Dispatch From Downrange
Dispatch From Downrange –IRAQ
Some Days are a Little Different
The day started like always. Up at 0430, walk and then feed the dog. Breakfast at 0530. The dining facility here is something to be seen. Eggs, yep cooked so dry they flake. Bacon – nope. French toast? Sort of, but no butter, no syrup. Hash browns, yep but they look surprising like the French fries from last night. Some breads sometimes fruit, stewed tomatoes? Yes, there are some very strange food selections. Anyway, breakfast takes about 10 minutes as you really only eat what you have to. In fact, all the meals go about this way. I’ve seen some mystery meat that you could make car tires out of here. The dog wouldn’t even eat it!
So the day started as normal, and we went back to our area and got ready for the day’s training. We actually take over the checkpoints here is a few days. Currently, there is another group of dog teams working that mission. To get ready, we train and train some more. Checking cars, buildings, packages, roads and everywhere something might be. Our head trainer will set up a problem, hide a sample explosive, and we are tasked to find it.
In the evenings, I go walking with Mad. We do about 4 miles a night. This gets him and me some exercise and a little relaxing alone time. Last night as I was walking through one if the living areas ( all three room trailers set up in rows) Mad pulled me to one of the buildings. I saw his behavior change. He was searching. He was acting as if he had found an odor he is trained on. I followed him to lead, and we came to the door of one of the buildings. Mad searched the front door seam and alerted. Well, Hell. This was not a training problem. This was exactly what we were here to do, and now I had found one. To say the hairs on the back of the neck were not standing on end would be a long way from the truth. I made a note of exactly where I was and where Mad had picked up the odor and approached the building from a different direction. Mad once again went to the door and alerted. That was enough for me.
I contacted one of the other handlers. He and his dog arrived, and the same thing happened. We were both convinced the room was “hot.” There was an explosive in the housing area. We followed protocol (no I won’t go into that) and made the needed notifications. We, of course, pulled back to a safe distance. Within minutes everyone that needed to be involved was there. As the area was evacuated and cordoned off we watched the events we are triggered. Three big armored vehicles showed up, and the EOD team took over the scene. Just like on TV, the robots and all were deployed. The team leader was being helped into his heavy bomb resistant suit( they are not bomb proof, nothing really is) and he started to walk the long distance to the room. He carried various pieced of equipment with him as the other team members watched the area on the screen from the remote camera on the robot.
The door of the room being locked, it was determined a “universal” key was going to be used. The bomb suited team leader returned, and his team immediately started pulling the suit off him. When they took off the helmet and face mask, I could see he was wringing wet. It was about 95 outside and probably 120 in the suit. He downed three bottles of water, gathered some more items and suited back up. Again the long walk. He disappeared behind a concrete wall that separated us from the room and worked alone. Soon the remaining EOD team members started moving all their equipment back inside their vehicles and directed everyone to take cover in one the several bunkers that were in the area. I could still see the opening where the suited EOD team member had gone. He backed out through the opening and took cover around a concrete wall. ‘FIRE IN THE HOLE!, FIRE IN THE HOLE!, FIRE IN THE HOLE!. Was shouted by the EOD guys by their vehicle and then WHAM!! It was a very loud bang, and a column of smoke rose over the concrete wall. As soon as the dust settled, the suited member went back into the explosion area. He attached a long line to something and returned around the corner of the wall. From there he pulled the line, evidently pulling something out of the room. He once again went back in and shortly after, he started the long walk back to the vehicles. There his team again pulled the suit off, and he sat on the bumper if the truck drinking bottle after bottle of water. They talked a moment, and the area was declared “All Clear.”
We later found out that the room had been empty for about a month. The person that had lived there had been sent home for some undisclosed issues. The EOD team leader briefed us as we have to show in our records every alert and determine what it was. He and told us the alert was good and the dogs had done their job. He thanked us, loaded up in his vehicle and cleared the scene.
Funny thing is several of the people that live in that area had given us a little grief about the dogs and noise they caused. They can hear the dogs barking in the mornings as they go to breakfast. Now we were great friends, and they treated us completely different. I guess they realized all it takes to change their world is a dog and his handler.
From Iraq (ears still ringing)
This is Jon Harris, and this is a
Dispatch from Downrange-Iraq