Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Rebecca’s War Dogs of the Week: After bomb-sniffing, then what?

By Rebecca Frankel Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent Andy, Brix, and Buster, three MWDs with exemplary records, all made headlines this week announcing their retirement from war-zone service. Many readers have commented or written in with questions and concerns about the fate of MWDs once their careers are over and the military no longer has ...

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By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

Andy, Brix, and Buster, three MWDs with exemplary records, all made headlines this week announcing their retirement from war-zone service. Many readers have commented or written in with questions and concerns about the fate of MWDs once their careers are over and the military no longer has "use" for them. Here are three cases that show these dogs are not only recognized for their work and service, but transitioned out of service with tremendous care and dignity.

Buster (pictured to the left), is a nine-year-old Royal Air Force bomb-detection dog, "who braved bombs and bullets over five operational tours of duty" in places like Bosnia and Afghanistan. The English Springer Spaniel, who's received a series of medals for his service, is retiring to the home of his handler, RAF Police Sergeant Michael "Will" Barrow. Sgt. Barrow told the Daily Mail that Buster kept a cool demeanor during even their most dangerous work tracking down insurgents through poppy fields: "'Each time [we were attacked], Buster waited calmly for the action to cease, then carried on his search for improvised explosive devices, and keeping patrols safe.'" 

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

Andy, Brix, and Buster, three MWDs with exemplary records, all made headlines this week announcing their retirement from war-zone service. Many readers have commented or written in with questions and concerns about the fate of MWDs once their careers are over and the military no longer has “use” for them. Here are three cases that show these dogs are not only recognized for their work and service, but transitioned out of service with tremendous care and dignity.

Buster (pictured to the left), is a nine-year-old Royal Air Force bomb-detection dog, “who braved bombs and bullets over five operational tours of duty” in places like Bosnia and Afghanistan. The English Springer Spaniel, who’s received a series of medals for his service, is retiring to the home of his handler, RAF Police Sergeant Michael “Will” Barrow. Sgt. Barrow told the Daily Mail that Buster kept a cool demeanor during even their most dangerous work tracking down insurgents through poppy fields: “‘Each time [we were attacked], Buster waited calmly for the action to cease, then carried on his search for improvised explosive devices, and keeping patrols safe.'” 

Then there’s Brix, a U.S. Navy dog, who’s been on patrol sniffing for bombs since 2003. Brix, a German Shepherd, received a “traditional Navy retirement ceremony” for his nine years of service during which he did “two tours supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, one tour in Afghanistan and a tour at the Horn of Africa” not to mention serving on details protecting “the president and vice president of the United States.”  

MA2 Chris Ortiz, the handler that deployed to Iraq with Brix in 2009 spoke of their strong bond: “When we returned [from deploment], I had to separate from my best friend. Brix surprised me every single day whether it was his training, attitude … [he] was able to control a crowd of 200 rowdy Iraqis and then melt the hearts of Iraqi schoolchildren in the same day.” Brix is headed to Missouri where he will live with his current handler’s mother.

And last, but not least, there’s Andy, a five-year-old Belgian Malanois who may be done with his service in Afghanistan but he has more patrol days still ahead. Andy was a “multi-purpose dog” for the Army and when one of his former handlers, now a district attorney, learned the canine was up for adoption, he “jumped at the opportunity” to bring him onto a county K-9 force in DeKalb, Georgia, saying “Andy fits into our family and office very well.”

Interesting War-Dog Note of the Week: Emma Haak over at Fast Company has an article out this week breaking down the money TSA has spent since 9/11 — a whopping $56.8 billion — detailing where the money went and whether it was money well spent. It’s a list that includes, among other things, full-body scanners, human screeners, and bomb-sniffing dogs:

Amount: $103.5 million to breed and train the bomb-sniffing dogs in this year’s Puppy Program, which could reduce the need for invasive pat-downs.
Verdict: Maybe Worth It”

It might be too soon to make a call as to whether or not those puppies are “worth it,” but my money is still going on the dogs. Anyone else?

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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