Rexy Too Sexy
As a handler it’s hard for me to start a blog dedicated to dog teams without talking about my own dog I handled, Rex E168. So I will get this tribute done and move on. No matter what military branch, police dept, security contracting company, or other organization you are apart of that utilizes dogs, every handler feels they have the best dog. Handler’s will brag all day about their dog’s capabilities and that one time they did something amazing. Well I am no different. However, what is different is that I can make a strong case as to why Rex, aka T-Rex, or Rexy too sexy, was one of the best dogs ever to serve his country.
Rex, a German Shepherd, was whelped(born) in April of 2001. He came to Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton in the fall of 2002 fresh out of training from Lackland Air Force Base, only one and a half years old. He came when the Camp Pendleton K9 unit was in transition and starting from scratch. They had sent all their dogs away and asked for brand new ones. Rex and a MWD named Robby were the first two dogs sent. This is when we were assigned as a dog team. With the help of other handlers and trainers in the unit, we became a great team together.
Rex rarely missed during detection training, and he was very aggressive and obedient during patrol training. He had everything you could want in a working dog, strong drive, great health, obedient, picked up on training quickly, and just an all around fun dog to work with. Not to mention he was also a magnificent looking German Shepherd.
Now I know that the kind of dog I just described is nothing new to handlers, and that most can make their dogs look like the best trained dog in the world. What a handler is interested in is not if their dog can win blue ribbons and awards, but if it will perform when a real life situation presents itself. This is where the pretenders are separated from the contenders. Rex not only performed, he excelled.
Rex and I had the privilege of deploying with the first wave of Marine dog teams sent to Iraq for OIF II (Operation Iraqi Freedom). For the first few months we were the only dog team assigned to the infantry unit 2/2 out of Camp Lejeune, NC. The unit was based at Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah which is one of three cities that when looked on a map formed a triangle and was known as “the triangle of death.” This is about a half hour south of Baghdad and was a hotbed for insurgents.
Our first mission came about a week after getting assigned to the unit. Rex and I were tasked to assist in securing a building, known to have housed insurgents, with a squad of Marines during the middle of the night. The hummers were going to drop the Marines off in the brush a few hundred yards behind the building and drive tacticly back near the front of the building. As soon as the Marines in the rear were in place the hummers would go in from the front and the building would be secured.
My assignment with Rex was to stay in the hummer until the building was secured and then search for explosives and munitions, sounded easy enough. However, when the hummers dropped the Marines off in the brush a few hundred yards behind the building, the Staff NCO in charge told me to come with them. I told him that I was ordered to stay in the hummer till they secured the area and he quickly snapped back “Screw that, you and the dog come with us!” Rex and I quickly jumped off the hummer and they sped away, and just like that Rex and I were with about a dozen Marines in the brush in the middle of the night, in the middle of an insurgent hotbed with no vehicles in sight.
It was the biggest rush I had ever had in my life. Off in the distance we can see the targeted building. The SNCO very quietly told us to spread out, be quiet, and to hurry into position. We cut a small barbed wire fence that blocked us and we were off running toward the building.
There are a lot of stray dogs in Iraq and as we moved toward the building some strays started to follow us, but when they saw Rex they tried to get close. Rex is an Alpha dog and to be sure he wouldn’t bark and give our position up I quickly put an easy mesh muzzle on him. However, as we ran I would notice Rex trying to swipe the muzzle off and it was slowing him down a little. So to keep up I bit the bullet and trusted my dog by taking off his muzzle and hoping he wouldn’t make a sound.
As soon as I take it off I could tell he was thinking about squaring off on one of the dogs and maybe even barking so I slapped him very sternly on his snout and told him “quiet”, he never made another sound. Now we are almost in position but keeping us from moving forward is barbed constantino wire stacked about 5 feet high. The Marines are jumping over this thing easily but it posed a big challenge to Rex. Rex could easily clear the 5 feet wire but the wire wasn’t just stacked it was also thick. Another Marine helped by putting a rifle over the wire and we both tried compressing it as much as possible as quick as possible.
I knew Rex was going to need help clearing the fence so I stuck my knee out as he ran and jumped but didn’t get proper leverage off my knee and was about to land right on top of the wire when I quickly stuck my arms underneath him and helped throw him over as the other Marine grabbed his collar to pull him. Rex landed on the first layer of wire, which cut my arms up pretty good, but he barely made a peep as his stomach was cut.
Now we’re in position, the vehicles block the front and the Marines secure the building. During the commotion a possible insurgent escapes and starts running down the street. He was unarmed and so instead of shooting I sent Rex after him. My blood was pumping harder than ever cause as a handler you dream about your dog getting his first real bite. Rex darted after him like a bullet, however as the person passed under a flickering street light I noticed that it was a young kid around 10 or 12 years old. Rex would have hurt him badly, so I called Rex off. Dogs are like a bullet you can call back, just as they are trained to attack they are also trained to stop pursuit if commanded to, which is exactly what I told him to do. He reluctantly came back to me and we finished with the mission.
From maneuvering stealthily in the brush, to clearing barbed wire fences, getting called off on a pursuit, Rex had performed better than I had expected, and this was our first mission! Not your average first mission for most dog teams I would say but my confidence in Rex went through the roof and we went on to complete dozens of missions and patrols. We endured firefights together, bombs, and much more. Rex found large caches of munitions and explosives throughout his time overseas and was welcomed with open arms in the units he helped assist. Who knows the amount of lives he saved from finding so many explosives.
After I got out of the Marines, Rex went on to do two more tours with his new handler. On his third tour he and his handler were at a checkpoint when they stepped on an IED(improvised explosive device). It was a direct hit. However, the bomb was buried so deep that the ground took most of the blast and threw Rex and his handler about 30 feet. Rex and his handler survived with minor wounds. Let me say that again, Rex and his handler were blown up and walked away from it-amazing. Overall Rex has spent about 25 months in Iraq. Rex not only performed admirably overseas, he also performed several presidential missions, and many other duties that earned many awards and letters of appreciation.
I realize in writing this that I could probably write a book on the dog and maybe will one day, but I had to get this post out because I miss him. When Rex first arrived at Pendleton he was one of about 10 dogs to arrive within a year to get Pendleton’s K9 unit up and running again. Now there is anywhere from 40-60 plus dogs at Pendleton and Rex and Bruno(the late Sgt Adam Cann’s mwd) are the only ones left from the original group sent to restore the kennels.
Rex has lived an amazing working dog’s life. I wish every handler can feel the amount in pride in their dog as I have in Rex.