Friday, January 11, 2019

Fullbore Friday

Those who have deployed understand the connection you have with those you served with - especially those who you know, through their actions, helped you make it home.

Those who have dogs know how complicated creatures they are; their own personalities, quirks, desires, fears and preferences. You also know how they can connect with their person in a very unique way.

For those who know what dogs have done for us in the long war - and the sacrifices known and unknown they have joyfully given, you have to be in awe of this partnership tens of thousands of years in the making.

Meet Dyngo, vis Smithsonian Magazine;
It was February 2011 when Staff Sgt. Justin Kitts boarded a helicopter with Dyngo. They were on their way to their next mission with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division on a remote outpost in Afghanistan. Unlike other dogs, Dyngo didn’t shrink away from the beating wind kicked up by helicopter propellers. He bounded in alongside Kitts, hauling himself up onto the seat. As they rose over the white-dusted ridges, Dyngo pushed his nose closer to the window to take in the view. Kitts found a lot of tranquility during these rides together before a mission, just him and his dog, contemplative and still.

On the first day of March, the air was chilly, the ground damp from rain. Kitts brushed his teeth with bottled water. He fed Dyngo and outfitted him in his wide choke chain and black nylon tactical vest bearing the words “MWD Police K-9.”

The plan for the day was familiar. The platoon would make its way on foot to nearby villages, connecting with community elders to find out if Taliban operatives were moving through the area planting improvised explosive devices. The goal was to extend the safe boundary surrounding their outpost as far as possible. Kitts and Dyngo assumed their patrol position—walking in front of the others to clear the road ahead. After six months of these scouting missions, Kitts trusted that Dyngo would keep him safe.

Kitts used the retractable leash to work Dyngo into a grape field. They were a little more than a mile outside the outpost when Kitts started to see telltale changes in Dyngo’s behavior—his ears perked up, his tail stiffened, his sniffing intensified. It wasn’t a full alert, but Kitts knew Dyngo well enough to know he’d picked up the odor of an IED. He called Dyngo back to him and signaled the platoon leader. “There’s something over there, or there’s not,” Kitts said. “But my dog is showing me enough. We should not continue going that way.”

The platoon leader called in an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team. Given the inaccessible location, the team’s arrival would take some time. The other soldiers took cover where they were—along a small dirt path between two high walls in what was almost like an alleyway—while Kitts walked Dyngo to the other end of the path to clear a secure route out. Again, Kitts let Dyngo move ahead of him on the retractable leash. They’d barely gone 300 yards when Kitts saw Dyngo’s nose work faster, watching as his ears perked and his tail stopped. He was on odor again.

If Dyngo’s nose was right, there were two bombs: one obstructing each path out of the grape field. Then the gunfire started. To Kitts’ ears it sounded like small-arms fire, AK-47s. He grabbed Dyngo and pulled him down to the ground, his back against the mud wall. They couldn’t jump back over the wall the way they came—they were trapped.

The next thing Kitts heard was a whistling sound, high and fast, flying past them at close range. Then came the explosion just feet from where they were sitting, a deep thud that shook the ground. Kitts didn’t have time to indulge his own response because just next to him, Dyngo was whimpering and whining, his thick tail tucked between his legs. The rocket-propelled grenade explosion had registered to his canine ears much deeper and louder, the sensation painful. Dyngo flattened himself to the ground. Kitts, knowing he had to distract him, tore a nearby twig off a branch and pushed it toward Dyngo’s mouth. Handler and dog engaged in a manic tug of war until Dyngo’s ears relaxed and his tail raised back into its usual position.

The popping of bullets continued, so, knowing his dog was safe for the moment, Kitts dropped the branch and returned fire over the wall. He’d sent off some 30 rounds when a whir sounded overhead. The air support team laid down more fire and suppressed the enemy, bringing the fight to a standstill.

When the EOD unit arrived, it turned out that Dyngo’s nose had been spot on. There were IEDs buried in both places. The insurgents had planned to box the unit into the grape field and attack them there.

Altogether, during their nine months in Afghanistan, Kitts and Dyngo spent more than 1,000 hours executing 63 outside-the-wire missions, where they discovered more than 370 pounds of explosives. The military credited them with keeping more than 30,000 U.S., Afghan and coalition forces safe and awarded Kitts the Bronze Star.
That isn't the most impressive part of the story.

There is another Fullbore character in this story, Rebecca Frankel. The love and passion she showed to help one of our own find a forever home is, at least for me, hard to describe.

As I am in awe of Dyngo, I am also with Rebecca.

"Thank you Rebecca." That is what I see in his face below.

Thanks from me too.

Read it all

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