Military police honor K-9 team member
His aggressiveness and brute strength make him too risky to be put up for adoption. Santo was euthanized on June 19 due to the extent of his ailments.
Military Working Dog Santo, a patrol and explosive detection dog with Military Police Company, Security Battalion, received a Navy Achievement Medal June 18 for his extensive work both here and as the first MWD deployed from here. Cpl. Richard Bock, dog handler with Military Police Co., Security Bn., here, accepted the award for Santo. Bock had been taking care of Santo since his former trainer left Security Bn. following he and Santo’s second deployment.
The 129-pound German Shepherd, born in Czechoslovakia, became the first military working dog to deploy from Marine Corps Base Quantico in 2004 when he was sent to Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Dana L. Brown, the kennel master at MilitaryPolice Company, Security Battalion, chose Santo and his handler, Cpl. Donald R. Paldino, because of how well they worked together.
‘‘[Santo] and his handler were an incredible team. They spent four years together and were a solid team all around,” said Brown.
While at MCB Quantico, Santo performed more than 20,000 vehicle searches, 85 health and comfort inspections and 42 building searches. His nose also helped Marines in Iraq when he found a large weapons cache consisting of more than 2,000 7.62 rounds, 20 mortar rounds, 12 rocket propelled grenade rounds and various other bomb-making materials. He earned a reputation as the ‘‘most feared dog in the kennel.”
‘‘I trusted him just as much as I trusted any other Marine. When things go bad people have uncontrollable thoughts [about the situation]; a second of hesitation,” said Paldino, now a civilian working as the director of K9 operations for S.E.A.L. Security Solutions, a private security firm. ‘‘Most dogs don’t have that reaction, there’s no second thought. It’s ‘do it because you’re told to do it, do it because you want to do it and that was the bottom line.’”
Santo’s exceptional sense of smell and aggressive nature gave the Marinesdeployed with him the confidence to complete the mission while patrolling the streets of Fallujah.
‘‘I felt more secure [with Santo] – more importantly – I think the people I was attached to felt more secure,” said Paldino, of Oxford, Mass. ‘‘He had an unbelievable nose; he was really good at finding explosives. He gave everybody a sense of security, not just me.”
A hip injury slowed Santo down after his first deployment but not enough to keep him from returning to Iraq in 2006 to help support the troops in Ramadi.
Cpl. Donald R. Paldino, an MP attached to 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, gives his partner, Santo, a 4-year-old Czechoslovakian Shepherd, time to stretch his legs at an outpost near Fallujah, Iraq. Paldino ensures Santo stays cool despite the Iraqi heat, 16 July 2004.
Hip dysplasia, a common cause of arthritis in canine, and lumbosacral disease, a condition where the nerves and spinal cord become compressed as they pass through the lower spine, set in following Santo’s second deployment. The ailments made it difficult for him to move around, said Brown. These injuries kept Santo from deploying again. Also, the same traits that earned Santo his NAM lead to his untimely death.
‘‘We’ve been taking him out and grooming him, getting him some exercise [since his last deployment],” said Cpl. Richard Bock, who has been in charge of taking care of Santo since Paldino left Quantico.
‘‘He deserves this recognition,” said Brown. ‘‘He has been an amazing dog and definitely the most memorable in my 14 years in the military working dog field.”
There is currently an effort to have Santo’s body preserved and added to the K9 exhibit at the Marine Corps History Museum at MCB Quantico.
— Correspondent firstname.lastname@example.org