Jenna spiraled down into a deep, dark lake. The pain surged through her upper body, yet as her soul plunged into the black waters, she was swept along on strong, swift currents, and sent in ever-tightening spirals and loops into the dark depths. The severe pain came screeching to an earthshattering halt, fiery hot blasts that no human could hope to endure. It hit her in wave after raging wave, until she slipped into a coma, where the slithering, snapping serpents of pain attempted to strike at her, yet were mercifully held at bay by her unconscious state. That she was dying, there could be no doubt. The blade of the knife had passed within a centimeter of her heart. Six inches of razor-sharp steel had penetrated her breast. She knew that she was closer to death than she had ever been before, and yet she also knew those names, Ahmed and Tariq. The one belonged to a radicalized fanatic who preached jihad in the mosques of Afghanistan. He recruited young, impressionable boys to do his bidding. The boy, Tariq, was one of those boys radicalized by Ahmed. Two of the boy’s friends had blown themselves up carrying out jihad in the name of Allah. If not for Jenna’s reprogramming efforts, Tariq would have also been blown into a million pieces in the failed attack upon a compound where US Service dogs were kept.
Ahmed’s plot had been for the three young Muslim boys to weasel their way past security at Fort Leatherneck at Helmand Province. Once inside the compound, they were to assume their daily tasks of feeding and watering the dogs kept there. They were then to detonate their suicide vests packed with explosives, sending shards of razor-sharp metal at the twenty-some military dogs confined to their ken-nels, ripping the canines to shreds. Allah only knew how many of those dogs had brought harm to the jihadis who plotted against the US men and women invaders to Muslim land. To kill many of their unclean dogs had been Ahmed’s plan. To the men and women attach-ed to those dogs, it would be an emotional blow, but with each dog costing the Military $40,000 apiece due to extensive training, it would hurt the US financially, too. Twenty dogs equaled $800,000.
As things turned out, while Jenna detained the boy after one of his weekly sessions with her, he would have been with both of his friends when their vests accidentally blew up two blocks from their intended target. And only later, Jenna determined the vests being detonated in a secluded alley situated between Fort Leatherneck and a busy market place, had not been an accident at all.
Later, Bear told her, “Marines were on foot patrol in the Taliban stronghold of Marja, when they shot and killed a lethal threat: a local dog that made the mistake of attacking the Marines’ Lab retriever. Capt. Zepeda, the commander of Company F, was not sorry. If the Lab had been hurt, the Marines would have lost their best weapon for detecting roadside bombs. An attack on the Lab was an attack on a fellow warrior. That dog was another Marine. The classified canine that went on the Navy Seals’ raid of bin Laden’s compound generated a wave of interest in military dogs. In 2007, the Marines began a pilot program in Afghanistan with nine bomb-sniffing dogs, and now there are 2,700 dogs on active duty in the American military. Dogs are used for protection, pursuit, tracking and search and rescue, but the military also relies on them to sniff out the bombs that cause the majority of American casualties in Afghanistan.
“Popular breeds are the German shepherd and Belgian shepherd, or Malinois, but Marines over here rely on Lab retrievers because of the dogs’ good noses. Labs accompany many foot patrols in Helmand Province, wandering off-leash in front as bomb detectors. It is the vital work of an trained dog, the cost to the military is $40,000 per dog. But how can we put a price on the bonds between a soldier and his dog? They are a four-legged warrior on the battlefield.
“Private Colton Rusk, a 20-year-old Marine machine gunner and dog handler, was killed by sniper fire in Sangin, one of the most deadly areas in Helmand. During his deployment, Rusk sent his parents pictures of his bomb dog, Eli, a black Lab. When Rusk was shot, Marines told his parents, Eli crawled on top of their son to try to protect him. The 3-year-old Eli, was retired from the military and adopted by Private Rusk’s parents. When the Rusks brought Eli into their home, the first place he went was Colton’s room. He sniffed around and jumped up on his bed.
“So far, 20 Labrador retrievers out of the 350, have been killed in action since the Marine program began, most in explosions of home-made bombs. Within the Special Ops Command, the home of the dog that went on the Bin Laden mission, some 34 dogs were killed in the line of duty between 2006 and 2009. Like their handlers, dogs that survive go on repeat deployments, sometimes as many as four. Dogs retire from the military at the age of 8 or 9. About 5,000 US war dogs served in the Vietnam War. About 10,000 servicemen served as dog handlers during the war, and the K9 units saved over 10,000 human lives. 232 military working dogs and 295 US servicemen working as dog handlers were killed in action. An estimated 200 Vietnam War dogs survived the war to be assigned to other US bases outside the US. And now, the U.S. military has 1,600 dogs, roughly one for every three soldiers serving in Afghanistan.
Bear had paused during his long tirade on Military service dogs, stroking his thick beard several times before adding, “Do you see why those heartless little bastards could not be allowed to blow those dogs to Kingdom come? It wasn’t like we could offer them tea and cookies to get them to remove their vests. Herding them into that secluded alley was the next best option. And after that, things went to hell and they evaporated in a red mist.”
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