Archive for dog handler

State chamber honors two and four-legged heroes

Posted in air force teams, Military Working Dogs with tags , , , , , , on July 10, 2009 by wardogmarine

by Kevin Chandler
97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

7/8/2009 – ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — Staff Sgt. James Hall, 97th Security Forces kennel master, and his military working dog, Endy, were recent recipients of the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce Champions of Freedom award.

The two were recognized, along with six other military members throughout the state, for heroic actions while deployed overseas.
mwd endy
heroes on patrol
Staff Sgt. James Hall, 97th Security Forces kennel master and military working dog Endy help a convoy during patrols in Afghanistan. While deployed, Sergeant Hall and Endy recovered more than 800 pounds of explosives and weapons and uncovered three pressure plate improvised explosive devices buried in major roadways. The Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce recognized Sergeant Hall and Endy with the Champions of Freedom award in Oklahoma City, Okla June 30. (Courtesy photo)

From October 2008 to April 2009, Sergeant Hall and Endy were deployed to a forward operating location in Afghanistan. Attached to the 7th and 3rd Special Forces Groups, Sergeant Hall and Endy participated in over 25 combat operations, recovering over 800 pounds in weapons and explosives. They also discovered three buried pressure plate improvised explosive devices, enabling convoys to safely traverse the country.

“We were in harm’ s way almost 24/7,” Sergeant Hall said. While his seven years of experience as a K-9 handler prepared him for the demanding assignment, Sergeant Hall says his partner is the one reason he returned home safely.

“He (Endy) saved my life repeatedly,” Sergeant Hall explained, “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.”

According to Sergeant Hall, the duo proved so effective during their deployment as a result of the rapport they developed in the months prior to leaving. Endy, who has been in the military working dog program since 2003, developed such a strong bond with Sergeant Hall that when one sensed danger the other was able to respond. Endy also went to nearby Fort Sill to train on flying in helicopters in preparation for the deployment.

While this was Endy’s first deployment, the kennel here usually deploys four dogs every year. The dogs are trained for security patrols, clearing buildings and detecting drugs and explosives. The kennel currently houses seven dogs, two trained in detecting drugs and five used to detect explosives. The handlers also train rigorously in skills needed for security forces and K-9 handlers. For example, all handlers must be certified in K-9 self aid buddy care. This training proved useful to Sergeant Hall and Endy.

“We were out in the field, far away from any base, when Endy got caught in constantine wire. I got him out of the wire but he was sliced up pretty bad and I had to sew up his wounds right there,” Sergeant Hall said.

One of the more demanding tasks Sergeant Hall encountered upon his arrival to Afghanistan was assimilating into a Total Force unit environment. The unit was largely comprised of Army personnel, requiring Sergeant Hall and his counterparts to adapt to one another to develop cohesion.

“I had to tell them my capabilities so we could lay out how we were going to work together,” he explained. “It took a while for them to get to know me, to know that I would have their back.” Ultimately, it was Endy who broke the ice between Sergeant Hall and the other members of the unit.

“When we found an IED, the walls came down,” Sergeant Hall said with a grin.

While he has received several awards for his actions in Afghanistan, including the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the NATO Medal and the Army Combat Action Badge, Sergeant Hall said this award was something special.

“The state of Oklahoma really supports the military,” he said. “I believe everyone over there and here stateside deserves that kind of recognition.”


Fort Huachuca honors military working dog SSgt Britt

Posted in Army Dog teams, fallen dogs, Tribute Videos, Various Teams with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2008 by wardogmarine

Britt, military working dog, earns last rites befitting hero
Arizona Daily Star ^ | Carol Ann Alaimo 

Britt the bomb-sniffing dog, who served overseas in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, will get a funeral befitting a hero at Fort Huachuca. The ashes of the Army canine, recently put down due to neurological illness, will be interred behind the kennels that served as his home base as a military color guard looks on.

The 11-year-old German shepherd was euthanized on Sept. 11 and will be buried Dec. 3 at the Southern Arizona Army post.

Following tradition, taps will be played and a flag folded and presented to Sgt. Megan Hobson, Britt’s last handler.

“We lost a fallen comrade,” said Hobson, 24, a Utah native serving with the fort’s 18th Military Police Detachment.

“He may have been a piece of Army equipment, but I loved that dog,” said Hobson, who was with Britt when he died.

The German shepherd held the rank of staff sergeant — military dogs always outrank their handlers by one stripe, to discourage ill treatment of a superior. He had several Army medals to his credit and had worked as an explosives detector dog since 1999.

Overseas, he took part in numerous missions that likely saved lives, officials said. On patrol in Iraq, he unearthed weapons caches and makeshift bombs, and even collared an insurgent by chasing him down.

Hobson, Britt’s handler for three months, arranged for the canine to spend his final days in the Huachuca Mountains doing his favorite things.

“They let me have a couple days with him where he was just a dog, he didn’t have to work,” she recalled.

She bought him doggie delicacies — sirloin steak with mashed potatoes from a Texas Roadhouse restaurant — and they played fetch with his favorite squeaky toy.

Britt had a reputation for nipping people — “love bites” as the handlers call them — but Hobson, a rarity as a female handler, said she never saw that side of him. “I think he needed a woman in his life,” she said.

Fort Huachuca spokeswoman Tanja Linton said the fanfare at an Army dog’s funeral is not quite the same as honors rendered for a human.

Still, she said in a statement, the service aims to pay respects to “a different kind of soldier.”

“Britt served his country with loyalty and distinction,” she said.
● Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at 573-4138 or at

Air Force K9 Handler Married Soldier Who Saved Her Life

Posted in air force teams, Military Working Dogs, retired dogs, Working Dog News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2008 by wardogmarine

This is an incredible story. Love sure brings people together in the most unique ways. This Air Force military working dog team is struck by an IED(improvised explosive device). Although badly wounded, she and her military working dog Rex survive. The US Army medic who comes to her aid, saves her life, and they eventually get married. On top of all that, they are allowed to adopt her military working dog Rex. I wish these two all the best. The article, which is from the Air Force Times is below. 

Jamie’s war wounds

K-9 handler adopted her Air Force dog and married the soldier who saved her life. But she’s still struggling to recover

By Michael Hoffman – Staff writer, Air Force Times

Every married couple has a story about the first time they met. Mike and Jaime Mangan met on the battlefield in Iraq.

She was severely wounded, and he almost let her die.

Jaime, then an Air Force K-9 handler with the 21st Security Forces Squadron, was patrolling Baghdad on June 25, 2005, with her working dog, Rex. They were searching for improvised explosive devices.

On the drive back to base in her Humvee, Jamie drove over one.

The explosion flung her onto the street, where she lay unconscious. Mike, an Army sergeant first class with the 1159th Medical Company, was the first medic to reach her.

Jaime’s lungs had collapsed, her pelvis was shattered, and three vertebrae in her spine were fractured. Mike later discovered she also was bleeding internally, and her spleen had ruptured.

He had to make a snap decision: Should he spend time trying to save her or — due to the seriousness of her injuries — move on to help others who might have a better chance of surviving?

As luck would have it, several factors allowed him to focus on Jaime.

The helicopter that took him and other soldiers to the scene was ready to depart immediately, so he got there quicker than usual. In addition, he had a new medic working with him, so he could afford to spend time with Jaime.

“If I hadn’t had the extra medic that day and we had been five minutes later, she would have been someone I had to leave behind,” he said.

When Mike finally left Jaime’s side, he had no reason to think he would see her again. And he wouldn’t have — except for Rex.

The German shepherd survived the IED attack with only a singed nose and was found walking near the blast site. Jaime, rehabbing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., thought the dog had been killed, but once she found out he survived, she wanted to adopt him.

Rex was nowhere near retirement age, however, and under Title 10, U.S. Code 2583, the Air Force couldn’t release Rex if he was still young and healthy enough to work.

Jaime chose to fight that law, going public with her plea. Many newspapers and TV news stations carried stories on her plight. Soon, members of Congress and former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley took notice and backed her request.

On Dec. 30, 2005, President Bush signed into law a bill to allow working dogs to be adopted by their handlers after a traumatic event.

So Jaime was able to take Rex home. Together, they attended the 2006 State of the Union speech as guests of first lady Laura Bush in the House gallery.

“The entire process was a neat deal,” said Jaime’s dad, Randy Himes. “Rex is now part of the family. We have not one but two Air Force members now.”

Photo Courtesy of JOHN NORMILE
Mike and Jamie Mangan with Rex outside their farm in Smethport Pennsylvania on August 4. Jamie and Rex were a team in Iraq where Jamie was gravely injured by an IED in 2005. Mike Mangan was the first medic on the scene and saved her life, and they eventually were married.


Home from his deployment to Kirkuk, Iraq, Mike, 47, read about Jaime’s battle to bring Rex home and instantly recognized her face.

By then, Jaime was back at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. One of Mike’s friends, an officer at the base, sent pictures of the ceremony when she received the Purple Heart. The friend encouraged him to call her.

He did.

“I started off saying, ‘I want to apologize ahead of time if this upsets you, but my name is Mike and I was the flight medic the day you were wounded,’” he recalled.

“Then there was just silence and I was like, ‘Man, I stepped on it.’”

Stunned, Jaime eventually explained that she was trying to piece together exactly what happened after the IED exploded. She had no coherent memories for a month after the blast occurred. She and Mike talked for 45 minutes.

“She ended the conversation saying, ‘Thank you for saving my life.’ I just said, ‘Don’t say that to me on the telephone. I want to meet you,’” Mike said.

The two spoke on the phone and e-mailed for three months before Mike — who was stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. — took a trip to Peterson in August 2006.

“It was great that I got to say thank you,” she said. “I also got to fill in some voids and, at the same time, I felt the need to get to know him.”


Jaime, 29, had dreamed of becoming a veterinarian after her service, but when she returned to school, it was impossible for her to concentrate on coursework or study for tests.

“I used to be a straight-A student, but now I can’t learn new things or remember formulas,” she said.

The IED had left her with traumatic brain injury, the signature wound of the Iraq war.

She has the classic symptoms: memory loss, migraine headaches, difficulty concentrating and violent mood swings.

“In the beginning, you would call her and she would never call you back just because she could never remember,” said Staff Sgt. Tony Davis, a former co-worker.

Jaime still suffers excruciating pain that makes it hard to walk and to sleep at night, she said.

The jagged scars on her chest serve as a reminder of the multiple surgeries she endured. Doctors removed her spleen and fused her spine to the inside of her pelvis after the attack.

Jaime said it’s unlikely she’ll be able to have children.

She wanted to remain in uniform, but her injuries forced her to medically retire as a technical sergeant.

“Leaving the Air Force was real difficult for her,” Himes said.


Mike flew to Peterson for Jaime’s retirement ceremony, and the two began dating.

Jaime moved back East to her hometown of Smethport, Pa., to be closer to her family.

Mike retired from the Army in June 2007 as a first sergeant after 26 years and moved to Pennsylvania, where he works at the local hospital as a registered nurse.

Four months after they started dating, the two got married in a small ceremony in November 2006.

“I think Mike would have liked to have had a bigger wedding, but I just couldn’t handle it, and he understood that,” Jaime said.

Mike and Jaime lean on each other for support.

“There are good days and bad days,” he said. “There are days she is in so much pain she can’t even sleep and there are times her mind isn’t in the same ZIP code … but at least I know the source of the pain and it’s easier when you are both dealing with it,” Mike said.

Jaime now investigates child abuse cases as a social worker for the McKean County Children and Youth Services Agency.

She also volunteers as an emergency medical technician for the Hamlin Township fire department, where her father is the chief.

But what Jaime says she finds most therapeutic is working with Rex and taking care of her five horses.

“It’s mentally relaxing just brushing them,” she said. The horses “don’t judge you or demand anything from you. I just can’t connect with people anymore, it’s too stressful.”

However, Jaime says she could soon lose those horses because she won’t be able to afford them. The Veterans Affairs Department recently reduced her disability rating from 100 percent to 70 percent, following a medical re-examination. That cut her monthly disability payment from $2,500 to $1,100.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Mike Parker, who helps service members navigate the VA process, said it’s not uncommon for ratings to drop as a patient gets better.

But, Mike said he finds it difficult to understand.

“I don’t look at it as critical income, but for you to give up your organs like that, and then someone says it’s not worth that compensation anymore. Geez.”

Losing those organs isn’t what bothers Jaime the most, though. It’s her luck.

The hardest part of her recovery has been thinking of the more than 1,800 service members who have died from IED blasts.

“I have a hard time with the fact that I survived,” she said. “Maybe [Mike] should have just walked away. There are so many soldiers who have died that have kids and had families.

“I don’t have kids. I don’t have anyone that needed me there. I just wish I could have taken somebody else’s place.”

Soldier, dog more than a team

Posted in Army Dog teams, military working dog handlers, Military Working Dogs, Working Dog News with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2008 by wardogmarine

Great article here from The Mercury about military working dogs, specifically those at Fort Riley, Kansas. 

Paula Nardella, Fort Riley PAO-Article found in The Mercury in Manhattan, Kansas

It took Staff Sgt. Rico a few minutes to pinpoint the location of the C-4 explosive. Once he did, he alerted his team members to the potential threat by taking a seat. He was rewarded with a red chew toy, which he promptly chomped down on and then scratched the tattooed serial number on his ear.

  Rico is a bomb dog, and is handled by Sgt. Aaron Hill from Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 97th Military Police Battalion.

  Training for Rico and Hill typically begins around 5 a.m. and consists of problems to solve. The problems are hidden explosives that the dogs have to find. Explosives, such as C-4, normally are used, but when lightning strikes Fort Riley, the handlers use a chlorate kit, which gives off the same kind of, smell as other explosives, just not as strong.
  The task of planting the explosives goes to Staff Sgt. Lawson Wooten, who is the detachment’s training manager.
  ”I always tell them, ‘I’m planting like I’m trying to blow you up,”’ Wooten said.
  Wind also plays a part in the training. If the wind is blowing toward the dog, it can smell explosives sometimes from miles away. If the wind is blowing the wrong direction, however, the dog may not smell the explosive at all.
  ”Dogs have 220 million olfactory sensors in the nose, as opposed to our maybe 20 million,” Hill said.
  Future military working dogs are either purchased at around 1 year of age, or are bred from the puppy program. The puppy program is where breeders breed the puppies, and begin small steps of training as the puppy grows, with items such as tug toys.
  Most canines are typically retired around 10 to 12 years old, when their noses begin to get less sensitive to odors, such as the smell of explosives. After retirement, many of the dogs are adopted out and become house pets.
  Not all dogs find explosives, however. Some dogs are used to find narcotics, and other dogs are what are known as specialized search dogs. A new designation of dog is the combat tracker. Combat trackers are trained to start from an explosion’s detonation point and trace the scent of the person who set the explosive.
  ”They do all this for the love of their handler and the joy of that toy,” Wooten said.

  When soldiers deploy with their dogs, not only does that soldier have to take his combat gear, but also all of the dog’s equipment. Water bowls, food dishes, collars, leashes, play toys and reward toys are just some of the things soldiers must take for their dogs. Dog handlers are sent to Kuwait with a two-man team to help with the gear.
  ”I had 14 pieces of luggage,” Hill said.
  During the deployment, the dog and the handler sometimes live in the same room, which strengthens the bond between human and dog.
  According to Hill, cold packs like medics carry are an invaluable tool for a dog handler in a hot climate. He discovereed this during a mid-day mission in Iraq, when Rico began showing signs of heat stress. Hill opened two of the packs and put them against Rico’s body where his arteries were located. This helped Rico cool off and avoid a heat stroke.

  Hill said Rico is his best friend, and proves it by doing anything he can to make sure Rico is happy and healthy.
  He also hates to see Rico have to be sedated, like he was when he underwent a medical exam at Kansas State University to remove several cysts. A handler never really knows if their dog is going to come out of sedation, Hill said. One preventive action Hill takes to keep Rico from another sedation is brushing the dog’s teeth, he said.
  ”I can’t be away from him for more than five days, at the most,” Hill said.
  Rico is an independent dog, Hill said, and he worries that if he is gone too long, Rico will forget about him.
  Wooten said that emotions ”go down leash,” meaning that many times, the way a handler is feeling will affect their dog, and vice versa.
  Hill said that this ”down leash” idea is how Rico knows when he doesn’t feel well. When Hill is sick, he said, Rico doesn’t pull him as hard — unless there is a rabbit involved.
  Rico also knows when his handler is cold, and will curl up with Hill to share his body heat with him.

Saying goodbye
  ”I cried like a baby when I dropped my first dog,” said Spc. Timothy Connelly, a dog handler with the 97th MP Bn.
  Since bomb dogs are considered equipment that belongs to Fort Riley, unless they are deployed as a team, the dogs remain at Fort Riley no matter where their handlers go.
  ”When we get orders to go someplace else, you say your last goodbyes to your pup and hop on a plane,” Wooten said.
  Goodbyes also happen when a working dog retires or is euthanized. Upon retiring, many former military dogs can be adopted out. When medical problems arise, depending on the severity of the problem, there may be no choice except to put the dog down.
  ”That’s, I think, the worst part, when you have to put a dog down, especially a hard-working one,” Wooten said.
  Hill agreed, and told the story of a dog he worked with who had to be euthanized.
  ”I took him in and I was loving on him. They gave him the first shot to calm him down and put him into a sleep, and then they gave him the other one. I’m laying on him, and I can feel his heart beating and he’s breathing and I’m rubbing him, playing with him and then she gave him that other shot, which euthanized him. His chest didn’t rise and fall, his heart quit beating, and they literally had to pull me off of that dog, cause I just bawled,” he said.
  Hill had the dog cremated, and Marco now stays at home with Hill in a mahogany box.
  Wooten remembered he had a dog for three months and then found out the dog was going blind.
  ”They had to calm me down, because I new what that meant,” he said.

Dog tales from down range
    ”We’ve done air assaults,” Hill said. When doing an air assault with a dog, the dog gets attached to the handler and they go down the rope together. According to Hill, the problem is that since dogs don’t have opposable thumbs and can’t slide down the rope themselves, they have to be pushed out of the plane or helicopter and then followed by their handler.
  ”I was lucky I didn’t fall off the rope and die,” said Hill, laughing as he remembered Rico thrashing below him.
  Wooten remembered when Hill and Rico first redeployed to Fort Riley in December after serving in Iraq. On the return trip to the United States, Rico’s crate got broken due to cold weather. Since Wooten didn’t know about the broken crate, he brought a vehicle that did not have a built-in cage, and had to ride to the kennels by himself with Rico who sat in the back of the Explorer.
  ”I remember thinking, ‘Rico is going to eat me,” Wooten said.

Police dog squad is on the job

Posted in Foreign Dog Teams with tags , , , , , on September 2, 2008 by wardogmarine

With the dog squad on the scent escaping justice is unlikely.

By NICOLA WILLIAMS – Eastern Courier  in Auckland, New Zealand | Thursday, 28 August 2008

The 32-strong specialist team based in Ellerslie has the ultimate job for dog-loving police officers, using their four-legged colleagues to catch crims.

German shepherds are chosen for their combination of skills.

They are bred at Trentham in Wellington and training starts when the pups are eight to 10 weeks old.

Sergeant Dave Templeton says food treats are used to reward the pups when they obey commands.

At six months they go to a two-week puppy training course before fulltime training with a handler.

“Training never ends. When they are operational there is a whole raft of ongoing training to keep them up to speed,” Mr Templeton says.

They learn to track scents by following pieces of food.

“It’s then made harder and scenario-based,” says Mr Templeton.

Each handler’s working companion is also their pet.

“They are a very close member of the family. They blend in well at home and are pretty social,” officer in charge Peter Pedersen says.

He says you can see how much they love working as they leap enthusiastically into the van for each shift.

FIONA GOODALL/Eastern Courier
ON FORM: Senior constable Chris Harris puts his dog Marsh through his paces.

The dog squad attends about 7000 incidents a year.

Vacancies are few but when they arise they look for officers with at least two years’ policing experience and a love and affinity with animals, says Mr Pedersen.

The officers describe it as a hugely rewarding job.

“I like catching crooks and the ones you can’t catch the dogs can,” says Mr Templeton.

The dogs eat a high performance diet like an athlete and have an average working life of about seven years.

They have distinctive personalities with different strengths and weaknesses.

Despite being trained identically they end up tracking in different ways, each having different attributes that make them more suitable for certain sorts of jobs over others.

When on a lead the dogs pull stronger and faster when the scent is fresh, so police know the person has recently been in the area and might still be near by.

They also have specialist narcotics and explosives detector dogs.

A recent development is using dogs to track blood.

Chemicals have a destructive effect on samples and dogs are able to find blood without contaminating the sample.

“It’s an evolving field internationally,” says Mr Templeton.

“If it’s got a scent you can teach them to find it,” he says.

Mr Pedersen says during demonstrations a dog will be given the command to chase and bite the arm of someone posing as an offender and the next minute be friendly and receptive to pats from children in the crowd.

The job is a dynamic career that doesn’t feel like work because their love of dogs makes it more like a hobby, he says.

Police hero Carts remembered

Posted in Foreign Dog Teams with tags , , , , , , , on September 2, 2008 by wardogmarine

From the Australian Illawarra Mercury

A SMALL corner of the Goulburn Police Academy bears testament to the bravery of Carts, the police dog killed in the line of duty at Corrimal in December.

Police were devastated and the community outraged when Carts was stabbed twice while in pursuit of a Balgownie teenager, and later died from his injuries.

The youth was initially charged with the killing, but the charge was subsequently withdrawn.

At yesterday’s graduation ceremony for two legged police officers, new recruits of the four-legged variety were also introduced.

Three new police dogs and two drug detection dogs enjoyed their own coming out parade, while 299 human recruits were sworn in.

Brave servant: Police Dog Carts during a training routine. His training continued throught his police career. Carts was killed in the line of duty at Corrimal in December.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and Carts’ former handler David Williamson added the slain dog’s name to a memorial wall dedicated to police horses and dogs killed in the line of duty.

Police Dog Carts’ name joins Police Dog Sam, Police Dog Boss and Police Dog Titan.

The memorial was built to recognise the importance police horses and dogs play in supporting front line police work.

Acting inspector Tony Irons from the NSW police dog unit said the dogs provided support 24 hours a day, seven days a week to police out in the field.

He said the bond between the dogs and their handlers went far beyond a working relationship.

“The dog and his handler are a team. At the end of shift, the dog will go home with that handler and live with the family,” Inspector Irons said.

“The loss of a dog to the handler’s family is immense. It’s a very strong bond.

“The loss of Police Dog Carts was greatly felt amongst police and the community.

“His legacy will live on through the memorial that was unveiled today.”

He said apart from the emotional attachment to the animals, the dogs are highly trained and valued members of the team.

“Our dogs undergo 16 weeks’ initial training to get the dog to a basic operational level, and the training is ongoing for the rest of their working life.

“They are trained in tracking and searching, property searching, searching for missing people and criminals and criminal apprehension.

“We are on the front line. The dog unit is called in when other police have lost an offender or are wanting that bit of extra support in arresting an offender.”

At the ceremony, tribute was paid to Senior Constable Brett Williams, who was Carts’ handler at the time of the stabbing.

Also on Friday, the PD Titan Memorial Award, instigated in memory of Police Dog Titan who was killed in the line of duty during in Sydney in 2004, was awarded to Leading Senior Constable Matthew Warwick and Police Dog Riggs. The pair showed bravery while attending a siege at Rylstone, in which an offender was pursued and arrested without serious injury to police or the suspect.

Carts was named after Constable David Carty, who was stabbed in an off duty incident in 2007.

In May, Carts was recognised by the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia for his diligent service. Since joining the force in 2002, Carts achievements included finding missing persons and tracking offenders for serious crimes including sexual assault and armed robberies.

SGT Adam Leigh Cann-Semper Fi War Dog

Posted in fallen handlers, military working dog handlers, Tribute Videos with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2008 by wardogmarine

Adam and BrunoEveryday we hear about many of or our men and women in our armed forces dying while fighting the war on terror. It has become so common to see headlines that say another military member has died that most of us have become numb to this kind of news. We glance at the headline and then move on. But to others those men and women mean so much more than just another statistic in the news. In their families and their hometowns they are a child, a sibling, an inspiration,  a teacher, a classmate, a teammate, a parent, and so many other meanings. Well Sgt. Adam Cann was one of my best friends.

Adam Cann is from Davie, Florida and he died on January 5th, 2006 in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, he was 23 years old. He came to Camp Pendleton in the fall of 2002. He followed his older brother Justin and enlisted in the Marines in 2000. He had done a year tour in Okinawa prior to coming to us at Pendleton and he brought both experience and leadership. He was tough and full of ambition and had a never back down mentality. In fact, we would often have to back him in confrontations he would get into over the weekends. However, if there were anyone I would want to be in a fighting hole with it would be Adam. They guy was as dedicated and loyal Marine I had ever met. He loved being a dog handler, but he loved being a Marine even more. When you love what you do you usually do well at it. Well Adam was an excellent Marine and a fantastic dog handler. He constantly pushed himself and others to be better.

Adam’s dog Bruno was not the ideal dog a handler would like to be partnered with. Bruno came to Pendleton as a young newly certified dog at the same time Adam arrived. Bruno displayed a submissive personality and didn’t seem to be very tough. We would often tease Adam about his “pet” dog. However, under Adam’s guidance, Bruno made great strides  and eventually Bruno became a tough, aggressive, very reliable dog. Through Adam’s hard work and persistence, Bruno and Adam had become one of Pendleton’s premier dog teams. Adam’s hard work rubbed off on everyone else as we all competed to be the best teams we could be.

Adam and Bruno went on to do two tours in Iraq. While overseas Adam was never one to stay at the base and work the gates. He volunteered for every mission and patrol he could. In fact, after Adam’s first tour ended he volunteered to immediately go back onto his second tour without taking much of a break. The guy just loved being in the action. In fact, the day Adam died, Adam wasn’t even supposed to be there either. He had just come off some missions in the city when he got back and saw that two other dog teams, Sgt Jesse Maldonaldo and Cpl Brendan Poelart, were about to go out on another one. They had told him he didn’t have to go but Adam refused and insisted he go with them. 

There was an Iraqi police recruiting event going on and they were tasked to help provide security to the area. There was a line of Iraqi’s waiting their turn to be interviewed outside of the compound Adam was helping secure when somehow a suicide bomber had snuck into the middle of the line. The bomber set himself off and killed many of the Iraqi’s in the line and wounded dozens more. Sgt Maldonaldo was towards the front of the line, Cpl Poelart was toward the rear and Adam was in the middle with no one between him and the bomber and took the full hit of the blast. A US soldier was also killed and many others wounded including Jesse and Brendan. However, someone who wasn’t killed was Adam’s dog Bruno. Bruno survived the blast with minor wounds. As Adam lay there Bruno laid next to him and put his head on Adam’s chest. Bruno is still apart of the Camp Pendleton unit today.

I remember all the great times Adam, myself, and all the Marines had together over those couple years. Adam, myself, and another good friend of ours Sgt. Jason Cannon all loved football and every Sunday we would go to a bar in Oceanside called “Rookies” to watch all of our favorite teams and talk smack to one another. Adam was a die hard Miami Dolphin fan, being from Northern California I am a Oakland Raider fan, and Jason from Tennessee was a die heard Titan fan. We would each wear our team jerseys and watch football all day. As good as a Marine Adam was he was just as good as a friend. Prior to Adam leaving on his last tour I had just gotten out of the Marines and was in a transition period. Adam had shared an apartment with Sgt Maldonaldo and Maldonaldo’sgirlfriend. He allowed me to stay in his room when he left until I found a place to stay. I had just started moving all of my things to a new place when I found out about him. I helped his brother Justin pack all of his belongings up. Ask any Marine who knew him, and they would all describe him in similar ways, he was a true Marine, loved all the action, and you could count on him with your life.

Adam is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.