Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Rebecca’s war dog of the week: Socks of Iraq, the anti-insurgent pup

Our chief canine correspondent has absconded to Costa Rica. While extradition procedures are underway, here is a guest contribution from a Marine officer who wishes to remain anonymous: I arrived in Iraq in November of 2007 on a Marine Military Transition Team. We were embedded with an Iraqi Army battalion in Al Anbar province where ...

572961_socks2.jpg
572961_socks2.jpg

Our chief canine correspondent has absconded to Costa Rica. While extradition procedures are underway, here is a guest contribution from a Marine officer who wishes to remain anonymous:

I arrived in Iraq in November of 2007 on a Marine Military Transition Team. We were embedded with an Iraqi Army battalion in Al Anbar province where we lived on a small, American compound inside the perimeter of a larger Iraqi Army compound. The whole base had been infiltrated by insurgent stray dogs that preyed on our trash and were rumored to have attacked people when in groups.

But only one dog lived in the American compound, Socks (named so because his front paws were white while the rest of him was mostly black). Socks lived with the Americans and earned his keep as a guard dog. If Americans would enter the compound, he wouldn't bat an eye. But whenever an Iraqi approached he would raise the alarm by barking. Our team's Equal Opportunity Representative had a talk with him about this, but he persisted.

Our chief canine correspondent has absconded to Costa Rica. While extradition procedures are underway, here is a guest contribution from a Marine officer who wishes to remain anonymous:

I arrived in Iraq in November of 2007 on a Marine Military Transition Team. We were embedded with an Iraqi Army battalion in Al Anbar province where we lived on a small, American compound inside the perimeter of a larger Iraqi Army compound. The whole base had been infiltrated by insurgent stray dogs that preyed on our trash and were rumored to have attacked people when in groups.

But only one dog lived in the American compound, Socks (named so because his front paws were white while the rest of him was mostly black). Socks lived with the Americans and earned his keep as a guard dog. If Americans would enter the compound, he wouldn’t bat an eye. But whenever an Iraqi approached he would raise the alarm by barking. Our team’s Equal Opportunity Representative had a talk with him about this, but he persisted.

His most important function was to coordinate and lead night movement-to-contact patrols. Our latrines were located outside the American lines but inside the Iraqi perimeter, in an area controlled by the Iraqis during the day and by the insurgent stray dogs by night. Whenever a team member would make a move to go on a micturation patrol, Socks would bark, summoning two allies from the Iraqi barracks across the street (two yellow-haired mutts that seemed to be his only canine friends). This fire team would form a tight wedge formation and recon the area in front of the American, pushing the insurgent dogs back from the latrines. This frequently resulted in dog fights where Socks was frequently wounded in action. At times, we thought he wouldn’t survive his wounds, but he always did. Occasionally he would run his own presence patrols during the day, always returning wounded but victorious.

After living under Socks’s protection for only a month, our battalion was moved to Diyala Province. Three months later, we got the chance to pass through our old compound again. Socks was nowhere to be found. The IA rear party had not seen him in weeks. He either took off for Diyala in our wake, or his number finally came up and he went out fighting under a pile of matted fur and slashing teeth, as he would have wanted.

Got a memory of a good dog you knew in a bad place? Send it along, with photos if possible.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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