5 Secrets Revealed in Silent Heroes. The Military Chain of Command

Political secrets revealed in Silent Heroes

Books that reveal stories shared in a whisper, confidential political decisions with a major global impact, or secrets in the military chain of command always excite me. As a reader, I tend to pick them from the shelf; as a writer, I create them. My first novel including such hush-hushed military secrecy is Silent Heroes.

The rules of engagement and why they are a hush-hushed secret

5 serets hidden in Silent Heroes, secrets-military-chain-command
Silent Heroes: secrets in the military chain of command

Few civilians are aware of what a chain in command entails in a war situation. While researching various details of the War in Afghanistan, from its history to the various political fractions involved, from the origins of nation-building to real-life scenarios, I learned about the rules of engagement. These are “the internal rules or directives among military forces that define the circumstances, conditions, degree, and manner in which the use of force, or actions which might be construed as provocative, may be applied” (Wikipedia).

The War in Afghanistan enters its 18th year. Those who were born when it started can now legally fight in it, as soldiers. During these near two decades, just as the means of fighting a war have changed, so have the rule of engagement.

Did you know that what sets aside a Taliban soldier from an Afghan civilian is only the weapon a Taliban carries? Once he sets the weapon down he instantly becomes a civilian and no allied soldier can shoot him, such are the rules of engagement nowadays.

The secret holes of the military chain of command

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for
Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for – New Contemporary Fiction by Patricia Furstenberg

The second piece of secret information I discovered was the hols in the military chain of command that has to be followed in certain war situations.

As collateral damage is a big concern for U.S. Military and U.S. politicians (and with understandable reasons). For this reason, if Taliban fighters shoot from mosques, ignoring their holy ground symbolism, the U.S. soldiers and their allies have to pass an entire chain in command, ask for permission to shoot back and even wait for clearance before they can defend themselves and answer to fire with fire.

‘Marcos remembered the time a huge wave caught him by surprise and it took him with, rolling him over and over until he felt each bone in his body crushed while the roaring of an express train resonated through his ears. Then all was dead quiet. When he opened his eyes he was lying down at the feet of a minaret. He was sure he’d seen a Taliban fighter at its top, yet he knew he can’t just open fire; he had to call up the chain of command and request authorization to fire back, since that was a mosque. The Taliban fighter was looking down at him laughing, and Marcos couldn’t do anything about it, he had to wait for the chain of command to clear him. He knew he will probably become another casualty while lying there, waiting for permission to shoot, so he tried to get up and run for cover. But he couldn’t, his shoulders were glued to the ground and the forest was growing all around him while he was still waiting for clearance to shoot.’

Silent Heroes (Quote on secrets of the military chain of command)

Waiting for clearance from the chain of command, no matter how it endangers the life of a U.S. or allied soldier, is the real-life situation of the War in Afghanistan, yet how many of us are aware of these secret holes in the military chain of command?

In Silent Heroes I piled such real-life situations on top of my U.S. Marines and their British allies too. They will have to improvise to save their skin. How? And will they make it out unharmed?

News update

Lately, the US involvement in Afghanistan made the news’ headlines.
First was the publishing of the Afghanistan Papers, both “a revelation and a confirmation” – for “many who served in the Afghanistan war” revealing “years of deception by senior U.S. officials, who assured the public that progress was being made — when it wasn’t.”
I admit, I was not surprised by this as, during my research, I came across such information – and revealed it in my book, Silent Heroes.

‘Our friends didn’t have to die’ (said a US soldier who served in Helmans province in 2010)

as quoted by The Washington Post

Then there was an opinion piece in The Guardian, The Afghanistan war is more than a $1 trillion mistake, by Ben Armbruster, underlining what the Afghanistan Papers already revealed, that “a lot of people were killed, injured and subject to years, if not lifetimes, of psychological trauma and financial hardship because a bunch of men – yes, mostly men – in Washington didn’t want to admit publicly what they knew privately all along.”

A tragic aspect of the war in Afghanistan, emotionally and respectfully detailed in Silent Heroes.

And then there was the opinion piece in Al Jazeera, The Afghan war: A failure made in the USA written by Ahsan I Butt, Associate Professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University: “the US-made mess in Afghanistan has much to do with its failed policies and shoot-first-ask-questions-later attitude.”
This is incredible to read, as it is exactly the result of my research on the war in Afghanistan, and you can read all about it in my contemporary fiction book Silent Heroes.

Silent HeroesSilent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for

Amazon Reviews:

Have you read yet 5 Secrets Revealed in Silent Heroes. A Mysterious Underground Fortress? And there are three more secrets to be revealed. You can subscribe to my blog and never miss a post.

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5 Secrets Revealed in Silent Heroes. A Mysterious Underground Fortress

5 secrets hidden silent heroes - Qala-e-Bost fortress

I love books with secrets. Especially enigmatic locations kept hidden from the general public. While researching for my latest contemporary novel Silent Heroes, I uncovered five secrets and revealed them: one mysterious fortress buried underground, one hush-hushed by politicians, one too dangerous to be researched and shared with the world, one inconceivable in the 21st century, and one heartbreaking in its humanity.

Qala-e-Bost, Afghanistan’s secret fortress now featured in Silent Heroes

Unbeknown to many, near Lashkar Gah, in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, rises the great fortress of Qala-e-Bost, an 11th-century castle that overlooks the life-giving Afghan River of Helmand. This is the mysterious fortress whose secrets are ready to bury the Silent Heroes. But will they give in?

Qala-e-Bost fortress, Afghanistan, a mysterious location in Silent Heroes

“The stones of Qala-e-Boost have seen wars as well as the joys of celebrations. They have known wealth and ruin. Early hymns of the Zoroastrian religion, one of the oldest religions in the world, were once performed here. One of them was the Nowruz, the famous ceremony dedicated to the Sun and marking the Iranian New Year and the Spring Equinox. Along the years Bost fortress has been used as a guard post for the traditional caravan trade from Iran to India. The Mongols, then the Persians have been here too; the Arabs, even the Russians. Leaders and warriors came here as attested by the terracotta figurines, the inscribed seals, and the many coins discovered here, and then they left.
Still, Bost remained.”

Silent Heroes
Qala-e-Bost fortress secrets andquote from Silent Heroes

Qala-e-Bost, a mysterious fortress hidden underground

The fascinating and less known detail about Qala-e-Bost fortress is that its five levels are underground and few visual images are available, let alone descriptions of its deep buried secret chambers: “the heart of the fortress, its well, going five levels underground. The well is a maze of corridors, stairs, secret rooms, and side entrances” (Silent Heroes).

So I threw my soldiers in a fight in the dark belly of Qala-e-Bost fortress. The idea that there are concealed, less-known meanings behind things in plain sight always fires my imagination.

Who dares enter the belly of the beast?

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for Patricia FurstenbergSilent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for is a work of contemporary fiction inspired by the War in Afghanistan.

Amazon 5 Stars Review:
It is clear that the author did an amazing amount of research for this book. Over the last few years I have read many, many book written by our soldiers. All of these books were based on each soldier’s experiences. The author of “Silent Heroes” has captured the experiences of our military men and women. I highly recommend this book and I plan to read more book by this author.

Silent Heroes

You can BUY Silent Heroes now from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Australia, Amazon Canada, or Amazon Worldwide: link here to your preferred Amazon website.

Four more mysteries will be revealed soon. Subscribe to my newsletter and never miss a post.

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A Resultant Force, Women Writing about War

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg - Women writing contemporary war books

As an author, I am the resultant force of the books I read, of the places I visit. As a woman, I am the resultant force of the women who influenced my life – my mother, my grandmothers, my daughter, my girl friends, my female role models. As a human being, I am one of the forces shaping my children’s future; albeit a tiny one, I can point forward and upwards.
Scientia potetia est.

It was an honor to have my article on Why We Need Contemporary War Fiction Written by Women published on Books By Women:

At some stage during my adult life, and this will astound my history teacher if she’d discover, I found myself fascinated by the thought of writing fiction inspired by contemporary events.

A thread that brought me here might have been reading Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” in my teens; another one, witnessing the terrorist attack on World Trade Center on Live TV while pregnant with my daughter. A definite thread, silky and alluring, came from enjoying historical fiction by Philippa Gregory and Diana Gabaldon. While the most recent one, still carding itself, draws from my son’s keen interest in war computer games and my own, in military working dogs.

Contemporary war fiction penned by women pales in comparison to the amount of books written by men. Be it in poetry or prose, throughout the centuries an author, not an authoress, depicted more often the combat male protagonist. As Homer put it in his Iliad, “war will be men’s business”.

Why so, since countless notable women were not afraid of fighting battles? The Greek goddess Athena is shown as a warrior, the patron of justice, strategic warfare, mathematics, and arts. The Celtic goddess Brigid is the patron of poetry and smithcraft. Scathach is an Irish Goddess who taught the martial arts. The Amazons were fierce warrior women and there were even gladiator women, gladiatrices, although Juvenal, the Roman poet of those times, depicted them as a mere novelty. History is splattered with the blood of innumerable women warriors: Hatshepsut, Queen Boudicca, Queen Samsi of Arabia, the Trung Sisters from Vietnam, Empress Theodora of Byzantium, Olga of Russia, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Mary I and Elizabeth I of England. 

History also showed us that women who took to war were willingly followed by an army of men and women and that they won their battles much to their opponent’s dismay. Is it the fact that women can stand up for themselves in times of political upheaval what worries men or the fact that women could, eventually, bulldoze them? 

With such role models, although nowadays women have changed spear for pen, where has history brought us?

Read my entire article here.

With thanks to Barbara Bos for so graciously facilitating the publishing of my piece.

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for Patricia FurstenbergSilent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for is my latest book release, a thrilling read about military dogs, soldiers and the populace caught in the War in Afghanistan.

You can read the opening pages right here, on my website.

Read about the symbolism depicted in this novel.

Find out what the readers of Silent Heroes have to say.

Buy Silent Heroes from Amazon UK, Amazon US or use the international Amazon link here.

Silent Heroes is also available in LARGE PRINT.

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Military Working Dogs of Gulf War, Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan

Silent Heroes of war

Saving human lives during military conflicts takes first stage. Welcome to some amazing stories about Military Working Dogs involved in the Gulf, Iraq & Afghanistan War.

I watch my dogs basking in the sun, the tip of their tail swishing just as I think of them, standing against the door frame. Can they read my mind? I know they will shake off their dreams and follow me as I stroll around the yard.
Their heart chooses to follow mine.
That’s how dogs are.

118 Military Working Dog Teams were deployed to the Gulf region for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. In the War on Terrorism a big threat are explosives hidden on a person, in a vehicle, or a roadside location. Therefore, Explosives Detection Dogs were, and still are, specially trained to alert when they sense the specific chemicals used in explosives, either packed, hidden or even as powder remains on the humans that handled them or on their clothes . Explosive Dogs are deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and in many other US locations for this purpose alone.

Military Working  Dogs Gulf Iraq Afghanistan

2000, Robby’s Law, one reason to cheer for former President Clinton

Before President Clinton passed “Robby’s Law” in 2000, military working dogs were considered “military surplus equipment” and deemed unfit to adjust to civilian life. This meant that once the military could no longer use, need or afford a canine, the once treasure four-legged was either released or euthanized instead of honored. After “Robby’s Law” was passed, handlers (who had already formed a strong bond with their canine mate) and their families were first to be offered the opportunity at adopting these military animals at the completion of their service.

Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.

Some soldiers even used their military operational bonus to buy the dog that served with them.

MWD watching and soldier sleeping, Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
MWD watching and soldier sleeping – Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.

“Fluffy was my Comrade in arms first, then he walked into my heart as my friend and became my buddy then he became part of my family.
He was not a pet! He was a soldier first. During our time in Iraq he checked on me and I checked on him. He was one of the team, he was my battle buddy! If I sat down he would sit no farther than five feet away. If I got up and moved ten feet he would get up and move ten feet. “

Russel, on K920Fluffy (Iraq War vet) – USAWarDogs.org
Photo of U.S. Army veteran Joe Steenbeke with military dog Tess in Afghanistan Credit Reunite Joe and Tess, Facebook
Photo of U.S. Army veteran Joe Steenbeke with military dog Tess in Afghanistan Credit Reunite Joe and Tess, Facebook

For the dog training program, Iraq came too late after Vietnam

The first 30 dog teams sent into Iraq in 2004 were the “guinea pigs”, all tactical lessons and experience gained during the Vietnam war lost. What made it worthwhile for the dog teams were the canines, with their honest, open and loving personalities.

Iraq  Afghanistan - buddies, militry dog and soldier, Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.

The Paradogs: the parachuting dogs of war

By 2008 German Shepherd dogs already jumped from aircrafts at 25,000ft, strapped to a member of the special forces assault teams. Later, Belgian Malinois dogs, lighter and stubbier, were considered better for the tandem parachute jumping and rappelling operations often undertaken by SEAL teams. The tandem jumping was done to protect the canines on landing.

Ready for tandem jumping. Source Foreign Policy
Ready for tandem jumping. Source Foreign Policy

A military dog would only be allowed to jump solo form a helicopter if he lands in water and only if properly outfitted with a flotation vest. Such dogs were trained to accompany soldiers on ‘High Altitude High Opening’ (HAHO) parachute jumps. After landing, men and MWDs would still have to travel 20 miles to their targets.

Military dogs trained to accompany soldiers on 'High Altitude High Opening' (HAHO) parachute jumps. Source Foreign Policy
Military dogs trained to accompany soldiers on ‘High Altitude High Opening’ (HAHO) parachute jumps. Source Foreign Policy

These MWDs had small cameras fixed to their heads and, trained to penetrate the enemy lines before their human partners, would hunt for Taliban or insurgent hideouts. The cameras will sent live images back to the troops while the dogs warn of possible ambushes.

MWD dogs equipped with Canine Tactical Assault Vests
MWD dogs equipped with Canine Tactical Assault Vests

The elite American unit, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, commonly known as Delta Force, has pioneered the parachute technique from heights over 20,000ft.

U.S. Army soldier with the 10th Special Forces Group and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during water training over the Gulf of Mexico:

U.S. Army soldier with the 10th Special Forces Group and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during water training over the Gulf of Mexico. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez, U.S. Air Force.
Training over the Gulf of Mexico. MWDs show no fear. A military dog would only be allowed to jump solo form a helicopter if he lands in water

2009: U.S. Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and a MWD wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on July 2, 2009:

U.S. Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on July 2, 2009
Soldiers and Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.

Navy Seal teams are trained to parachute from great heights and deploy out of helicopters with dogs. In 2010 the Seals bought four waterproof tactical vests for their dogs that featured infrared and night-vision cameras and an ‘intruder communication system’ able to penetrate concrete walls. The MWD’s handlers — using a three-inch monitor from as far as 1,000 yards away — could immediately see what the dogs were seeing. The vests, which come in coyote tan and camouflage, let handlers communicate with the dogs through a speaker and were strong enough to protect the dogs from harm due to everything, from bullets to ice picks. The four vests together cost over $86,000 at the time, says a 2011 NY Times article.

MWD K9 gear - best body Armor available for military dogs. Source K9 Storm
MWD K9 gear – the best body Armor for military dogs. Source K9 Storm

The world record for highest man-dog parachute jump

In 2011 U.S. Military Handler Mike Forsythe, a former US Navy SEAL turned canine parachute instructor for military and search & rescue units and his dog Cara, strapped on a K9 Storm Vest tactical body armor and fitted an oxygen mask, jumped in tandem from over 30,100 feet, the altitude at which transoceanic passenger jets fly. Cara is a Belgian Malinois.

Highest man-dog parachute jump. Mike Forsythe and Cara. Photo source: K9 Storm Inc Handout Reuters
Highest man-dog parachute jump. Mike Forsythe and Cara. Photo source: K9 Storm Inc Handout Reuters

In October 2010 the Pentagon announced that after six years and $19 billion spent in the attempt to build the ultimate bomb detector technology, dogs were still the most accurate sniffers around. The rate of detection with the Pentagon’s fanciest equipment — drones and aerial detectors — was a 50 percent success rate, but when a dog was involved it rose an extra 30 percent.

War dog canine military service SEAL team repelling from a helicopter
War dog canine military service SEAL team repelling from a helicopter. Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.

Marines began a pilot program in Afghanistan with nine bomb-sniffing dogs, a number that reached approximately 650 at the end of 2011 and 2,800 active-duty dogs in 2013, making it the largest canine contingent in the world.

The MWD who took Osama bin Laden down

Not many know, but the 81 members of the American commando team who blitzed into Abbottabad, Pakistan, to capture and kill Osama bin Laden had a MWD with them. Some say he was the U.S.’s most courageous dog, yet little was known about him until recently. his name is Cairo and he is a Belgian Malinois.

MWD Cairo, the war dog who helped take Osama bin Laden down, the 81st member of SEAL team who blitzed into Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011
MWD Cairo, the war dog who helped take Osama bin Laden down, the 81st member of SEAL team who blitzed into Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011

MWDs in the War in Afghanistan

NATO soldier carries sniffing dog after gun battle in Kabul on April 16 2012. Source: Boston archive
A NATO soldier carries sniffing dog after gun battle in Kabul on April 16 2012. A brazen 18hrs Taliban attack on the capital ended when insurgents overcome heavy gunfire from Afghan led forces and pre-dawn air assaults from coalition helicopter. Source: Boston Archive

How MWDs contribute to the local Afghan economy

Maintaining a Military Base, building roads and maintaining them requires constant effort. Often local contractors are used, in an attempt to support the local (Afghan) economy. But to keep the soldiers safe, each local truck or worker has to be checked for possible hidden explosives (they are aware of or not). Here is where Vehicle Search dogs play an important role.

There is always peace between a MWD, a Marine and local Afghan children caught in the war.
There is always peace between a MWD, a Marine and local Afghan children caught in the war.

Surviving the harsh climate in Afghanistan

If you wondered how the MWDs survive the harsh climate of Afghanistan, know that (some) of their kennels are equipped with air conditioning and, often, if an army base has a swimming pool – that definitely is not for the benefit of the humans.

LCpl Natasha Mooney on patrol with Panchio in Helmand Province - Source British Army blog
LCpl Natasha Mooney on patrol with Panchio in Helmand Province, Afghanistan

Dog Breeds preferred as MWDs by U.S. Military

U.S. military prefers mostly German and Dutch shepherds and Belgian Malinois, breeds because they are aggressive, smart, loyal and athletic.

Training together: Staff Sgt. Erick Martinez, a military dog handler uses an over-the-shoulder carry to hold his dog, Argo II, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The exercise helps build trust, loyalty, and teamwork. Source Foriegn Policy.
Staff Sgt. Erick Martinez, a military dog handler, uses an over-the-shoulder carry with Argo II during an exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The exercise helps build trust, loyalty and teamwork for Sergeant Martinez and Argo II, who have been working together for only two months. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Allen Stokes)

German Shepherd dogs are the standard breed because they are considered to be intelligent, dependable, predictable, easily trained, usually moderately aggressive, and can adapt quickly to almost any climatic conditions.

Buddies training together. Having each-other's  back. Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Buddies training together. Having each-other’s back.

Single-purpose dogs are used for one purpose only: sniffing out explosives or narcotics. Retrievers (Labrador, Golden or Chesapeake Bay) are preferred, also Viszlas, various short-and wire-haired pointers, Jack Russell terriers and even small poodles. These are all nose, no bite dogs. These dogs are trained to locate either drugs or explosives – never both. “When your dog makes an alert you need to know whether to run away and call the explosives people or whether to go arrest someone.”

Praying together. A military dog and his human handler, Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Praying together

It is empowering, yet worrisome to find out that military working dogs today train for such a diverse range of tasks: EDD (Explosive Detector Dog), NDD (Narcotics Detector Dog), SSD (Specialized Search Dog) – trained to work off leash, at long distances from their handler, in order to find explosives. SDD dogs work by hand signals, and can even receive commands via radio receivers they wear on their backs, attached to their bulletproof doggy vest, and TEDD (Tactical Explosive Detector Dog).

A dog can have up to 225 million olfactory receptors in his nose and the part of their brain devoted to scent is 40 times greater than that of a human.

“A dog can see through his nose.”

Mike Dowling, former Marine Corps dog handler, Iraq
MWD and his handler keeping watch together, Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Keeping watch together

More single purpose dogs, like the dogs I depicted in my latest novel Silent Heroes: CTD (Combat Tracker Dog) trained to detect where IEDs and weapons caches are located; MDD (Mine Detection Dog): these dogs do slow off-leash searches for buried mines and artillery; IDD (IED Detector Dog), this is a temporary program created to fulfill the urgent need for bomb dogs, especially in Afghanistan.

Never Give Up - A MWD hurt by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device), Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Never Give Up – A MWD hurt by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device)

Of course, there are dual-purpose dogs, multi-purpose canines, the special K-9 Corps of CIA.

What are vapor-wake dogs?

Scientists at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine have genetically bred and specially trained canines that are able do more than just detect stationary bombs or bomb-making materials. These MWDs can identify and alert their handler to the moving scent of explosive devices and materials left behind in the air.
If a suicide bomber walks through a crowd, these dogs would be able to tell him apart without ever tipping off the perpetrator.
The cost of breeding and training vapor-wake dogs is around $20,000 each, still less than the cost of training most MWDs.

U.S. sergeant Matthew Templet and his bomb-sniffing dog Basco search for the explosives in an abandoned house in Haji, Ghaffar village, during a clearance patrol in Zari district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan on Dec. 27, 2010.Source Foreign Policy
U.S. sergeant Matthew Templet and his bomb-sniffing dog Basco search for the explosives in an abandoned house in Haji, Ghaffar village, during a clearance patrol in Zari district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan on Dec. 27, 2010. Source Foreign Policy

The Difference between a German Shepherd and a Belgian Malinois dog

But training is much more than teaching a dog commands. It is bonding, above anything else.

Dereck Stevens bonds with his military working dog before a practice drill at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Credit Bryce Harper for The New York Times.jpg
Dereck Stevens bonds with his military working dog before a practice drill at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Credit Bryce Harper for The New York Times

There is no count to the number of hidden bombs detected and the human lives saved by the MWDs today, yet it is certain that the use of these dogs marked a pivotal moment for the coalition forces on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially when it comes to the moral of the troops and the freedom of movement for the ground patrols operating in combat areas.

U.S. Marines attached to 1st Battalion, 6th regiment, Charlie Company relax with their bomb-sniffing dogs Books and Good one in Huskers camp on the outskirts of Marjah in central Helmand, Afgganistan, on Jan. 25, 2010. Source Foreign Policy
U.S. Marines attached to 1st Battalion, 6th regiment, Charlie Company relax with their bomb-sniffing dogs Books and Good one in Huskers camp on the outskirts of Marjah in central Helmand, Afgganistan, on Jan. 25, 2010. Source Foreign Policy

The bond formed between military dogs and their human handlers is stronger than an outsider can imagine, helping the soldiers cope with a ghastly war.

Always by your side.
The bond between the human handler and the military dog goes very deep. Always by your side.

In crucial moments, when humans naturally tend to doubt themselves, a dog will sense the tension and still trust his handler, and this tips the situation in the favor of the human-dog team.

A dog sits at the grave of his owner, who died in conflict. Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
A dog sits at the grave of his owner, who died in conflict.

All dogs trained and used by the U.S. military are procured and trained by the 341st Military Working Dog Training Squadron, Lackland AFB, TX.

Marine war dogs memorial, Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Marine war dogs memorial
2012 army photo competition.Amateur Portrait category runner-up Cpl Dawson and his dog Lightning rest up in TCP West.Picture Captain Richard Willing MoD Crown Copyright via Getty Images
Army Photographic Competition 2012…(STRICTLY EMBARGOED UNTIL OCTOBER 10, 2012 00:01HRS BST) In this handout image supplied by the Ministry of Defence Crown Copyright, photo entitled ‘LIGHTNING AND HIS HANDLER’, depicting Cpl Dawson and his dog Lightning rest up in TCP West. (Army Amateur Portrait category runner up; Photo by Captain Richard Willing/MoD/Mandatory Credit Crown Copyright via Getty Images)

Doggles – goggles for dogs!

MWD with doggles, goggles for dogs, in an army helicopter, Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Doggles – it is all about protection

Dogs, the Silent Heroes of any war

Some might argue that the use of animals, and lately dogs, in war borders an ethical dilemma. Yet during conflicts, saving human lives (be it military or civilians, always dragged in combat) always takes first stage and it is certain that hundreds, if not thousands of men, women and children owe their life, in one way or another, to the military working dogs, MWDs, who served beside them.

Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.

My latest novel, Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for, was written with respect for the military life and the local traditions and beliefs of all of those caught in the War in Afghanistan.

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for, Military Working Dogs in Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan War.
Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for – New Contemporary Fiction by Patricia Furstenberg

Silent War Heroes page on my website contains part of the extensive knowledge I absorbed while researching for Silent Heroes as well as links to all my articles about the history of human-canine relationship and that of the military dogs. I hope you will stop by.

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War Dogs History after WW2 to the Fall of Berlin Wall

War Dogs History, WW2 to the Fall of Berlin Wall

Dogs have been man’s best friend from prehistorical times and they might have even helped the human brain evolve. Dogs joined kings in battles, proving indispensable so, one day, rigorous dog training began. Our beloved canines were amazing during WW1 in trenches, as ambulance and messenger dogs, and even as sled dogs. Lest we forget the amazing stories they were involved in during WW1, as cute mascots, military dogs made it into WW2 helping out the British, the Americans, with the first K-9 unit, and, with their unprejudiced hearts, the Germans and the Japanese. Did someone said paradogs? They are the flying dogs, indispensable during WW2.

After a military history that seemed to have snowballed between the Great War and the Second World War, what happened to these specially trained canine soldiers once dust settled over the Paris Peace Treaties?

Military Dogs during the Korean War

As there were still U.S. Army troops that remained in Korea after the end of WW2, due to the Cold War, they stayed put in the south after the Communist government was established in North Korea. Therefore more than one hundred U.S. military dogs were already stationed in Seoul at the outbreak of the Korean War on 25 June 1950.

Korean War - military dog and vet
Korean war – military dog and vet

The sentry dogs were quickly trained for combat situations. The the 26th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon was the U.S. dog sent unit to fight in Korea. Back home, the dogs were trained at the Army Dog Training Center at Fort Carson

“The 26th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon is cited for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services in direct support of combat operations in Korea during the period 12 June 1951 to 15 January 1953.

Korean War, General Orders Citation
Paradogs, parachuting dogs, Korean War
Paradogs, parachuting dogs, Korean War

Thoughts on deactivating the Army Dog Training Center at Fort Carson, in 1957:

“While fighting in Korea I was attacked and one of these dogs took over my attacker and I was able to recover my footing and escaped. Please reconsider.”

Frank Conanno, 1470 Third Street, West Babylon, N. Y.

“I am in the Army and was put into the scout dog platoon and trained dogs for nine months in the States and have had the same dog all the times. This dog STAR has saved my life and about twelve other men’s lives. I would like to know if there is any way that I could have him discharged the same time that I am. I would gladly pay the Government for the dog and take all the responsibility for him.
“I would appreciate it very much if you could help me in any way so I could take him home with me. This dog is not dangerous and would be suitable to civilian life.”

Cpl, Max Meyers, 26th Infantry, Scout Dog Platoon, APO #60 San Francisco, Calif.

At the end of he Korean War, some scout dogs were put on sentry duty at various Dog Platoons in the U.S.

Laika, first dog in space, 1957

Laika in training for Sputnik 2 mission. Source NASA
Laika in training for Sputnik 2 mission

Laika was he first dog in space, November 1957, on board of Sputnik 2, the second spacecraft launched into Earth orbit by the Soviet Union. Sadly, Laika survived for several orbits but died a few hours after the launch.
Laika was part husky or other Nordic breed, part terrier, once again proving that a brave heart is worth more than a pedigree.

The American press dubbed Laika Muttnik: mutt + suffix -nik

Military dogs during the Vietnam War

Below: two sniffer dogs that served in the Vietnam War, 1967, South Vietnam, with the 7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. Justin is left, and Cassius is right, pictured here with Lance Corporal Thomas Douglas and Cpl. Norman Leslie. Cpl Blackhurst, a radio operator, was killed in action in April 1971 while calling in a helicopter for a medical evacuation. The helicopter crashed, killing L Cpl. Blackhurst, another officer on the ground, as well as the medic on board.

Two sniffer dogs, 1967, South Vietnam, 7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. Justin, left, and Cassius,right, with Lance Corporal Thomas Douglas and Cpl. Norman Leslie. Cpl Blackhurst, a radio operator, was killed in action in April 1971 while calling in a helicopter for a medical evacuation. The helicopter crashed, killing L Cpl. Blackhurst, another officer on the ground, as well as the medic on board. Source Foreign Policy.
Two sniffer dogs, 1967, South Vietnam, 7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. Justin, left, and Cassius,right, with Lance Corporal Thomas Douglas and Cpl. Norman Leslie. Cpl Blackhurst, a radio operator, was killed in action in April 1971 while calling in a helicopter for a medical evacuation. The helicopter crashed, killing L Cpl. Blackhurst, another officer on the ground, as well as the medic on board.

In Vietnam there was a specialized requirement for tunnel dogs to detect and explore the tunnels exploited by the Vietnam Cong (National Liberation Front). The tunnel dwellers feared the U.S. dogs and used tactics to confuse them. For example they washed with GI soap and covered air vents with shirts taken from Americans so the dogs’ sense of smell would not be alerted.

A solder looking distraught though while holding his puppy dearly. Source: history collection
1968, a soldier and his beloved pet.

Sadly, the war dogs deployed to Vietnam during that conflict, 1955 – 1975, were classified as “surplus equipment” and left behind, no matter what their human handler and buddies believed. When U.S. troops withdrew in 1973, most of the 4,000 U.S. military dogs on the ground there were deemed “surplus equipment,” and left behind. Some were given to South Vietnamese forces, while others were euthanized.

Vietnam - Memorial Honoring the War Dogs who served in the Vietnam Nam War. Many lost their lives. Many had to be left behind. Source Imgur
Vietnam – Memorial Honoring the War Dogs who served in the Vietnam War. Many lost their lives. Many had to be left behind.

The Prison Riot of 1996 and the first dog body armor

The Winnipeg prison riot of 1996 might not have made the international news, but the two days of horror have been enough for Jim Slater, a former dog handler for the Winnipeg police department, who adjusted a human flak jacket on his canine partner Olaf.

“He was out working ahead of our lines,” he says. “I realized it would be a bad way for him to go down, stabbed with a screwdriver.”

Jim Slater for Money.com

Orders for more bullet proof jackets for dogs soon began to pour from fellow canine officers.

Olaf with his human handler and friend, Jim Slater, who fashioned the first dog bullet-proof vest. Source Winnipeg Free Press
Olaf with his human handler and friend, Jim Slater, who fashioned the first dog bullet-proof vest. Source Winnipeg Free Press

Military Working Dogs in the Israeli Special Forces

Founded in 1939 as Hagana ( when canines were used for the security of Jewish villages threatened by their Arab neighbors), the Oketz Unit (Oketz is Hebrew for “sting”) is the independent canine special forces (sayeret) unit of the Israel Defense Forces. Initially, Oketz trained dogs to attack kidnappers, but today their dogs undergo specialized training: attack, tracking, sniffer dogs (especially ammunition and hidden explosives) and finding people in collapsed buildings.

Israel_Defense Forces -Oketz Unit Soldier Source Wikipedia
Israel_Defense Forces -Oketz Unit Soldier

The Oketz military base has a pet cemetery, the final resting place of over 60 four-legged recruits. A testimony to the increasingly significant role that dogs have come to play in the ranks of the military and of the never ending bond that forms between them and their human handlers.

IDF K-9 (Oketz) Fighting Dogs Cemetery
IDF K-9 (Oketz) Fighting Dogs Cemetery

Fighting terrorists or taking part in the Gaza-Israel conflict, when a Israeli military dog happens to be torn apart by a land mine he is officially registered as missing in combat. “Our troops train as one – man and dog... It’s less about you and more about you and the dog together, what you can do together.”

Israel - Fighters of Oketz Unit train with their four paw comrades  Source: Censor.net.ua
Israel – Fighters of Oketz Unit train with their four paw comrades Source: Censor.net.ua

“Since 2002, soldiers and dogs from Oketz have been able to prevent at least 200 suicide attacks in the central region”

Israeli officer says.
“Oketz” is a special forces unit where man and his best friend serve together.
“Oketz” is a special forces unit where man and his best friend serve together.

Unlike other combat troops in the IDF, Oketz soldiers carry three liters of water on them during operations – 1.5 liters for themselves and 1.5 liters for the dogs. (Source: The Jerusalem Post)

In 2017, India announced that it had bought 30 Oketz attack dogs, bomb sniffers and chasers from Israel because “the new four-legged recruits to the Special Protection Group are considered the best in the world in sniffing out explosive booby-traps.”

The Jerusalem Post

Bosnian War

“On numerous occasions and on numerous deployments I have seen battle-hardened men pouring affection on stray dogs that happen to frequent their bases, and often try to adopt them. I remember in Bosnia, in the deep snow of Mrkonič Grad where we were holed-up in an old, windy bus depot, there was a huge mongrel, clearly the alpha male, that used to lay in the snow permanently surveying his empire, confident that as each unit passed through on its 6-month rotation, someone would make sure that he was well looked after.”

Lieutenant Colonel David Eastman, British Army Blog

1989, the Berlin Wall comes down

Before 9 November  1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, the East German Communist Government used over 6000 dogs for patrol along the wall, known as “Wall Dogs”. A special breed was raised for this reason alone, DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) Shepherd: dogs that excelled in tracking, were athletic, tough, had excellent climbing abilities, and could withstand extreme physical conditions and demands.

A Wall Dog at the Berlin Wall
A Wall Dog at the Berlin Wall

These dogs were tied to a 5m long chain attached to a steel cable that ran approximately 100m in length along the Berlin Wall. Their life was tough, were treated with extreme cruelty. Barely fed every two days, they went through a (short) life with barely any human contact. They soon developed the “wall syndrome”: barking incessantly even when they could hardly stand. Some were killed when they could no longer perform their guard duty, some strangled themselves when their own leads got tangled.

Berlin Wall, guard dogs kept on wires. Source: Historic Approaches to Sonic Encounter at the Berlin Wall Memorial
Berlin Wall, guard dogs kept on wires, running within the “death strip”. Source: Historic Approaches to Sonic Encounter at the Berlin Wall Memorial

After the Wall came down and these guard dogs were no longer needed, they were mostly abandoned. The German Association for the Protection of Animals did everything they could to save as many Wall dogs as possible. Some say that the adopted Wall dogs, when approaching the area where the wall once stood, would

“move as if tethered to an unseen leash, with absolute certainty, following the old border along its zigzags through the city”.

Is one happy ending enough?

Between the Wall Dogs, whose difficult reputation made it difficult for them to be adopted, two German Shepherds, Juro and Betty, and a Schnauzer called Valco, were adopted in March 1990 by a family in Mallorca, Spain.

Wall Dogs adopted: Juro, left, is one of the Wall dogs rescued by a family from Mallorca. Source: Mallorca Magazin.
Wall Dogs adopted: Juro, left, is one of the Wall dogs rescued by a family from Mallorca. Source: Mallorca Magazin.

The history of Military Working Dogs, or War Dogs, is long and sad. Have humankind learned anything from these amazing souls, who give unconditionally, forget and always offer second chances?

Next post: MWDs encountered in the Gulf War, Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. Do return for some amazing images and more canine history.

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