Perhaps it was my medical training, but I enjoyed learning about Camp Bastion (later Camp Shorabak), British Army Base and state of the art medical facility and the largest military camp built overseas after World War II. The camp started in 2005 with just a few tents as a Tactical Landing Zone set up by two Royal Air Force Traffic Controllers. They were looking for a safe place to fly supplies for the troops who were to be sent to the southern province of Helmand, Afghanistan.
The camp’s first runway, operational in 2007, was capable of landing C-17’s direct from the United Kingdom. In 2011, the camp’s airfield and heliport handled up to 600 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft movements every day for combat, medical and logistics flights. A helicopter from Bastion could reach an injured soldier in less than 19 minutes. The most serious cases could be sent to the UK in less than 24 hours.
‘By the MEDEVAC helicopter, two figures in commando uniform strode towards the four Marines clustered around Tommy, carrying a collapsible stretcher. The MEDEVAC medic introduces herself as Corporal Bethany Welsh with the Camp Bastion’s Joint Forces Medical Group.’
Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
Camp Bastion housed 30 000 people and it even had its own Pizza Hut. The US Marines were housed in the area called Camp Leatherneck. Afghan security forces had their own compound, Camp Shorabak.
True to the historical facts, even Prince Harry makes a blitz apparition in Silent Heroes.
Camp Bastion’s Hospital (operational until 22 September 2014) was operated by (are you ready?) personnel of the British Army, Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force of the Joint Force Medical Group and medical assets from the US Army. Their medical staff included Orthopaedic Surgeons, General Surgeons, Anaesthetists, Nurses and Medics. At Camp Bation’s Hospital were brought all the wounded military personnel from the British, US and other Nato-led security missions, ISAF, fighting in Helmand Province. This was the main place for treatment; from here they were further evacuated to the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Of course, Afghan nationals were also treated at Camp Bastion’s Hospital, including the victims of accidental injuries and road traffic collisions – simply because Afghan state hospital had very little (if any) supplies and medics.
It is here that Rafik arrives in his journey through Silent Heroes, at Camp Bastion. Was he scared? Was he hurt? Will he make it further?
‘It was during this time that the British Army, part of IASF, built the first tents of what was to become Camp Bastion, Field Hospital, and MTF, Medical Treatment Facility, Helmand Territory, Southern Afghanistan. The first medical outpost was a tented construction, much like a scene out of M.A.S.H., minus Captain Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce mixing his very, very dry martinis, plus plenty of military and civilian casualties. It soon morphed into the most famous and busiest trauma hospital in the world. Nearly thirty thousand people, Marines, British soldiers, medical personnel and contractors were confined to an eight square miles area, a world completely separated from the country around them.’
Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
‘The room went on and on as the boy began to glide. His entire village could fit inside this colossal building, Rafik thought, his eyes darting around, his ears pounding with the beats of his own heart. The air had an acidic undertone and it soon made his nose dry, his tongue sticking to his cheeks. Along the walls, he noticed pictures with signs and lots of words. The largest one, green like the grass with four big bold white letters and the picture of a man running, he could read that one. His stomach fluttered. It said “exit”. That was the only sign he could read. Here and there paper pictures of smiling people and beautiful gardens. And light, lots of light inside, pouring through long rectangle-shaped windows in the ceiling.’
Rafik will journey further through Silent Heroes, past Camp Bastion. Where will the war carry him next, a child of only eight years old, like a leaf caught in a desert sandstorm? Come back to find out. Soon…
What happened across the Pond, in the United States?
Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor the US citizens were not interested in joining the war in Europe, but the US Marines knew that one day soon they will have to fight the Japanese (remember the “island-hopping” in the Pacific) and so they began training military dogs.
“Dogs for Defense” – the US Military Dogs
After the December 7 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the US declaring war on Japan on 8 December 1941, followed closely by Germany and Italy declaring war on the United States, “Dogs for Defense” was formed and dogs were formally trained for the military for the first time in the US history.
Dogs For Defense was the appointed agency for canine recruitment and training. They started with 200 dogs… and soon became the nick-name of the military dog training operation in the US became K-9 Corps.
In July 1942 the Secretary of War specifically asked Digs for Defense to include training of dogs in the following categories: sentry dogs, patrol dogs, messengers, and mine detection dogs. But very soon the Navy, the Coast Guard and Marine Corp became training their own military canines…
The US Marines were some of the first to show interest in training war dogs
as they had experienced losing ground against enemy using sentry dogs in Haiti
and other “Banana Wars” in Central America during 1914 – 1934.
The Devildogs – the US Marines’ dogs
The dogs trained by the US Marines were soon nicknamed “Devil Dogs” a nick name the Marines earned during WWI while fighting against the Germans. However, Dobermans weren’t the only breed that the US Marines used, but since the DPCA (Doberman Pinscher Club of America) was the one organization recruiting canines for the Marines, the initial emphasis was placed on this breed…
The first US K-9 Corps unit assigned to a tactical operation went to the Pacific
So a few War Dog Platoons soon appeared. Eight war dogs, six scouts and two messenger dogs were part of the first K-9 Corps unit. A report on their activities read:
“Patrol led by the dogs were never ambushed and suffered no casualties.”
The scout dogs were very good at alerting the Allies of incoming Japanese or spy local warriors and at guarding during the night. The messenger dogs were not disturbed in the bit by the local flora, so different in size and scents from what they knew from home, during training. The messenger dogs proved invaluable at keeping contact especially during heavy rain when electronic communication was cut off.
The dogs were
held in such high regard, that they were allowed to travel in the officer’s
plane, from one island to another. It is said that during a turbulent landing
two dogs started a fight soon followed by the officers’ evacuation of the plane
in a hurry, through the escape hatch.
Indeed, the War Dog Platoons proved invaluable to the US Marines during the Battle of Guam in July of 1944. See landing image below:
Three War Dog Platoons worked alongside US Marines on Guam Island. Here, the war dogs guarded the US camps, rescued wounded Marines, delivered messages, searched through caves for Japanese soldiers in hiding and alerted the Marines to the presence of landmines or booby traps set by Japanese.
A true story: Cappy and his handler, PFC Allen Jacobson
One night Cappy alerted 250 sleeping Marines of a vast force of advancing Japanese, saving their lives. Sadly, both Cappy and his handler, PFC Allen Jacobson, were injured in the battle that followed. True to his partner, Jacobson refused to leave the battle area and receive treatment until Cappy had also been evacuated.
Next, the US K-9 unit fought in the jungles of Papua New Guinea and on the beaches of Cape Gloucester, supporting either the Australian or British Marines against the Japanese forces.
The Doberman War Dogs could eventually outrank their handlers.
While training to become War Dogs, the Dobermans began their training as Privates and were promoted based on the length of service. Thus, after three months the Dobermans became a Private First Class, after one year a Corporal, after two years a Sergeant, after three years a Platoon Sergeant, after four years a Gunner Sergeant, and after five years a Master Gunner Sergeant.
Is it good for a Military Dog to outrank its human handler?
Today, this is often a custom that ensures the handler treats the Military Working Dog with the respect it deserves, while still giving it some freedom to behave like a dog if they ever disobey an order.
The first US K-9 patrol to help in Europe
Again, even through deep snow,, the dogs proved to be of invaluable assistance, and not only military. In March 1945, when communication was cut off, the messenger dogs kept the information going until another canine member carried a telephone on his back to the isolated unit.
True stories: Chip’s independent spirit and Daisy’s loyalty
Chips was a dog with a great personality and an even bigger heart who saved many lives during WW2. Perhaps it was his mixed blood, Chips being part shepherd, part collie, part husky, that gave him a keen sense of smell and hearing. Perhaps it was his love for humans that got him to show great bravery in battle… What is certain is that the more he ventured, the more his nonconformist spirit didn’t go well with his superiors… We need to remember that canine psychology was not so well understood back then.
For example, while his division – exhausted and soaked after pulling ashore on the seemingly deserted beaches of Sicily – retrieved behind an abandoned outpost to regroup, Chips chose to dash over No Man’s Land…
Typical canine behavior, right? Not quite.
Soon after a machine gun was heard, then a crippling silence embraced Chips’ division. Of course, they dashed over to investigate. They discovered Chips holding tight onto the throat of a German gunner, while five other German soldiers had already surrendered to the brave military dog.
Had Chips sniffed the gunpowder? The uniforms? Had he heard whisper or the click of the machine guns? What is sure is that he saved the lives of the men in his division. Yet he did not escaped unharmed; he received a wound to the scalp and burns to his mouth and left eye.
Although he showed his bravery many times, Chips was never decorated because of his tendency to act on his own, thus breaking the rules, and because, sigh, he was “only a dog”. Nevertheless, his comrades presented Chips with a Theater Ribbon. On the ribbon were an arrowhead for the assault landing at Sicily and a star for each of the eight campaigns during which Chips served.
The arrowhead would denote participation in amphibious landing in Chips’ case. It would have looked something like the ribbon above, but with eight stars.
Eventually, Chips received the Silver Star in 1943 for bravery in combat and in 2018 Chips was awarded the Dickin Medal, the highest honor for wartime bravery by an animal.
True story: Daisy’s loyalty, even in frigid waters
Daisy was a golden retriever and the mascot of a Norwegian merchant ship that in 1944 was accidentally (or not) torpedoed in the North Atlantic. During WW2 the Nortraship (The Norwegian Shipping and Trade Mission) operated some 1,000 vessels and was the largest shipping company in the world, operating outside German-controlled areas. Nortraship made a major contribution to the Allied war effort.
After the torpedo sank Daisy’s ship, all throughout that night Daisy swam from one survivor to another, licking their faces, warming up their noses with her breath, in a desperate attempt to keep them awake – and alive – in the icy waters of the North Atlantic until help arrived, the following day.
Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace.
Next time we will look at the Soviet Union, German and Japanese War Dogs of WW2 and then at Para-dogs of WW2, but until then you can browse some of my books – and see if you can identify their common denominator…
Silent Heroes, is a work of fiction about the Military Working Dogs and the amazing Marines and local people caught in the War in Afghanistan.
Take home an unbelievable and humorous true story of an incredible dog and how he found his true, yet unexpected calling, Joyful Trouble.
Celebrating the simple things in life as seen through the eyes of our old time favorite furry friends, “As Good as Gold” is a volume of poetry revealing the talent and humor we always knew our dogs possessed.
Enjoy a free preview of the first chapters from my new book, Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting For, contemporary war fiction.
‘Silent Heroes’ is a highly emotional read, action-packed, a vivid story of enormous sacrifice and bravery.
‘Silent Heroes’ is a book about:
military working dogs and their Marine handlers,
love, family, values, memories,
friendship and sacrifice,
surviving the day using humor,
contemporary war, choices,
mountains, architecture, fortresses.
Read the free preview below:
When Talibans descends in the village of Nauzad and discover girls can read, a woman accepts the blame and is killed on the spot for breaking the Islam law. Her teenage daughter witnesses the sacrifice and swears revenge, her life and that of her brother becoming intertwined with those of the US Marines serving at FOB Day nearby. But the Taliban is infiltrated everywhere and friends or foes are hard to differentiate.
The U.S. Marines fight with bravery to protect the civilians of Nauzad and to fend off the Taliban at Qala-e-Bost, thus protecting Bost Airport, a vital strategic point for the allies. Faced with questions about the necessity of the war, with the trauma of losing their platoon-mates and the emotional scars of battle, the US Marines race against time in one last battle of eradicating the Taliban before it is too late.
The War in Afghanistan is a contemporary, vitally
important conflict whose meaning needs to be understood by the public
worldwide. ‘Silent Heroes’ is a narrative about the value of life and
the necessity of combat; the terror of dying; the ordeal of seeing your
loved ones and your platoon-mates killed in front of your eyes; the
trauma of taking a human life.
Read about very well trained MWDs, military working dogs, capable of detecting the smallest traces of explosives, working in the extreme weather condition environments, under the stressful battlefield situations that is the War in Afghanistan. Smart and agile, at the end of the day what these dogs are looking forward to is the close bond they developed with their handlers, which call themselves the dog’s partners, brothers, daddies.
*’Silent Heroes’ is the ideal read for the fans of ‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘Dear John’!*
Silent Heroes, for the fans of The Kite Runner and Dear John! New Release
When Talibans descends in the village of Nauzad and discover that girls can read, a woman accepts the blame and is killed on the spot for breaking the Islam law. Her teenage daughter witnesses the sacrifice and swears revenge, her life and that of her brother becoming intertwined with those of the US Marines serving at FOB Day nearby.
“Light, knowledge, they bring the courage to look at the people around us, accepting them for what they are.” (Silent Heroes)
But the Taliban is infiltrated everywhere and friends or
foes are hard to differentiate. The U.S. Marines fight with bravery to protect
the civilians of Nauzad and to fend off the Taliban at Qala-e-Bost, thus
protecting Bost Airport, a vital strategic point for the allies. Faced with
questions about the necessity of the war, with the trauma of losing their
platoon-mates and the emotional scars of battle, the US Marines race against
time in one last battle of eradicating the Taliban before it is too late.
“Do you ever think that history speaks of victors and captors, of battles and soldiers whose lives have been lost and history even counts them, but of the casualties on the civilian side?” (Silent Heroes)
The War in Afghanistan is a contemporary, vitally important conflict whose meaning needs to be understood by the public worldwide. ‘Silent Heroes – When When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for’ is a narrative about the value of life and the necessity of combat; the terror of dying; the ordeal of seeing your loved ones and your platoon-mates killed in front of your eyes; the trauma of taking a human life.
From the storyteller of the Bestseller “Joyful Trouble”
comes a riveting, fictional account inspired by the War in Afghanistan, a
battle that spanned centuries and has affected the lives of hundreds of
thousands of innocent civilians.
“When soldiers grieve, time takes a snapshot and a new star rises in the sky.” (Silent Heroes)
Silent Heroes provides a glimpse into Afghanistan’s history through the eyes of those who lived it and of those who fought it.
Silent Heroes -When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for – Cover Reveal
My new book “Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting For”, a work of fiction two years in the making and inspired by the lives of the brave US Marines fighting in Afghanistan, of their faithful Military Working Dogs and the lives of the unbelievable Afghan people, will be released very soon.
COVER REVEAL coming soon. Watch this space!
Here is a very short sample of my thoughts on war, dogs, life and love. The passages below might or might not be included in the book.
“The Marine’s chest was a vacuum, as if no oxygen was left for him. Leaning over the dog’s warm neck he allowed the clouds that loomed all day to seal away any reasoning left and he let it all out, failure, anger, fear, the dog’s body shivering with his own.”
“In a life threatening war situation, a dog handler cannot just stop caring for his dog. He cannot remove his heart from his chest just like the dog cannot stop looking at his human friend without love shining through his eyes. Trust is their bond. “
“War memories linger past the healing of a scar or the mending of a bone. They creep from the depths of your sleep with the roar of a gun or the face of a departed friend. Only his dog understood him, she’d been there too. “
” When a dog watches you, your suit or hairstyle don’t matter, but the smile on your face and the love in your heart. A soldier sharing his food with stray dogs in Afghanistan. “
“Dogs need so little to be happy: food, water, good shelter, love. Humans too.”
“Feeding him was a mess, his eager tail and paws ending just as dirty as his mouth, half his food spilled. But he was worth his weight in gold, the puppy was. For he was a bundle of love and giggles and bedtime bliss that overshadowed the dad lost at war.”
” The great fortress of Bost, Qala-e-Bost, overlooked with pride the Helmand River for centuries. Able to resist a sun spitting yellow venom, it yielded to a war-cursed history.”