Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Rebecca’s war dog of the week: Meet Sgt. Pauley and his K9 pal Sgt. Jack

By Rebecca Frankel Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent Meet Sgt. Jack, a German Shepherd and military dog on deployment in Tikrit, Iraq. I spoke with Jack’s handler Sergeant Christopher Pauley, this week who called in from his base, COP Speicher. Though he and Jack have only been in Iraq since October, the pair has been ...

U.S. Military
U.S. Military

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

Meet Sgt. Jack, a German Shepherd and military dog on deployment in Tikrit, Iraq. I spoke with Jack’s handler Sergeant Christopher Pauley, this week who called in from his base, COP Speicher. Though he and Jack have only been in Iraq since October, the pair has been together for the last 18 months.

Before Iraq, Jack and Pauley, who’s originally from Ohio, were stationed in Japan. Jack is just at the beginning of his war-dog career — this is only his first deployment. Sgt. Pauley was an MP before becoming a working dog handler with the 88th Military Police Department, and Jack is his first working dog. I asked Pauley if he’s noticed any changes in Jack since they deployed, or if their relationship changed in the new environment. It had, Pauley told me, but for the better. “He listens better over here because I’m the only one taking care of him,” Pauley said. “Our bond has gotten better.”

To be sure the two are rarely outside each other’s company — the only time they’re separated is when they sleep, and Jack goes to the kennel they have at the COP, otherwise he’s always with Pauley.

Jack, one of four dogs stationed at the base, has a very affable disposition despite the fact that he’s also a trained attack dog. “I like that he’s a friendly dog,” Pauley says. “He gets along with other dogs and likes people.” Preferable not just because Jack is good company, but because aggressive dogs, Pauley tells me, get too distracted by people and crowds to do the kind of searching they’re supposed to when they’re on patrol.

The routine they follow is “set in stone” and right now they’re doing all their work at night. “During the day it’s too hot,” Pauley says, “[When the temperature gets] above 90 degrees [the dogs] can only work for 10-15 minutes [at a time], over 120 is too hot for them.” So it’s only after the sun goes down and the temperature cools that Pauley and Jack begin their detection work or conduct any training exercises. They regularly patrol the same spots to get the dogs used to the area. Sometimes they do bite work (training a dog to attack and then stop on command), or do detection work like investigating abandoned buildings.

But their day-to-day can change. If there’s a mission then, as Pauley says, “they go out and do the mission.” And in the time that Jack and Pauley have been in Iraq they’ve conducted searches for reported weapons caches, explosives, and live ammunition in the Salah ad-Din province and during the recent Iraqi elections they swept polling stations and served as back-up for the Iraqi Security Forces.  

Pauley’s voice spikes with enthusiasm when he talks about Jack and becoming a handler. “It’s a unique experience, a great experience — I love being a dog handler,” Pauley said. “Just you and your dog. This is the only reason I became an MP.”

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
Tag: War