citizenry and to instill a sense of trust in our Army.

3. The categories of the thousands of detainees were never clear, causing confusion as to the proper legal treatment. Were they enemy, terrorist, or criminal? What’s the difference?

4. The process of collecting intelligence from the detainees was flawed from the pre-war planning sessions, during the ground war, and during the subsequent occupation. This set the stage for abuse, including the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal.

5. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the warden of Abu Ghraib Prison, was the wrong leader at the wrong place at the wrong time. Her appointment resulted in scandal and loss of trust in American forces by Iraqi citizenry.

Spc. Hugo, explosive detection dog with the Tactical Explosive Detection Dog program assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), obeys the order to stay and watched his handler’s gestures carefully on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2013. The TEDD program partners soldiers and dogs to assist in finding road side bombs in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. photo by Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton Task Force 3/101 Public Affairs)

Spc. Hugo, explosive detection dog with the Tactical Explosive Detection Dog program assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), obeys the order to stay and watched his handler’s gestures carefully on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2013. The TEDD program partners soldiers and dogs to assist in finding road side bombs in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. photo by Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton Task Force 3/101 Public Affairs)

6. Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, Commander of all military forces in Iraq during the occupation was over his head, and continued fighting the ground war, long after it was over.

7. The Coalition Provisional Authority, under the leadership of L. Paul Bremer, dismantled the Iraqi Army, and the highest level of the Ba’ath Party. We lost some of the most experienced personnel that were so vital in putting Iraq back together again.

8. Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik was more focused on padding his resume, and getting camera time, than helping stand up a viable Iraqi Police Services.

Sgt. Misa, a military working dog with the Tactical Explosive Detection Dog program assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), jumps over a wall of an obstacle course during a demonstration on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2013. The obstacle course is designed to test the dogs possible deployment scenarios, as well as keep them physically fit for duty. (U.S. photo by Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton Task Force 3/101 Public Affairs)

Sgt. Misa, a military working dog with the Tactical Explosive Detection Dog program assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), jumps over a wall of an obstacle course during a demonstration on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2013. The obstacle course is designed to test the dogs possible deployment scenarios, as well as keep them physically fit for duty. (U.S. photo by Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton Task Force 3/101 Public Affairs)

9. Because standing up an Iraqi Police Service was focused on quantity, not quality, we never completely knew who we could trust.

10.President Bush’s coalition of the willing was only a coalition in name.  Even those that were willing, were not able. Only a couple of countries contributed to gaining stability in Iraq.

Colonel Spain never held any punches as my Brigade Commander and I’m sure he won’t in his book. For me, Breaking Iraq – The Ten Mistakes That Broke Iraq is a must read.

Every wonder how an Iraqi veteran felt about our withdrawal? Here are my thoughts.

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John and Honza Bear

John and Honza “The Snow” Bear

This Part VI of John and Honza Bear. If you haven’t already…..you may wish to read Part V or skip back to Part I  prior to reading this one.

U.S. Army Sergeant John Nolan’s eyes were closed. It was 3:00 AM and he should have been sleeping soundly.

But he wasn’t.

The wind was whipping outside. He could feel it against his face as it found its way through the mud and mortar walls hut that had probably once been an Afghan person’s home.

Whether they were dead or in Pakistan, he didn’t know. All he knew was they were long gone, and he was at least partially protected from the wind and snow.

That was exactly why he had grown his beard.  It wasn’t the freezing temperatures or snow—rather it was the wind that sent chills through his body. And of course the improvised explosive devices (IED) he and his military working dog, Honza, were uncovering together.

There was light snoring in the mud hut, but he knew without opening his eyes that it wasn’t coming from Staff Sergeant Brian Ross, the team medic and John’s bunk mate.Military Working Dog Honza laying down

Those strangely loud rumbling noises were coming from “The Bear” lying next to him.

Friggin’ Honza Bear threw a fit in his Vari-kennel every night unless John let him out and allowed him up onto his bed. Of course he wasn’t supposed to be up there.

His Military Working Dog supervisors would definitely frown on that but, hey, they were nowhere to be found in this tiny-ass outpost. There was about zero chance they would ever find out, so screw it.

Plus their portable heater didn’t work for crap in the mud hut, but fortunately for him Honza Bear was a hundred pound furry heater. That was why he had kicked his sleeping bag off during the night and was now just covered in a thin mink blanket he had purchased from a local.

He was mostly worried that that knucklehead dog would pop his comfy air mattress his wife Cara had sent him.

John knew it was time to get up. It was time to prepare for their mission today. The Special Forces Team Captain, Captain Jones, had said it was supposed to snow last night.

Boy, he hoped it hadn’t.

He wasn’t quite sure how Honza would do in the snow. Coming from Virginia they had never worked in wintery conditions. One thing he did know was that snow would further distance Honza from the possible explosives he was supposed to be finding.

Would the buried explosives be out of Honza’s detection range? That was a constant source of stress. But Honza was really good with deeply buried explosive.

At least that is was what John told himself. He knew in his heart that this theory was unproven as of yet.

As he dressed in silently in the dark, Honza Bear didn’t stir or move an inch. Yesterday they had walked for hours. Today would probably be a lot of the same.

Pushing away the four foot wooden door they had affixed to the mud hut, John poked his head out and his hopes sank. Captain Jones was correct: there was at least a foot of snow out there.John's hut in the snow in Afghanistan

Today was really going to suck!

Five hours later and three hours into their mission the blistering wind and fresh snow was causing Honza fits. He wasn’t focusing on searching and seemed more interested in watching his footing than keeping his nose low to the ground to sniff out explosives.

Not that John could blame him. It seemed like every time Honza started to get a good search going the wind covered the poor dog’s face in snow or he slipped on the ice.

Ideally the snow would compact and be just hard enough for Honza to walk on top of it without any problems. Today was far from ideal, though, because it was fresh snow.

Never mind the dog—a full-grown K9 handler in 70 pounds of gear with a 40-pound pack on his back wasn’t light enough to stay on top.

Hence why John was in knee high snow, trudging his way behind Honza. John hoped the dog was clearing a nice path for the rest of the team. Of course he knew that wasn’t happening right now.Honza "Snow" Bear

But the Green Beret’s following him didn’t.

“Honza, come,” John called.

He looked back at the team and all eyes 18 sets of eyes were on him, 10 American and the rest Afghani soldiers. Of course they were wondering what the hell he was doing.

Screw it, if I step on an IED at least it will be me and not one of the other guys going home in a box, decided John as he attached the leash to Honza’s harness, restricting him from searching.

After 20 minutes of walking point without his lead sensor, Honza Bear, John saw they were going to start dipping into a low-lying wadi. He didn’t know why, but he just didn’t have a good feeling about things.

The skin in the back of his neck was prickly and his heart started to thump in his chest. Something was telling him he needed ‘The Bear,” so he released Honza and commanded, “Seek,” as they descended into the wadi.Snow Bear #1

The rest of the team was about 50 feet behind them. It was just John and Honza Bear alone and unafraid.

All right fine, he was scared shitless. But he wasn’t going to let his brothers down.

He knew Honza Bear wouldn’t let them down either.

Is there anything in the wadi?

Will the snow distract Honza and John from their mission to find explosives?

Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter!  

Need to get caught up with John and Honza Bear? Skip back to their fabulous landing page and start with Part I.

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Marc w Anax lying down next to him

Marc and Anax: Finale

All right, time for the final chapter of Marc and Anax! Take out your kleenex now and get ready.

But first……

In my recent post, Thanking a Veteran, I told you the story of Kim Edelheiser at Orchard Creek Labradors who gifted a wounded veteran with a new Labrador Retriever puppy. I thought someone might like to know that Kim does have one female puppy still available for sale.

If interested you can contact her at the Orchard Creek Labrador Facebook Page.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

This is Part VIII of this story. You may wish to skip back to Part I to start reading this dramatic story from the beginning.

Army Specialist Marc Whittaker’s eyes shot open when he heard the vibrating.  He rolled over and felt for his phone on the night stand.

Nothing good ever happens after midnight. That was what his mom had always said.

His phone finally lit up like a shiny beacon . He glanced down at his phone and read the text message, “please please please please Marc can you come over right now.”

The text was from Staff Sergeant Dick “Alson” Lee’s wife Katie.

What the hell was going on?

It was the middle of the night and she was texting him?

Alson had only been deployed to Afghanistan for about 23 days. What could she need so soon? He had just seen her and she had said everything was fine.

Katie had been through multiple deployments before with Alson. Heck, she was a soldier herself so she knew the deal. Of course since they had their two little boys it was even harder on her.

“Please please please please Marc can you come over right now.”

Marc was glad she had texted him, though. Sure, he was tired from working all day, but if she needed help with something he would be there no matter the time.

It’s just what soldiers do for one another. They watch over one another’s families while they are deployed.

Marc had never had a mentor like Alson and he’d been sorry to see him deploy. Even up to tp the day before he deployed, Alson had spent time working with Marc and Military Working Dog Dark. Marc was determined to make him proud. He would certify with Dark for sure that month.

Then he would email Alson proudly and savor his mentor’s praise.

It seemed like every light in the Lees’ third story apartment was lit. That was weird—it was the middle of the night.

Then he saw several government sedans parked close to their apartment stairwell. That’s when it hit him.

Those were vehicles driven by officers bearing bad news.

Alson.  Something had happened to him in Afghanistan. That must be it.

Marc’s heart began to thump in his chest.

I’m sure he just got hit. A superficial wound for sure.

He’s probably at the hospital at Bagram Airbase or maybe headed back to Landstuhl here in Germany.

Alson has made it through three deployments already. I’m sure he is going to be fine, Marc thought.

Everything is under control, Marc.

Two steps at a time Marc raced up the flight of stairs. The door was partially open and he pushed it the rest of the way. He noticed several people in the room, but Marc saw just one—Katie.

Tears were streaming down her cheeks, her eyes were red and puffy. She looked at Marc, pulled her lower lip into her mouth, and simply stared at him.

It was then that Marc knew his friend and mentor, Staff Sergeant Dick “Alson” Lee, wasn’t injured.

Alson was dead.

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Staff Sergeant Dick “Alson” Lee was killed in Afghanistan April 26th, 2012 when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device (IED).

His military working dog Fibi, Navy Lieutenant Christopher E. Mosko,  and Green Beret Staff Sgt. Brandon F. Eggleston were also killed in the explosion.

Alson had been in country for only 23 days and that was the first mission of  his fourth combat deployment.

He is survived by his wife Katie and their two young boys, Josh and David.

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One traumatic event is often enough to break a person. Two events—that can shatter people and make them a shell of their once proud selves. Not Marc Whittaker.

For Marc it was a sign. His best friend Anax nearly lost his life protecting him. Alson, his mentor and friend, was gone forever.

When is enough, enough?

Marc knew he was the only person who could answer that for himself. Sure, he wanted to go certify with Dark and make Alson proud, but he realized his passion for dog handling had left him.

This was a sign from above that dog handling just wasn’t for him any longer. He could make Alson proud in different ways.

Marc submitted his paperwork with the Army to remove his dog handler identifier and no longer works with dogs.

All except for his pal Anax who lives with him and is still his best friend.

Marc and Anax have since moved from Germany to Fort Hood, Texas.

With only 16 months left in the Army, Marc plans on separating when his enlistment is up. Once he leaves the service, he plans on taking advantage of the educational benefits he earned in the Army.

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When I first read Marc and Anax’s story, I knew I had to have it on my site. Fortunately the Stars and Stripes were kind enough to allow me to use the initial story.

Then I saw Marc on Facebook (we have mutual friends) and had the idea to contact him and see if I could get an update for the website. That morphed into my first series.

More importantly it gave me the idea to find handlers to follow and write about their exploits on my website. I’ve wanted to find a way to share their stories since I was in Afghanistan and ran the dog program for U.S. Forces.

It’s very hard for me to end this story line. Marc and Anax have been part of this website since Day One. Of course, the great thing about the web is that they will always be part of the site.

Marc was my first handler and I thank him for allowing me to write about him.

Thank you for sharing your story on the site, Marc.

What I love about Marc is he takes the attitude: “Hey, this is my story. This is what is happening to me—good, bad, or indifferent—and I’m not afraid to share it.

On a professional level Marc has taught me a ton about the challenges our dog handlers go through.

Eventually I will have a dog team detachment under my direct control. Having a glimpse into their world will allow me to provide them the leadership they deserve.

-Military Working Dog Dark remains stationed in Germany where he has paired up with a new soldier.

 -Retired Military Working Dog Anax lives with Marc and is spoiled rotten.

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Danica Djikov Flying in Afghan

Danica Arrives in Afghanistan

This is part IV of the Danica: A Child of War Series. You may wish to read Part III or skip back to Part I first.

Would the Canadian soldiers accept her?

What if the Taliban captured her?

Would she ever see her son, Stefan, again?

Was she really heading to Afghanistan to find explosives with a dog she had never met?

What the hell was she doing?

They had to take a bus to an isolated section of the Dubai airport to board their plane. Danica Djikov glanced at the seated women and noticed she was the only one standing. The women were a hodgepodge.

Some were fully covered in black burquas and she could see their solemn eyes glancing at the other passengers discreetly.

Others were covered in burquas except for their face.Danica Djikov Flying to Afghan

There were even women wearing western clothing except their their heads were wrapped in scarves. One of them was wearing a business suit and looked important.

The olive-skinned Persian men on the bus were an interesting mix. Many wore western clothing and could have easily blended in with any crowd.

Then she looked at the men wearing traditional Salwar Kameez, or loose, pajama-like clothing. Most sported a little white cap called a kufi and maintained neatly trimmed facial hair. They reminded her of Persian merchant traders she had seen in the movies dealing in silk, fine metal, and jewelry.

She zipped her sweatshirt over her chest and ignored the leering stares of the Persian men.

There were a host of western looking men who were dressed as if they were ready for hiking or a safari.  They were foreign contractors just like her.

But she doubted any of them was heading to Afghanistan to lead combat patrols like she was.

It will work out, Danica, she told herself. You survived eight years of minefield clearing in Bosnia Herzegovinian. The children of Afghanistan need you to clear their land of explosives now.

The modern bus driven by what looked to be a Bangladeshi man jerked to a stop and Danica grasped the pole tightly as bodies jerked inside the bus.

Danica stood firmly.

She could handle herself. She could handle this. She could handle Afghanistan.

She stepped out of the bus and stared up at the plane that would take her to a war zone.

Ariana Airlines?

Who the hell are they? I guess Lufthansa doesn’t fly to Afghanistan.

The dilapidated white plane had clearly seen better days. The inside décor was dated, with steile, cold lines of tan, light orange and green.

Ten minutes later the rickety aircraft picked up speed and groaned as it lifted into the air. Now there was no turning back. Not that she wanted too.

She missed working with a dog. She had worked with Mine Detector Dog Cindy for nearly eight years. Now Cindy was working with a new handler in the minefields. But Danica was still in contact with her mentors at the Canadian International Demining Corporation who informed her that there was a chance she would be able to adopt Cindy. Cindy was getting too old for this work.

Patrol Explosive Dog AlexI wonder what kind of dog they will give me in Kandahar? It will have to be a good one if they send me out to patrol with the Canadian Army.

Right?

Nearly three hours and a time change later the plane descended towards the Kandahar airport. Danica stared out the dirt streaked window at the small patches of green dotted throughout the barren land. There were no roads, homes, or trees as far as she could see.

All she could see were either pomegranate or poppy fields. She had done her research on Afghanistan. Southern Afghanistan especially is known for these two things and they couldn’t be more in contrast of one another.

But she wasn’t here to help irradiate poppy fields and prevent heroine from hitting western countries’ streets. She was in Afghanistan for the explosives.

“So Patrol Explosive Dog Alex is a dog we’ve had some aggression issues with. He has been without a handler for almost four months now,” said Matt, her new supervisor from American Canine Detection Services.

“I’ll take him.”

“Are you sure? You haven’t even met him.”

Why had she jumped at their first offer?

Surely they had an ample supply of dogs at the kennel. There must be some dogs without aggression issues.

She couldn’t help it, though. She was a sucker for the problem child. They just seemed to have more character.Danica and new dog

She stared out of the sport utility vehicle as they passed through camp. There were troops from a variety of countries and various tactical vehicles creeping through camp. Far outnumbering the tactical vehicles, SUVs and small white pickup trucks zipped up and down the paved roads. The camp was a mix of wooden, aluminum (portable) buildings, and stone structures that she assumed must be left over from the Taliban regime.

Maybe she was simply excited to be paired with a dog again. Or maybe she wanted an aggressive dog in this testosterone-driven military world.

Maybe she could use an aggressive dog if she got into the thick of it with the Taliban.

Maybe deep down Danica knew that she was all alone in this foreign and alien land. Having a loyal partner with a mean streak wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

It wouldn’t be such a bad thing as long as she could convince Alex that she was in charge, a feat multiple handlers before her had failed to achieve.

Does Danica bond with Patrol Explosive Dog Alex?

How does she fare as the only woman in her training class?

Will she receive the opportunity to join the Canadian Army outside the wire on patrol or be resigned to camp duty?

Stay tuned for the next chapter in this exciting true story!

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So this weekend I appeared on a fabulous radio show, The Dog Work Radio Show in Alaska. I talked Military Working Dogs with Robert Forto and had a great time.

It is really weird to hear yourself on the radio.

The interview was totally unscripted and I had no idea what Robert was going to ask me. But if you want to listen to me speak about MWD I recommend you check it out here!

Am I the only one that hates listening to themselves?

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Major Butch

Working Dog Videos from Afghanistan

“Major Butch,” a therapy dog with the 219th Medical Detachment (Combat Operational Stress Control) concludes her tour interacting with service members in Afghanistan at Bagram Air Field, Feb. 1. The 85th Med. Det. (COSC) from Fort Hood, Texas, assumes the various 219th missions at the transfer of authority ceremony held here today. (DoD photo by Maj. Charles Patterson, Task Force MED-A Public Affairs/Released)

The videos below are quite different. One is about an explosive detector dog who is charged to sniff out the explosives and keep our Soldiers alive.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6Zi_D6w79s[/youtube]

The military has different methods to search out and destroy IEDs before they injure our troops on the ground. Army Sergeant David Birchfield tells us about one group who find IEDs by sniffing for them.

The other video depicts a mission just as important. Major Butch’s mission is to provide relief from the stresses of war. She is in Afghanistan to make our troops smile.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gs0uiV9iQu8[/youtube]

Meet “Major Butch.” Her mission is to relieve combat stress.

Two types of dogs with two separate missions.  Both with the same effect- taking care of our deployed troops in harms way. 

Heby, an Explosive Detection Dog, positively identifies an explosive

Heby, an Explosive Detection Dog, positively identifies an explosive during a training exercise at Camp Nathan Smith, Afghanistan, Jan 10. Heby is trained by Master at Arms 2nd Class Nicholas Whisker.

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 And the rest of the story…….

Pat Barter just informed me that Major Butch” was born at the “Guide Dog Foundation” in Smithtown, NY and came our of their “Vet Dog” program…She just returned home today. (7 Feb 13).

Now that is a coincidence huh!

Welcome Home Major Butch! Got get yourself some R & R!

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So I finished the first draft of my second novel last Friday. It needs major work but what first draft doesn’t?

I’m taking a break from the book to let things percolate and will start the first round of edits on Monday. I’m excited to get to work and start refining and adding richness to the novel!

For me, the first draft is a great base to work from. It is nowhere close to being ready to send to a publisher or for you to read. That may sound crazy that it took five months for me to finish a novel that isn’t even close to being ready for prime time. But it’s true………   

I’ll get it there though!

This week I spent my writing time connecting with handlers and writing posts for the website.

 

I also want to thank Meredith Towbin for nominating me for The Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I am honored. Thank you Merideth.

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Did you see my post on Facebook about the Military Working Dog Team Monument going on a national tour!

It is heading to Washington DC this summer and I plan on being there! I hope you can join me.

I will post periodic updates on the tour date. Come see the fabulous bronze statutes of these fabulous Canine Members of the Armed Service before they are memorialized forever at the National Monument in Texas.

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DSC00159-300x224[1]

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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If military working dog Hexa looks excited, it's usually because she's spotted a tennis ball. She's nearly 11, suffering from a neurological disorder which is slowly causing her to go blind, and also has canine post-traumatic stress disorder. She'll be enjoying the retired life with a new, loving family in South Carolina.

Military working dog bids farewell to working life

A couple weeks I posted t……. Military Working Dogs Have Their Day in DC! The Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act passed the Senate by a unanimous vote this on December 5, 2012. The act had already passed the House on May 18, 2012 with a vote of 299 to 120. There is one more step to climb before this act becomes law. The President must sign the act into law.  

So here is a timely example, Military Working Dog Hexa, who served her country and in return asked for two things (I know the author of this story says one (tennis balls) but he missed one essential…… love!). This country is forever indebted to Hexa for the lives she saved in Iraq with her nose and instincts.

This act will provide veterinarian services to her adopted dad, Staff Sgt. Neal Moody. Now Staff Sgt Moody can adopt Hexa, love and care for her without the financial burden Hexa brings because of her medical condition.

Military working dog Hexa, now retired, shows her stuff during a K-9 capabilities demonstration for deploying Marines in 2009. Hexa is a veteran of two deployments to Iraq, but at almost 11 years old, nearly blind and suffering from canine post-traumatic stress disorder, she’s going to a loving family for a relaxing retirement.

Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

Story by Cpl. Aaron Diamant

YUMA, Ariz. – She’s spent her entire lifetime locating explosives and apprehending suspects, all in the name of one thing. Tennis balls. That is, if she could tell you what her one thing was. But, to the military, military working dog Hexa has been an invaluable tool, trained to risk her life to safeguard all others from the risks posed by improvised explosive devices.

To all who know and understand military working dogs, they are nothing short of heroes. In her younger years, Hexa deployed to Iraq twice, locating explosive devices and undoubtedly saving countless lives. She was even involved in the Battle of Fallujah, serving valiantly in some of the worst urban combat undertaken in decades.

Lance Cpl. Kristopher Marcum, station military working dog handler, plays with MWD Hexa prior to her final departure from the air station. Even though she's losing her sight due to a neurological disorder, tennis balls get her going like the pup she once was. At almost 11 years old, she's finally retiring to spend her days chomping on tennis balls and sleeping on couches.

Lance Cpl. Kristopher Marcum, station military working dog handler, plays with MWD Hexa prior to her final departure from the air station. Even though she’s losing her sight due to a neurological disorder, tennis balls get her going like the pup she once was. At almost 11 years old, she’s finally retiring to spend her days chomping on tennis balls and sleeping on couches.

Now, her once expressive eyes are now clouded over, a result of her age and a condition which is causing her to slowly drift into blindness. The Shiloh Shepherd’s long, flowing coat shows streaks and patches of gray, evidence of her lifetime of service to her country, but to Hexa, it was all about making her handlers proud and getting to chew on her tennis ball, or any ball in sight for that matter.

In her old age, she wasn’t put to work like she had been in her youth. The station’s handlers were waiting on her adoption package to be approved, which moved Hexa into a caregiver position. She was still brought out of her kennel, played with and loved on, but her working days were done.

It wasn’t rare for her to prance into the office like the princess she is, and immediately start searching the area. This time, it wasn’t for explosives, but rather for toys. Even though her sight is slowly diminishing, her sense of smell is still keen.

Lance Cpl. Kristopher Marcum, station military working dog handler, plays with MWD Hexa prior to her final departure from the air station. Even though she's losing her sight due to a neurological disorder, tennis balls get her going like the pup she once was. At almost 11 years old, she's finally retiring to spend her days chomping on tennis balls and sleeping on couches.

Lance Cpl. Kristopher Marcum, station military working dog handler, plays with MWD Hexa prior to her final departure from the air station. Even though she’s losing her sight due to a neurological disorder, tennis balls get her going like the pup she once was. At almost 11 years old, she’s finally retiring to spend her days chomping on tennis balls and sleeping on couches.

Military working dogs live a somewhat complicated life. Destined from birth to locate explosives or narcotics, as well as apprehend suspects, from the age of mere months, their training begins. For the dogs, it’s a simple thought process: I smell this, I let my handler know, I get my toy and told I’m a good dog.

For the handlers, it’s learning the individual animal. They signs they give, the directions they require, the encouragement they need, the love and admiration they deserve.

The hardest part for any handler is saying goodbye, whether the handler is leaving for another duty station or ending their time in the Corps, or the dog reaches their time to retire.

Hexa’s turn has come at long last. She’s nearly 11 years old, old for any large breed dog, but especially as an active military working dog. She’s being adopted by Staff Sgt. Neal Moody, a former Marine Corps Air Station Yuma military policemen now stationed in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The adoption process involves prioritizing the applications that the Marine Corps receives. MWD handlers have first priority, active-duty military have second priority, and the general population has third priority, according to Marine Corps Systems Command. The Corps does not, and will not, euthanize dogs except for severe medical situations, unlike some nasty rumors on the internet would lead people to believe. 

Luckily for Hexa and her new owner, her conditions weren’t severe enough to warrant euthanasia, and she’ll live out the rest of her life in luxury, even more so than when she was the kennel princess.

As we celebrate Veterans Day, we celebrate the men and women who have courageously served our nation, but let us not forget the brave “Dogs of war” who have served valiantly by their side since the dawn of combat. As Marines, we say there’s “no better friend, no worse enemy.” We’re devil dogs, and so are our actual dogs. 

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John and HB up next to a wall

Honza Bear Hits Pay Dirt

Army Specialist John Nolan’s heart pounded as he stared into the wadi in central Afghanistan. He wasn’t sure what lay beneath the loose, granular dirt.

Was there a 500-pound bomb buried beneath him? If that thing detonated, he would be dead.

This Part V of John and Honza Bear. If you haven’t already…..you may wish to read Part IV or skip back to Part I  prior to reading this one.

Maybe there were some homemade explosive or land mines? If they exploded right now, he might live. He might not.

Christ, this was crazy. Searching for something that could end his life instantly was insane. What the hell was he doing?

HB and the clay potHe missed his wife Cara. She was pregnant with their first child. He wanted to see his little girl born. He didn’t want to die in this Godforsaken shithole of a country.

He looked over his shoulder at Master Sergeant Johnny Ramey who nodded to him. Then he looked past Ramey to the others, the men of the Green Beret team he was assigned to.

Lean, mean and focused—these nine men had nearly 100 deployments among them. The country saw the Green Berets as supermen.

He knew better though. The Green Berets were just men like he was.

They have families.

They have children.

They would die for you, John Nolan. Now you need to make sure they get home safely to their families. Focus, Nolan.

They are your countryman. They need you.

They need the Bear.

Focus on The Bear. Be one with Honza Bear.

He looked down into the wadi which followed the natural contours of the land. During the rainy season the wadi probably carried water. Now it was just another place for the Taliban to set up explosives. Just another place to kill him and his countrymen.

But he had a secret weapon.

The squarely-built, tan, muscular, 100-pound Labrador Retriever moved slowly across the wadi. His nose was low and his tail wagged. He could have been any of the Green Beret’s family dogs back at Fort Bragg North Carolina. But he wasn’t.Military Working Dog Honza Bear Sniffing

A sniff here. A sniff there. Tail wagging. The Labrador appeared to be foraging picnic sites for picnic baskets. But he wasn’t.

Army Specialized Search Dog Honza Bear was on the hunt for explosives.

John followed Honza cautiously. Honza Bear’s yellow stomach was splotched with dark dirt marks. And he looked like he had dark brown mittens on.

What the hell is Honza doing? John wondered.

The local Afghanis said the explosives were in the wadi. Why was Honza Bear leaving the wadi?

Honza Bear paused, his tail wagged more quickly, and his nostrils flared quickly.

John shivered with fear and excitement because he knew that Honza Bear was “on scent.” Honza Bear could smell an explosive.

Honza Bear moved back up into the grape field. He sniffed the three-foot high thick dirt mounds but apparently didn’t like what he smelled. He went back down into the wadi and then back into the grape field.

He knew Honza Bear was trying to pinpoint the exact spot of the explosive. They called this “bracketing” in the dog world.

Honza Bear brushed by him, moving at a trot.

Military Working Dog Honza Bear SniffingJohn froze. He didn’t want to step on the explosive. It could be set up to blow with a pressure plate. His weight would certainly set the explosive off. And he didn’t want the men to step on it either.

“Master Sergeant Ramey, Honza is on scent. Back away,” John said.

Ramey nodded and placed the team into a secure perimeter, allowing John to focus on Honza Bear.

Honza Bear entered the wadi with his nose low and nostrils flaring quickly. He suddenly stopped and craned his neck up and out.

Had he found it? John wondered.

Honza Bear bolted up and out of the wadi, ran to a mound of dirt near the grape field, and disappeared.

What was going on?

“Honza,” John called as he followed Honza’s path. He knew chasing Honza Bear was risky.

It didn’t matter. Honza Bear was his partner.

He hated losing sight of his dog. John began searching the mounds but couldn’t find him. After a minute or so he caught a glimpse of a yellow tail.

Honza Bear had crawled into a hole half his size and was lying down in a final response. The John saw the five-gallon jugs wrapped in plastic inches from Honza’s nose.

John wanted to pump his fist in excitement. Honza and he had found an explosive. It was their first find. But there was no time to be proud or pat himself on the back.

They needed to get the hell out of there before it exploded.

“Honza, leave it, come,” John said.

Hearing his emergency recall Honza leaped up and jumped out of the hole. He rumbled towards John with his tongue nearly dragging on the ground.

John pulled out the dog’s reward–a ball on a rope–and tossed it in the air. Honza caught it in midair and chomped down. John hooked him up to the leash and dragged the euphoric dog from the spot.HB in the GM

Ramey had the team engineer, Sergeant First Class Kingston, inspect the hole and the explosives.

Ten minutes later Kingston returned and reported, “It is 25 pounds of Ammonia Nitrate Aluminum. We can blow it in place. “

It was confirmed. John’s and Honza’s first find! They had just prevented those 25 pounds of explosives from being used to kill or maim their countrymen.

It was an amazing feeling to remove something so destructive from the battlefield. John had just proven their worth to the Green Berets.

Maybe he could do this for a year.

John knew there was much more to find and remove.

And he knew one thing for sure. Today’s find was relatively simple. They wouldn’t all be like this.

But John wasn’t worried. He had Honza Bear.

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SSD Honza