Military History Highlights Hero Dogs

veteran’s corner

Tom Krabbenhoft

I have two rescue dogs. They happen to be mother and son. The mother is very old, blind, deaf and diabetic. She needs a lot of care. The son is scared of his own shadow. Sometimes I wonder how dogs ever survived without humans. Okay, full disclosure: They’re Shih Tzus. Collectively they would lose a fight to a hamster.

It started me thinking how man and his best friend have bonded. We’ve used this friendship to our advantage in war. We have all seen police dogs and the versatility and effectiveness they bring to law enforcement. But did you know there was a dog on the Osama Bin Laden raid? It was carried out by 81 Navy SEALS and a dog – Cairo, a Belgian Malinois.

Dogs on this level do it all. They skydive with their handlers. They carry an array of cameras and infrared equipment that can pick up human heat signature behind walls, or scan a building, room or area in real time.

They track. Fact: Cairo spent a majority of his Afghanistan deployment trying to find deserter Bowe Bergdahl.

They also fight. A large dog sent into a room can locate and disorientate enemy combatants. Having a one-second advantage in CQB (close quarters combat) can save many lives. They also notify troops of potential booby traps and ambushes.

The dogs wear a lightweight, highly flexible body armor. They also have very comfortable custom-made footwear that protects their paws from extreme weather or rugged terrain. Meanwhile, their human counterparts’ footwear has evolved little since the Roman sandal.

Tales of hero dogs abound. Brin, a brown, skinny, near-death mongrel, started hanging around outside a British base in the Helmand province of Afghanistan in 2008. When two soldiers walked toward Brin one day, she started barking and acting wild. When they discovered she was warning them of a IED planted near them, the British quickly adopted her. She started following troops on foot patrols. Amazingly — with no training – Brin would warn them of explosives and ambushes.

On one raid, Brin was captured by the Taliban. They videotaped her and touted her as a SAS (British Special Forces) dog. The British launched a counter raid, and Brin was recaptured. She was found almost dead; the Taliban had beaten her so badly that her nose and nearly all her ribs were broken.

It’s never a good idea to put oneself crosswise with British troops, especially when a company of Ghurkas is with them. Though British army protocol called for Brin to be put down, they saved her life and mobilized efforts back home to get her to Great Britain. Sally Baldwin, a teacher, raised enough money for Brin to live out the rest of her days reunited with the captain from the base they had lived on.

Salute and respect goes out to Cairo and Brin. I may have a steak in their honor.

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