Military Dogs Deserve Recognition for Their Service
U.S. military dogs don't care about bounties. But they do care about doing the jobs they were trained to do.
Recently, as some of you may be aware, a number of military dogs chased Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi down an underground tunnel in Syria.
The ISIS leader had a $25 million bounty on his head. But that wasn't what motivated the dogs that cornered him.
U.S.-led forces had raided the compound where he was thought to be hiding. When Al-Baghdadi realized he had no chance of escape, he detonated his suicide vest.
'A Special Breed of Courageous'
Following the raid that killed al-Baghdadi, one of the Delta Force soldiers had this to say about a dog injured by the blast.
"The injury to the dog is an injury to one of us," he said. "These dogs are a special breed of courageous."
Military dogs were also used in the raid that ended with the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Those dogs were used by Navy SEALs at a Pakistan compound. That's where the 9/11 mastermind lived with family and friends.
Military Dogs Save Lives
Why do our soldiers have such high regard for military dogs? There are several reasons.
For one, these dogs are trained to sniff out explosives. That talent alone has saved many of our soldiers from injury and death.
For another, they can move faster on foot than soldiers can. That's especially helpful when tracking down enemies running between houses and in tunnels.
In addition, the soldiers get to know and befriend these dogs through a variety of missions. And start to look at them as faithful companions.
Four Dogs Earn K-9 Medal of Courage
These military dogs don't just get a pat on the head as a reward. Or a "Good boy" or "Good girl" comment from their trainers.
Some are honored in ceremonies for their life-saving service. Including those that receive the K-9 Medal of Courage. It's the highest honor a military dog can receive.
The K-9 Medal of Courage is granted for "extraordinary valor during service in the military." Recently four dogs were presented with this medal in a national awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Among those presenting the awards were American Humane President and CEO Robin Ganzert. And U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General Robert Fulford and U.S. Marine Colonel Scott Campbell.
Also, Crown Media Networks President and CEO Bill Abbott. And philanthropist and veterans advocate Lois Pope. Hundreds of congressional staffers and a dozen Congress members attended.
Those receiving the K-9 Medal of Courage this year are:
- Troll, a Dutch Shepard who helped safely evacuate a critically injured soldier in Afghanistan. Troll conducted 89 combat missions. He cleared routes of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). And helped conduct a raid on an insurgent compound.
- Sergeant Yeager, a 13-year-old black Labrador who served as an IED detection dog in Iraq and Afghanistan. An explosion that took the life of his handler, Lance Corporal Abraham Tarwoe, resulted in shrapnel wounds for Sergeant Yeager. The dog was sent home for treatment and has been adopted by a family in North Carolina.
- K-9 Niko, a Dutch Shepard who spent four years in Afghanistan protecting U.S. and foreign dignitaries. Plus embassy personnel. He conducted more than 600 missions for the U.S. State Department. They were in support of the Defense Department and the CIA. He now lives on the Alaskan frontier.
- Emmie, a 12-year-old black Labrador who completed three tours of duty in Afghanistan. They were on behalf of the U.S. Marine Corps during Operation Enduring Freedom. She was then assigned to the Pentagon, where she was tasked with searching vehicles, buildings and parking lots. Now retired, she helps with the care of her handler's autistic son.
Dogs Receive Stamp of Approval
Next time you're at the post office, you might want to request a specific kind of stamp.
Introduced recently, it's a forever stamp honoring the contributions of military working dogs.
It features the four most common breeds associated with military work. They are the German Shepard, Labrador Retriever, Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepard.
The new stamp was unveiled by Air Force Major Matt Kowalski, commander of the 341st Training Squadron. And by San Antonio, Texas Postmaster Robert Carr.
Tarzan Puts on Display
The ceremony was held at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. That's where military working dogs and handlers are trained.
Approximately 800 take the basic handlers course each year. A puppy breeding program brings about 80 to 100 new dogs into service annually. Volunteers raise the puppies until they are ready to enter service.
Prior to the ceremony, the skills of a 6-year-old German Shepard named Tarzan were put on display.
Tarzan and his handler, Air Force Staff Sergeant Sarah Banks, completed an obstacle course. Then the dog showed off his speed and bite with a mock takedown of a subject.
Callie Ready for Anything
Tarzan serves as a narcotics and patrol dog with the 802nd Security Forces Squadron at Joint Base in San Antonio.
The squadron has more than a dozen dogs that conduct patrols. And are trained to detect drugs or explosives.
One of the other dogs who attended the ceremony is Callie, a 2-year-old Dutch Shepard. Callie is the only Defense Department search and rescue dog also trained to skydive and even ski.
She is currently assigned to the Kentucky Air National Guard. But she's ready for her first real-world assignment.
We don't need another reason to love and admire our canine friend. But it's good to know some are heroically helping keep our active military members safe.