The Best Defense

Rebecca's War Dog of the Week: France loses a mighty chien de guerre

By Rebecca Frankel

Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

Last week, France lost one of the fiercest among their canine fighting force, the 132e Bataillon Cynophile de L'Armee de Terre. On April 17 Fitas, an eight-year-old Belgian Malinois, succumbed to injuries he sustained while serving in Afghanistan. 

According to the Armée de Terre's Facebook page in April of last year, while on patrol in Afghanistan, Fitas uncovered an ambush awaiting French troops. Apparently, the dog not only alerted to the danger, but was key in warding off the insurgents during the attack that followed. Unfortunately, during the upheaval, Fitas was captured and held captive for months.

My French is a little rusty but from what I could tell, there are at least two accounts of what happened after that fateful night. As one story goes, Fitas was found (some versions say rescued) by the Afghan National Army and returned to his unit stationed at Camp Warehouse near Kabul. According to Facebook, the brave dog escaped on his own mettle though it doesn't detail how he made his way back to his fellow troops last August.

Sadly, what finally took down this warrior dog was an injury he suffered either during the initial attack or while poorly treated during his captivity. Reports say Fitas contracted some kind of disease or infection from the wound, something that was apparently too pernicious or too far advanced to treat.

For his bravery, Fitas received commendation from General Ract Madoux, who awarded the dog with the Gold Medal of National Defense with the Silver Star.

In the above photo, Fitas poses with a French soldier in Kabul on Sept. 10, 2011. Note his front-left paw, the site of his injury, easily distinguished by the reddish coloring.

Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently writing a book about military working dogs, to be published by Free Press.


The Best Defense

Patton on mission command -- or not?

When I first read the passage below, I thought Patton was writing about mission command. But as I typed this in, I began to wonder if he simply is prescribing rote learning of a military repertoire. What think you?

From the same 1932 paper I quoted the other day:

The successful use of such [small, mobile, self-contained] units will depend on giving great initiative to all leaders in actual command of men. 

. . . Under such circumstances the solution of the command problem would seem to rest in using the method called by the British: "The Nelsonian Method," or by our Navy, the method of "Indoctrinated initiative."

This system is based on the belief that the: "Best is the enemy of the Good." That a simple mediocre solution applied instantly is better than a perfect one which is late or complicated.

Among leaders of whatever rank there are three types: 10 percent Genius;  80 percent Average; and 10 percent Fools. The average group is the critical element in battle. It is better to give such men several simple alternative solution which, by repeated practice, they can independently apply than it is to attempt to think for them via the ever fallible means of signal communications."