By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
In this photo a flight medic with C Company, 2nd Battalion,
3rd Aviation Regiment, is being lifted into a MEDEVAC helicopter with Luca, a
military working dog with the 4th Stryker Brigade during training at FOB Spin
Boldak in Afghanistan. The medics participating in this February exercise were not military veterinarians or vet techs,
but were learning how to evacuate a MWD in the event that a handler was injured
or otherwise unable to care for the dog himself. In combat theater a dog is
treated as a full-fledged member of a unit and, if he were injured, would
receive the same kind of emergency life-saving care and attention as any other
solider, including the attention of a medic.
Still, treating an injured canine in the heat of battle
poses a unique set of challenges, especially if the dog is particularly protective
of its handler or is known to bite (note the muzzle in this photo). When a dog
team is out on a mission, the handler cannot be the only person in the unit who
knows what kind of medical attention his dog will need or how it should be
administered. All handlers are trained on how to treat their dogs, whether for
dehydration, broken limbs, or blood loss. But when working outside the wire, many
will carry cards detailing a kind of abbreviated "in case of emergency"
instructions so someone else (hopefully a medic) will know how to treat their
dogs if they are also wounded during missions.
As one Army
handler (who I interviewed for the War
Dogs book) told me last year, the first person a savvy handler will get to
know when assigned to a new unit is the medic. "Whatever you can do to help the medics out in your AO as a
handler, that's what you do. You introduce your dog to them. You let them play,
you know, get friendly with them." This handler wanted the medic, as well as the
rest of his team, to know his dog and to care about his well being because they
could be the ones in a position to save the dog's life.
RIP MWD Bak: This is a photo of Bak, a dog who was killed in
action on March 11 in Afghanistan. Few details about the circumstances of how
Bak was killed have been made public, but a memorial page is
active on Facebook, including an extensive photo gallery. His handler, Sgt.
Molina, is reportedly fine and, as of Wednesday, was awaiting transfer back to
Rebecca Frankel is away from her FP
desk, working on a book about dogs and war.
Sgt. Michael Needham U.S. Army/Bak Facebook