Archive for the 'Dogs' Category



More On Animals, Cops, Logistics And Survival

BY Herschel Smith
1 month ago

As a followup to my article Note To Cops And Survivalists: The World Is Full Of Animals, Embrace It!, Mountain Guerrilla posted a piece on animals and logistics (via WRSA), although he didn’t link back to my article.

Mosby spends some time rehearsing an Army field manual on animals and logistics, with some good suggestions for the proper use of horses.  Then he poses this.

Do you know how to ride a horse? I don’t mean sit on a horse in the lesson arena either. Have you ever ridden a horse across country, through the brush? Across steep terrain. Like I said, I’m not an expert, but I’ve done both of these enough to know…and witness…untrained people fall off horses all the fucking time in rough terrain, seldom with healthy results. Have you ever actually sat on a horse ALL day long? I helped some neighbors pack a camp into the Bob Marshall Wilderness area a couple of years ago. I’d always wanted to get into the backcountry of the “Bob,” and it seemed like a much easier alternative to walking in. What would have been a two-day round trip for them turned into a four-day trip because, after sitting on a horse for 16 hours straight on the ride in? I literally, could not walk the next two days, let alone get back on the horse to ride out. It was not pretty, at all…and I’m in pretty good condition.

Check.  All of the above.  I have fallen off, been thrown off, bitten, run over, kicked, and just about anything that can happen on or around a horse.  I have ridden horses all day long, and I do mean all … day … long, and gotten on to do it again the next day.  And the next day.  And the next day.  I have fed them, herded them, doctored them, and assisted them to mate.  If you’ve never witnessed horses mating first hand (and I’m not talking about watching the Discovery Channel), it can be a violent affair.  I’ve ridden with saddles and then also (in my much younger years) bareback over mountain tops along narrow trails while running the herd).  The hardest ride was bareback and (on a dare) without a bridle, only the halter.

From the age of fourteen and beyond into my early twenties, I worked weekends and summers at a Christian camp above Marietta, South Carolina named Awanita Valley (and Awanita Ranch in Traveler’s Rest).  We trained and trail rode horses, fed them and cared for them, hiked the trails and cleared them of snakes and yellow jacket nests (have you ever been on a horse when it came up on a yellow jacket nest?).

When we weren’t doing that, we were cutting wood, hauling supplies, digging ditches, and baling hay.  My boys did the same thing, and Daniel later (before the Marine Corps) worked for Joey Macrae in Anderson, South Carolina, an extraordinary professional horseman, breaking and training horses.  I have ridden in the rain, blazing sun, and snow.  I have seen my son Joshua and his horse buried up to his thighs in snow, and watched him ride the horse up from sinking in the drift and stay on him while keeping the horse and him safe.

Why is all (or any) of this important?  Because as I tried to convey in my earlier post, it is critical to have an understanding and mastery over animals, especially if what we think will happen in America really happens.  And Mountain Guerrilla is right about logistics too.  But I’m not so sure that the Army was the first to field this idea.  See my article on Marines and Mules.  The Small Wars Journal had discussion on the importance of animals to logistics long ago.

The problem is that the Marine Corps has forgotten the lessons, and I’m afraid that the Army will never really take them to heart.  The modern U.S. military is techno-weighted down, with gadgetry, doohickeys, and reliance on constant logistics.  The so-called big dog is a symptom of this sickness, as is the huge budget for DARPA every year.  Truthfully, I think this is all related to the effete pressure for gender neutrality in the military.

But don’t you forget these lessons.  Plan ahead.  Learn how to make fire, how to purify water, how to fight, how to make your way around terrain, and how to navigate with maps and a compass (rather than using GPS like the liar Marine Corps officer candidates who were found out during officer’s school).

And learn animals.  Your life will be better for it.  This goes for cops too.  Lina Inverse makes an interesting point.

It just occurred to me that this puppycide policy is extremely unwise, because the desensitization works both ways. Every time a thug in uniform needlessly kills a family’s dog, that family in turn is that much more ready to return the favor someday….

It’s what Mike Vanderboegh calls losing the mandate of heaven.  At one time in our history, constables were respected and admired.  Children wanted to talk to them, show them respect, and even be like them.  Nowadays, with enough rifles pointed at women and children while screaming obscenities, with enough dead animals, with enough abuse and danger from cops, it may not be long before the people turn on cops.

If you’re a cop, you don’t want that to happen.  Believe me.  You don’t want that to happen.  You want to maintain the “mandate of heaven.”  If you lose it, you’ve lost everything.

Make sure to drop by Mountain Guerrilla and read his informed article.

Is She A Tough Girl Or A Sissy?

BY Herschel Smith
6 months, 3 weeks ago

I watched this weekend at my son Joshua’s house as Heidi (my Doberman) decided that she wanted to meet the dog next door, and she jumped a four foot privacy fence.  I assumed that the fence would be a barrier to her and I didn’t have her shock collar on.  I assumed wrong.

And you’ve seen the video of bears jumping up and down on their front legs to warn you before they attack?  A couple of weeks ago I witnessed Heidi exhibiting the same behavior.  She barked so loudly that she hurt my ears, while each bark was timed with her paws landing on the floor.  I don’t recall who she saw on the sidewalk, but she was pissed, and I wouldn’t have wanted her outside at the moment.

And then there is this.

Heidi_Couch

She literally arranged the pillows, crashed on the couch, and then pulled the blanket over her.  I kid you not.  At about 85 pounds, her long legs have to hang off.

Shhh! … don’t tell my wife.  Heidi isn’t allowed on the couch, and if my wife knew about this Heidi would be done for.  In a throw-down between my wife and Heidi, Heidi doesn’t stand a chance.

Return of the Marine Corps Red Cells

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

From Marine Corps Times:

Commandant Gen. Jim Amos is bringing back “red cell” groups, which he used while commanding Marines in Iraq, to study enemy tactics.

The groups formed of officers and staff noncommissioned officers were handpicked to analyze the enemy threat, including tactics, techniques and procedures on the front lines, and determine the necessary operations to defeat that threat.

Now, Amos hopes to bring the groups back for use in Afghanistan.

Amos’ cells in Iraq included an eclectic group of personnel with backgrounds in intelligence, information operations, logistics, ground combat and civil affairs. What Amos wanted from them, said a former cell leader, were frank assessments and open discussion that challenged conventional thinking. He ended each meeting by reminding his staff: “Let’s do it to them before they do it to us.”

A red cell “is a great way to insist you get a group of people looking at things differently than anyone else,” said retired Col. Gary I. Wilson, who coordinated Amos’ cell with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Al Asad Air Base in 2003 and 2004.

Amos’ operational principle was “don’t wait for something to happen, make it happen,” Wilson said.

When insurgents began to fire SA-16 anti-air missiles, Amos “immediately modified his tactics,” ordering more nighttime flights and adding survivable gear and equipment to helicopters, said Wilson, who later led one of Amos’ cells with II Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq.

But before we discuss Amos’ concept, there’s an important report from The New York Times:

QURGHAN TAPA, Afghanistan — The hill wasn’t much to behold, just a treeless mound of dirt barely 80 feet high. But for Taliban fighters, it was a favorite spot for launching rockets into Imam Sahib city. Ideal, American commanders figured, for the insurgents to disrupt the coming parliamentary elections.

So under a warm September sun, a dozen American infantrymen snaked their way toward the hill’s summit, intent on holding it until voting booths closed the next evening. At the top, soldiers settled into trenches near the rusted carcass of a Soviet troop carrier and prepared for a long day of watching tree lines.

Then, an explosion. “Man down!” someone shouted. From across the hill, they could hear the faint sound of moaning: one of the company’s two minesweepers lay crumpled on the ground. The soldiers of Third Platoon froze in place.

Toward the rear of the line, Capt. Adrian Bonenberger, the 33-year-old company commander, cursed to himself. During weeks of planning, he had tried to foresee every potential danger, from heat exposure to suicide bombers. Yet now Third Platoon was trapped among mines they apparently could not detect. A medical evacuation helicopter had to be called, the platoon moved to safety, the mission drastically altered. His mind raced.

“Did I do the right thing?” he would ask himself later.

Far from the generals in the Pentagon and Kabul, America’s front-line troops entrust their lives to junior officers like Captain Bonenberger. These officers, in their 20s and early 30s, do much more than lead soldiers into combat. They must be coaches and therapists one minute, diplomats and dignitaries the next. They are asked to comprehend the machinations of Afghan allies even as they parry the attacks of Taliban foes.

As commander of Alpha Company, First Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, Captain Bonenberger was in charge not just of ensuring the safety of 150 soldiers, but also of securing the district of Imam Sahib, a volatile mix of insurgent enclaves and peaceful farming villages along the Tajikistan border.

Analysis & Commentary

The good Captain is working so hard he is likely losing very badly needed sleep.  He has been given an impossible mission.  Population-centric counterinsurgency with too few troops, too little time, too few resources, a corrupt government, and an American electorate who doesn’t understand what pop-centric COIN is or why one would need to conduct such a thing.

But allow me a pedestrian observation, if you will?  The American electorate knows at least a moderate amount about life-s decisions, and they set policy.  The American Generals are waging pop-centric COIN, but America expects us to be killing the enemy.  We shouldn’t be engaged in nation-building, but killing the enemy is complex when they hide amongst the people, and when some of them are the people.

The trouble with Captain Bonenberger’s trek up the hill wasn’t that he didn’t do everything he should have.  True enough, mine sweepers can only do so much.  The olfactory senses of dogs has proven to be much more reliable and informative in IED detection, and the Captain’s team should have had several good ones.

For reports of IEDs and dogs, see:

Combined Strategies Help IED Fight

Bomb Dogs See Action in Afghanistan

Training Dogs to Sniff Out IEDs

Bombs Frustrate High Tech Solutions

Marines Plan to Deploy More Bomb Dogs

And many more reports.  Forget the high tech solutions.  Defer to the only ones to whom God has given this skill – dogs.

But there is a deeper point to be made here.  We are trying to hold terrain when we do a march up a hill to secure it from the enemy.  He has been there, he has laid his traps and weapons, and we cannot match his knowledge of the terrain.

This all reminds me of our attempts to make the electrical grid in Iraq robust enough to withstand attacks from Sadr’s militia.  There aren’t enough engineers in the world to do such a thing.  Sadr’s militia had to be killed (and still must be).

In the case of the Captain’s hill, it would have been better to have spent his time putting up gated communities, taking census of the population, kicking in doors at night, and finding and killing the enemy.  As it is, not only did the Captain lose men, but he failed in his mission to secure the terrain – at least, initially.  There would seem to be a better way.

Returning to General Amos’ red cells, understanding Taliban TTPs is a step in the right direction.  But during the brutality of war, brutality that affects not only men but equipment, dogs are better than electronic equipment, mules are better than robots for transporting supplies, the backs of Marines is better than trucks that break down over impossible terrain, and finding and killing the enemy is better than trying to anticipate his next move with a crystal ball, with all due respect to Sun Tzu.

Marines, Beasts and Water

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 9 months ago

In Scenes From Operation Khanjar II we discussed heavy battle space weight, the contribution of water to this weight, and the necessity for Marine infantry to be all male.  A debate ensued concerning all of the salient points, but the truth remains that it requires young males in superior condition to sprint with body armor under fire, and carry (in many cases) more than 120 pounds of weapons, food, armor, water, ammunition and equipment for ten to twelve hours a day in more than 100 degree heat.  The low hanging fruit has already been picked.  There isn’t much else that can be done concerning weight with the exception of ESAPI plates, and even modifications to these won’t remove the heavy weight of water.

U.S. Marine dog handler corporal Chad Perraut, with 2nd platoon, F company, 5th battalion, 10th Marines pours water for Body, a Marine bomb sniffer patrol dog, during a patrol in southern Afghanistan. After five years coping with the most dangerous province in Iraq, the U.S. Marines have been given their next assignment: Helmund, the most dangerous province in Afghanistan.

Heavy exertion in hot weather while wearing body armor requires that the Marine carry enough to drink multiple liters of water every hour to avoid dehydration and even heat stroke.  The heat is as much of an enemy as the insurgents.

After hours of ferocious fighting in southern Afghanistan, the two young US Marines desperately needed emergency medical care — and it was the heat, not the Taliban, that had finally defeated them.

Charles Auge and Edwin Saez had landed at a canal junction at dawn last Thursday as part of a major US offensive against Islamist insurgents in the key province of Helmand.

They were engaged in an intense battle through the heat of day against dozens of gunmen who were determined not to lose control of the Mian Poshtey intersection in the south of Garmsir district.

When their two-and-a-half-litre (five-US-pint) water backpacks ran out, Auge and Saez looked to restock from the bottles that Echo company from the 2/8 infantry battalion had brought with them on the helicopter assault.

But as the company came under constant fire, the supplies were limited and the water scorchingly hot when it did arrive.

“We were on the flank beside a thick grass berm, and in the middle of the day the sun was so strong and there was no shade,” Auge, 24, said. “I began to feel dizzy and everything turned white.”

Saez, 21, also became a “heat casualty” soon after, having shot at — and apparently killed — two gunmen who were firing at the Marines from behind a wall.

“I started slipping in and out of consciousness,” he said. “The water we got was so hot it burnt in my throat.”

The two Marines became so seriously ill that they were evacuated from the battlefield by Red Cross helicopters that came in under hostile fire.

They were treated with intravenous drips and ice baths, and kept under observation at a field hospital for three days before being released, now recovering from the ordeal.

Marines run through a door that they blew open with explosives after taking fire from inside a compound in Mian Poshteh, in the hot dust of Helmand.

Command knows that this is an issue and is trying to deal with it.

… we understand the number one threat here right now today is not the Taliban, it’s the heat.  And as I said, it is hot as fire.  Every day we’ve got helicopters, day and night, pushing all manner of logistics, but especially pallets of water to the Marines.  I am more than confident — and I stay in touch with my commanders down there — I am more than confident that we’re getting the amount of water they need in a timely manner.  No one is going without water.

My problem, and what I’m fussing about with my staff, is that the water’s not cold.  We need to freeze that water.  We need to deliver water that’s pretty well frozen.  It will thaw out very quickly.  So we’re working on that.

Insertion of Marines at the outset of Operation Khanjar, Marines carry water.

Failure to plan for this is stolid and inept.  But there are families that are pressing for formal investigations into marches in severe heat at the beginning of Operation Khanjar.  This is about as inept as the failure to plan for cold water.  What would the results of such an investigation be?  That the life of a Marine infantryman is hard?

The Marine logistics officers in Southern Helmand should plan better, the Marine families should drop their demands for investigations, and Marine infantry remains a young man’s job (with special emphasis on both young and man).

Dogs to the Rescue

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

The health affects of pet ownership have long been known, from reduced blood pressure to higher survival rate after serious illnesses.  Dogs have been used in wars before, but a new emphasis in the utilization of dogs by the Department of Defense has become apparent, and it’s about time.  Dogs will soon be providing therapy to soldiers in Iraq.

Sgts. First Class Budge and Boe are headed to Iraq.

Budge and Boe don’t have last names: They’re dogs. But the pups are now officially enlisted as the Army’s first therapy dogs for soldiers in combat.

The two black Labrador retrievers will be stationed with the Army’s combat stress units in Tikrit and Mosul. Their role? To help soldiers deal with the stress of fighting overseas.

On Sunday, two (human) sergeants from the 85th Medical Detachment flew to Long Island to meet the two dogs at the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind in Smithtown, which trained Budge and Boe.

“Our hope is that it brings some normalcy to the soldiers,” said Sgt. Mike Calaway, an occupational therapist based in Tikrit, who will handle Boe. “The human-animal bond will help relax them.”

And the dogs won’t just be playmates for the troops, said Sgt. Jack Greene, another occupational therapist who will take Budge back with him to Mosul.

“The major thing is, they are going to help us knock down the stigma around mental health,” he said.

But before heading off to Iraq, the dogs needed to get used to sights and sounds similar to those they will encounter in Iraq.

This week, the soldiers, the dogs and foundation officials visited the shooting range at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where the dogs were exposed to the sounds of submachine guns and handguns.

The dogs went to Long Island MacArthur Airport, standing by as Suffolk County police hovered in a helicopter, the wind whipping at the dogs’ fur.

And the dogs braved perhaps one of the toughest tests of all: a jaunt through Smithhaven Mall during holiday season, designed to test their reaction to the chaos of crowds.

The dogs have been in training for months, and each has learned simple tricks as well as how to respond to voice commands such as sit, stay and play.

Now Budge and Boe must bond with Calaway and Greene, their handlers until the spring, when the men are scheduled to return from Iraq.

Then, Maj. Arthur Yeager, an occupational therapist based at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, takes over. Yeager, who is to deploy to Iraq next year, said therapy dogs are used at Walter Reed to help soldiers deal with treatment and recovery. He said he expects it to work on the battlefield as well.

“This is very touchy-feely, no doubt about it, but this works,” Yeager said. “I know it works. I’ve seen it work. These dogs are stress sponges.”

Soldiers in Iraq visit the combat stress unit when they become overwhelmed with the rigors of battle or by problems their families face at home.

But not every soldier welcomes the idea of going to the unit. Some have difficulty asking for help with stress, Yeager said. That’s where Budge and Boe come in.

“To have a dog come up and nudge your hand — I have yet to see even the hardest soldier refuse that,” Yeager said.

The sergeants and dogs plan to leave Long Island on Saturday for Fort Hood, Texas, where the 85th Medical Detachment is stationed. There, Budge and Boe will be examined by a veterinarian for medical issues before deploying to Iraq.

Boe and Budge also will be given the new rank of sergeant first class. No one has to salute them, though. The rank is set higher than that of their human handlers to prevent possible abuse of the dogs, because the Army looks severely at any service member who abuses a higher-up.

Mike Sergeant, chief training officer with the foundation and a Vietnam-era veteran, said the Army’s program is a good step toward meeting the mental health needs of its soldiers.

“Dogs are not going to be the sole answer, but they certainly will be an icebreaker,” he said.

There are other uses being made with dogs for U.S. warriors.  “Starting in February, Stevi, a 17-month-old golden Labrador retriever, will be by Bill Campbell’s side at all times as his specially trained assistant, protector and companion.  Campbell, 46, lives with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. He will be the first service member diagnosed with PTSD to receive a dog under a new program started by Puppies Behind Bars, a New York-based nonprofit that trains inmates to raise service dogs.”

There are still further uses for dogs, helping not warriors, but bringing closure to the families of fallen warriors.

Lex attended the funeral of his best friend in March, playing with the 20-year-old Marine’s younger brother away from the crowd. He was beside Cpl. Dustin Lee when Lee was killed in a mortar attack in Falluja.

Wounded himself, Lex didn’t want to leave Lee’s side after the attack — fellow Marines had to pull him away from the young man’s body so medics could do their work.

Although some shrapnel remains in his body, Lex recovered from his wounds and returned to duty at the Marines’ Logistics Base in Albany, Georgia, to await a new assignment.

On Friday, Lex gets that new assignment — retirement to Lee’s family home in Quitman, Mississippi, where the 8-year-old bomb-sniffing German Shepherd will live out the rest of his life.

Jerome Lee, the young Marine’s father, lobbied the Marines hard for months to adopt the dog. Marine officials initially told Lee that it would be no problem to get the dog. But persuading the service to give up Lex before the dog’s mandatory retirement at age 10 proved to be a challenge. Watch Dustin’s father describe how the family struggled to adopt their son’s dog »

“Since Dustin’s death we’ve been trying to get his dog, Lex, from the Marine Corps, and needless to say we’ve had some difficulty there,” said Lee, a Mississippi Highway Patrol officer. “This thing went from colonels to generals all the way up to the commandant of the Marine Corps, and it almost went to the secretary of defense.”

One of the issues was making sure the dog was not “overly aggressive.” His behavior with the Lee youngsters — Lex played tug-o-war with 13-year-old Camryn at Dustin’s funeral — seemed to assure that wouldn’t be a problem. Marine officials also said the request had to go through the Air Force, which is the approving authority for all military dogs.

Finally, on December 13, the Marines agreed to let Lex live with Lee’s family. It was the first time the Marines have released a dog before its retirement to a former handler’s family.

“Lex has had two tours in Iraq,” said Jerome Lee. “He’s been through a lot, and we just want to get Lex home to our family, and let him have a happy life.”

Well before joining the Marines, Dustin Lee was known by all for his devotion to his country. A member of Quitman High School’s cross-country track team, Lee and three teammates participated in the Americans United: Flag Across America Run after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington.

So it was no surprise when the young man joined the Marines out of high school in 2004, nor was it a surprise when he went to Albany to train military police dogs, inspired by his mother’s work with the county’s search and rescue team dogs when he was a boy.

Dustin, an animal lover who also rode horses, played hide and seek with his mother’s canine companion as a child, Jerome Lee said.

“He would let the dog get a sniff of his clothing and then go hide to see if the dog could find him,” the elder Lee said.

At the logistics base in Albany, Lee said, Dustin “worked with all the dogs and became the kennel master.”

Dustin and Lex had been stationed in Falluja for nearly five months before the fatal attack. When the Marine’s body was returned to Quitman in late March, hundreds lined the streets waving American flags to say a tearful goodbye. And Lex was there.

In Albany on Thursday, current kennel master Mike Reynolds led Lex through his paces for the last time in his military career. Now it’s time for the old pro to learn some new civilian tricks. In a ceremony on Friday, Lex will join the family of his best friend.

Jerome Lee hopes his other two children will feel closer to their missing older brother.

“There’s always going to be that missing link with Dusty gone,” he said. “But part of Dusty is here with Lex.”Lex attended the funeral of his best friend in March, playing with the 20-year-old Marine’s younger brother away from the crowd. He was beside Cpl. Dustin Lee when Lee was killed in a mortar attack in Falluja.

See also Family Adopts Slain Son’s Military Dog, and U.S. Troops in Iraq to Get Some Doggie Love.  With no apologies to cat lovers, “man’s best friend” is proving itself once again as good for the soul.


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