The Best Defense

Rebecca’s war dog of the week: K2, the weenie of Afghanistan


This week's war dog tale comes from a soldier who served in Afghanistan.

By Capt. Michael Cummings, U.S. Army
Best Defense
guest canine contributor

Dogs are as integral to war as bullets, people or tragedy. When I deployed to Afghanistan, regulation forbid keeping dogs as company mascots. But I didn't step foot on a FOB that didn't have at least one dog. Or a resident feral cat. Or pet monkey purchased off base. Or captured python.

We named the above puppy K2. He wasn't my favorite war dog, but the most picturesque. K2 was our second attempt at raising a puppy on our FOB. The first puppy, with the Star Trek-inspired name "Khan," had an unfortunate run-in with anti-freeze in the motor pool.

K2 was the youngest of the three dogs at Camp Joyce. The alpha dog was a bitch nicknamed Mama. She looked like a wolf, with gray fur and menacing eyes. Mama single-handedly kept our FOB clear of other animals, ferociously defending the FOB from any wild Afghan dogs who tried to scavenge our trash pit. Once, she led her pack to run off a herd of lost cattle that made its way to our side of the base. Mama stood her ground and drove them right out the front gate, deftly snapping at their heels. Mama was flanked by a black and white dog about half her size who never even got a name. He was just that dog with one eye. (We never figured out how he lost it.)

K2 lacked Mama's abilities though. When he tried to chase cows away, they would just charge him and he would turn tail. I'll be honest, K2 was a weenie. We didn't like him because he was useful, we liked him because he was a puppy.

What sticks with me most about war dogs was the lengths officers, NCOs and soldiers would go to keep them out of harm's way. I've seen Sergeants Major and Lieutenant Colonels risk their careers over their favorite dogs. About a week before we were supposed to leave country, word came down to get rid of all the animals on every FOB. They weren't authorized, we were told, so they had to go before the new unit came in. The day our full-bird colonel and his replacement came on a battlefield tour, suddenly all the dogs were gone. I assumed they had been taken to the trash pit and executed, the fate of many dogs downrange. But as soon as the chopper took off, bounding around a corner were the mini-pack: Mama, K2 and the dog with no name.

Michael Cummings is a U.S. Army Captain currently attending training at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. He deployed to Afghanistan with the 173rd ABCT in support of Operation Enduring Freedom VIII. He blogs at with his brother.

Capt. Michael Cummings

The Best Defense

Indian Ocean, pirates, international waters: Where the hell is the US Navy?

An anonymous response to Best Defense's piracy columnist here calls out the U.S. Navy for its sluggish response to the growing piracy problem in the Indian Ocean. It's not every day that you see someone challenge the manhood of the whole 5th Fleet.

Frankly, I think Mr. Anon is a little rough on Cdr. Herb Carmen, a fine officer who is our regular piracy columnist. (So Carmen applauded the French, is that a crime?) But this blog believes in letting different voices be heard, so here is the opposing viewpoint. Btw, for those of you following the action at home, a MEU is a Marine Expeditionary Unit. The last time I looked, which was a long time ago, that was a jarhead infantry battalion backed by an aviation element (a few weak-ass Cobra attack helicopters, some aging transport helicopters, and a couple of Harriers, if you were lucky), plus a logistics battalion.

Herb Carmen's posts talk about international will, highlight EU NAVFOR and NATO -- and say almost next to nothing about the U.S. Navy. 

The fact is that the U.S. isn't showing the will to do what needs to be done. No one, including policymakers, wants to deal with it. I really believe that 5th Fleet made a conscious decision to let piracy escalate to get the Europeans to drag their butts through the Suez and no one has told me I'm wrong.  

The U.S. Navy wants nothing to with fighting thugs in the littorals for the same reasons the Air Force traditionally resists the close air support mission -- it's not the blue water fleet battle they've built the force around. We ought to be take down motherships and ‘steal back' a merchant ship or two offshore. We should attack the financial networks and go after the agents and negotiators in other nearby countries. No one is  willing to call out shippers and insurers for their complicit behavior. The real reason no one is really taking any of this seriously, I suspect, is that the hostages are largely low-paid Filipino, Indian and Pakistani merchant seamen. If we had 200 westerners held captive -- let alone Americans -- we'd already have a MEU on the beach.

I'd like to hear from someone other than poor old Herb on this. Any response, 5th Fleeters?