The Washington Examiner opened its story on Monday with these somber words: “Though no U.S. forces were killed in the Saturday evening raid that led to the death of an ISIS leader, one military working dog suffered severe injuries in the line of duty.”
The dog is the raiding team member who chased deceased ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi down a tunnel in the terrorist’s final minutes, and had him cornered when he blew himself up with his suicide vest. Baghdadi was using three of his children as human shields, and the blast killed them as well. According to President Trump, Baghdadi was said to be “whimpering, screaming, and crying” as he sought to flee the U.S. force closing in on him.
The Washington Examiner was able to get a quote from an unnamed soldier assigned to Delta Force, although the dog’s name has not been released. Said the soldier, “The dog is a war veteran and a valued member of the team … The injury to the dog is an injury to one of us. These dogs are a special breed of courageous.”
Many readers will already be aware of the tradition in which the military working dog holds a rank one higher than its handler. Although preventing mistreatment is no doubt a concern in some cases, respect for the dog as a partner with knowledge and special skills is especially important.
Traditionally, the dogs hold the rank of a noncommissioned officer. They outrank their handlers as a way to prevent mistreatment, according to the U.S. Army.
“That’s out of respect,” Army Sgt. 1st Class Regina Johnson, operations superintendent at the Military Working Dog School, told Linda Crippen of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. “I see it all the time, especially in these young handlers. They make the mistake of thinking they’re actually in charge. You’ve got to tell them, ‘Hold up. That dog has trained 100 students. That dog is trying to tell you something.’ I think the tradition grew out of a few handlers recognizing the dog as their partner.”
Later on Monday, an update from an official to Reuters’s Steve Holland indicated that the dog was returning to duty. The extent of his injuries is unclear, but the good news would be that this is one hero who won’t have to hang up his spurs this time.
We can call the dog “he,” although we still don’t know his name. President Trump released a photo a short time ago.
We have declassified a picture of the wonderful dog (name not declassified) that did such a GREAT JOB in capturing and killing the Leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi! pic.twitter.com/PDMx9nZWvw
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 28, 2019
Military working dogs have a history with ISIS, and one of extensive and heroic service in the counter-terrorist wars of the last two decades. The dogs sometimes go on the attack. And sometimes their heroism in combat with U.S. and other coalition troops is beyond commendation or gratitude.
One such dog was surely Bruno, a German shepherd whose handler, Marine Sgt Adam Cann of Davie, Florida, in 2006 became the first Marine K9 handler to be killed in action since Vietnam. Sgt Cann clearly thought so: when he was wounded in a suicide blast, he died shielding Bruno and his other fellow Marines, while Bruno huddled over him after the explosion to protect his handler.
Cann and Bruno were in front of the Ramadi Glass and Ceramics Works. Over 1,000 Iraqis were lined up for a police recruiting event. While the event was going on a car overran a security check-point causing panic to spread through the crowd.
Minutes later, Cann spotted a suspicious-looking man and approached him. Seconds later the suspect detonated a vest he was wearing that contained 40-pounds of explosives.
The vest was filled with bearing which mortally wounded Cann. Bruno, his military working dog, was also wounded on his left side from the blast. As Adam lay there Bruno laid next to him putting his head on Adam’s chest to further shield him from additional harm. Bruno was medevaced to Al Asad Airbase in Al Anbar province.
As the Washington Examiner’s source said, in a clear case of understatement, “The dog is a war veteran and a valued member of the team … The injury to the dog is an injury to one of us.”