Conan joins the ranks of heroic military dogs
A military working dog named Conan made national news last week for his role in the search and raid that led to the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State leader, in Syria.
A conservative news website carried a Photoshopped image of President Trump putting the medal around the neck of Conan, who was slightly injured after being exposed to live electrical cables during the raid.
Trump tweeted that Conan was “an American hero” and would be a guest at the White House this week.
We shouldn’t be surprised that Conan was called on by our special operations forces to help hunt down one of the world’s most wanted people. Military dogs go through intense multifaceted training and are typically in front of troops to sniff out improvised explosive devices, snipers in trees or enemies hiding behind bushes.
If an IED is found, the WMD is trained to sit down near it so it can be avoided or dismantled.
When American forces closed on al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader exploded the vest he was wearing, killing himself and three children he had with him.
Dogs like Conan, a Belgian Malinois, have played an important part in American warfare for decades. Ron Aiello, president of the United States War Dogs Association who served with dogs during the Vietnam War, said tens of thousands of canines have served alongside their human handlers since World War II. He calls them “the first line of defense.”
A dog named Stubby even earned a place in the Smithsonian as a stuffed exhibit. Injured by enemy gas in World War I, Stubby became especially sensitive to the poison and would bark to alert troops to the danger.
In World War II, dogs were donated by civilians through the program Dogs for Defense. A dog named Chips was one of the most famous dog of the war. Shot in the face after rushing an enemy machine-gun position in Sicily, Chips was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart.
In Vietnam, detection dogs were especially valuable searching out enemy guerrilla troops in the jungles and rice paddies.
By 2010, the Pentagon spent $19 billion on technology to combat IEDs that were killing and maiming troops by the thousands. Bomb-sniffing dogs proved to be a great asset.
While troops might locate only about half of IEDs on patrol, the number jumped to 80 percent when dogs were involved on the mission.
During Special Operations raids dogs received greater recognition. A dog named Cairo accompanied Navy SEALs who located and killed Osama bin Laden.
Another Belgian Malinois named Dyngo served three tours of duty in Afghanistan and was awarded a Bronze Star. After retiring to a home in Washington, Dyngo had to relearn how to be a normal dog, especially wearing a cast on his leg after two surgeries. His handler referred to him as a little tank.
After their life of service to the military — usually six to eight years — MWDs are then put up for adoption. Once the dogs are no longer in service, however, the government won’t pay for any expenses related to them.
The U.S. War Dogs Association exists to fund their medical care, which includes a program to train military dogs to become companions of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Whether on duty or retired, dogs care nothing about racism, skin color or political correctness. Nor do they sense the kind of sour political climate that prevails in this nation and divides humans.
The devotion is to their handler and their total focus is on the task at hand, which often comes in a life-threatening mission to save American lives.
By Jim Zbick | firstname.lastname@example.org