Excerpt from Dogs and Diamonds:
Jenna drifted back to consciousness as the man and boy hovered above her, heated words and spittle spraying from their lips. A burst of pain in her chest struck her, keeping her from opening her eyes. To do so, would place her in greater harm than she already was. It was just that she picked up what the man, Ahmed, was saying about retrieving something she had of great value. If she opened her eyes, the man might use that knife he first stabbed her with to extract more information from her.
In her dream-like state, she saw the ghosts of two service dogs she had grown attached to back at Helmand. One was a German shepherd from Fort Leatherneck. The other was a Malinois from Fort Viking. Razz, the shepherd, belonged to handler Sargent Chaz Salvatore, and had survived over a dozen bomb-finding missions. Lady Summer was a female Malinois belonging to handler Sargent Johnny DeBreeze. Both Chaz and DeBreeze had been assigned to escort her in dozens of excursions from several base camps. Her work often took her into hell holes that needed a recon team in order to protect her as she play-ed mental Chess games with some of the more crazed jihadis, yet her work had to continue. She felt the safest when Bear and his Delta soldiers accompanied her, but the two dog handlers, Chaz and the Breeze, added a nice touch to their small team of operatives.
The ghostly form of Razz interposed himself between Jenna and the two Muslims carrying on their furious tirade before her. Razz nuzzled her cheek with his cold, wet nose. He then let out a fierce growl and barred his teeth. Ahmed and Tariq appeared oblivious to his pre-sence. Jenna, nevertheless, was greatly comforted by Razz’s appearance. She wanted to reach out and pat him, reassuring the ethereal dog that she was grateful for him coming to her in her hour of need. A second fierce growl came from Summer who materialized beside Razz, and now both ghost dogs were standing at attention in between her and the two Muslims locked in their heated debate.
Razz and Summer let out sorrowful whines as their bright eyes fixed on the badly wounded Jenna. Chaz appeared, his own sad-eyes locked on the blood pooling around her on the hardwood floor.
“Bear,” she told Chaz, “claimed the deaths of the two boys in that alley was accidental. Care to explain, Sargent? Those vests just deto-nated all on their own, is that what happened? Or was it sniper fire that set off those explosives worn by the boys? Who did the deed, Was it Mako who took the shot?”
“That hurts, Doc Mac,” Chaz said. “Snipers draw the line when it comes to kids, no matter how psycho they are. You think we set them up to be picked off at long range? That dog won’t hunt. War Dogs. That was the target, according to you, Doc Mac. Dogs are our most loyal soldiers on the battle field. Over the centuries dogs have had many roles with the military. Do you know how many important roles they play, Mac?
“Sentry dogs are trained to give warning by growling or barking. Of the 10,425 dogs trained in WW II, 9,300 were used for sentry duty. The largest group of sentry dogs, 3,174, were trained in 1943 and issued to the Coast Guard for beach patrols. Scout dogs are trained to work in silence to aid in the detection of snipers and ambushes. Only dogs with superior intelligence and quiet dispositions are selected for scout training. The scout dog and his handler normally walk point on combat patrols, well in front of the patrol. Scout dogs can detect the presence of the enemy at dis-tances up to 1,000 yards. Scout dogs lessen the danger of ambush.
“Messenger dogs must be motivated by the desire to work with two handlers. They learn to travel silently and take advantage of natural cover when moving between the two handlers. Mine dogs, also called the M-Dog are trained to find trip wires, booby traps, and IED’s. Casualty dogs are trained to search for casualties that are difficult for collecting parties to locate. Tunnel dogs, in Vietnam tunnel dogs explored the tunnels used by the Viet Cong. The tunnel dwellers feared these dogs. Explosives Detection dogs are trained to alert on the scent of chemicals in explosives. With their superior sense of smell it is difficult to package explosives that a dog cannot detect. Explosives dogs are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Early in World War II, as the Quartermaster Corps began training dogs for the Army’s K-9 Corps, more than thirty breeds were accepted. But later, with more experience, the list was narrowed to five: German Shepherds, Belgian Sheep Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, Farm Collies and Giant Schnauzers. Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies are still trained for Arctic duty. German Shepherd dogs have a unique combination of traits. They are intelligent, dependable, predictable, easily trained, moderately aggressive, and can adapt readily to almost any climatic conditions.
“All dogs trained and used by the U.S. military are procured and trained by the 341st Military Working Dog Training Squadron, Lack-land AFB, TX. These dogs are as diverse as the soldiers, sailors, air-men, and Marines they work beside. The handlers of these dogs are military police who spend months going through dog-handler school at Lackland Air Force Base.
“Some of the more specialized dogs are Narcotics Detector dogs who detects drugs instead of explosives. Specialized Search dogs are a special class of dogs trained to work off leash at long distances from a handler in order to find explosives. They work by hand signals, and in the Marines can also receive commands via radio receivers they wear on their backs. Combat Tracker dogs can detect where IEDs and weapons caches are located, but it’s up to the highly-trained CTDs to track down the person who stashed the explosives. Although the job is in our single-purpose dog list, combat tracker dogs are more typically dual-purpose dog breeds these days.
“Dual-purpose dogs do both patrol work and detection work, along with scouting. Scouting is the ability to track human scent through the air. The list of jobs for these dual-purpose dogs is short compared with the skills that make up their single-purpose counterparts’ job. Some say it’s best for a dog to have just one job and specialize in it, but most handlers think dual purpose dogs work just fine. Multi- purpose canines used by Special Ops personnel. MPC is both a category and a job description. These super-high-drive dogs can be used in parachute or rappel operations. They sometimes wear waterproof tactical vests, night-vision or infrared cameras so handlers can see what they’re seeing as they work from a distance. They’re extremely resilient, environmentally sound, and almost unflappable. They can do all this and jump through a ring of fire and tear you to pieces if they need to. CIA K-9 Corps must go through 13 weeks of explosives detection training to learn to detect 19,000 explosive scents with their sensitive noses. At the end of the 13 weeks, each dog takes a final exam with their handler where they are tested on ten explosive searches. Some K-9 corps members also take an additional 13 weeks of training in street patrol. At the end of street training, teams must score 490 out of 700 points on the final exam in the following areas: Obedience Training, Agility Test, Article Search, Suspect Search, and Criminal Apprehension. CIA K-9 dogs work 60 hours a week, on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The dogs receive top veterinary care, spotless kennels, and they live with their handlers.”
Chaz concluded with, “If I died and came back as a dog, it’s a CIA K-9 dog that I would want to be.”
Razz and Summer whined in agreement and used their noses to snuffle Jenna beneath her chin. Despite her deep wound, she reached out to embrace the two dogs. Her hands passed through their ethereal forms, and she realized they weren’t really there. Razz, she sadly recalled, had been killed locating an IED in Kandahar. Summer had inhaled a large misting of fentanyl, and the Breeze had carried her in his arms for a full mile before allowing the other soldiers around him to help carry her two more miles to return her to Camp Leatherneck. She died on the way there.