The Best Defense

Rebecca's War Dog of the Week: A boost for Navy dog handlers

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

The Marine Times reported this week that "[t]he Navy's Center for Security Forces is in the final stages of creating the first apprenticeship trade program for those with military specialties that involve working dogs." If the Department of Labor approves the program, it means that that "hundreds" of MWD handlers in both the Navy and the Marine Corps will be eligible for apprenticeships that will not only potentially "boost [their] military career, but also help [servicemen and women] land a law enforcement gig" after they retire from the military, say with a police department K-9 unit or with a private security company.

This is especially encouraging news as many retiring military servicemen and women are finding it difficult to find jobs in the civilian workforce. The Washington Post reported in November that the "unemployment rate for recent veterans remains incredibly high -- around 10 percent -- and remains noticeably higher than it is for non-veterans in the same demographic group."

Should this new program receive the expected approval, it will, says MA Jose Bautista, programs manager at the Navy's Center for Security Forces, offer "concrete documentation of your skills and experience, and that's what selection boards love to see. That same documentation enhances someone's marketing potential in the civilian workforce when their military service is complete for the same reasons. I've seen many apprenticeships on the résumés of senior enlisted sailors who've walked out of the Navy's door into very good civilian careers."

And for many handlers, this is good news for handlers for another reason entirely: Life after the military doesn't have to mean a life working without dogs. 

Above, MWD Rex, of Naval Air Facility Atsugi Naval Security Force, lays on the deck of a MH-60S Seahawk helicopter during an aerial training exercise for K-9 units. Rex and his handler are participating in readiness training for future deployments through accumulation of scents, movement, and the feel of riding in, and being around helicopters.

Rebecca Frankel is special projects editor at Foreign Policy.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kegan E. Kay/Released

The Best Defense

Lessons of 1940: The hardest decision might be the persuasive one, while a disaster might lead to later success

Those are thoughts that occurred to me after reading about Churchill's decision in the summer of 1940 to attack the navy of France, which had been an ally just a month earlier, and which certainly was not at war with the United Kingdom. More than 1,200 French sailors were killed in the attack, while the British suffered two dead. The purpose, of course, was to prevent the French fleet from falling into German hands (as had happened with Austrian gold and Czech weapons factories).

President Roosevelt, knowing how difficult a decision it was to launch a surprise attack against a former ally, was said to have calculated that his defeatist ambassador to London, Joseph Kennedy, was wrong, and that in fact Britain was determined to fight on alone. (Speaking of FDR, it took me a while to remember the names of his three vice presidents, but eventually I did. But for the life of me I couldn't remember who Truman's veep was, and had to look it up.)

On the other hand, I was interested to read in Cambridge History of War, Vol. IV: War and the Modern World that one reason the Germans couldn't invade England later that same summer was because of their naval losses the previous spring in fending off the British attempt to take Norway. "While the victory of the British in the Battle of Britain was won in the air," Gerhard Weinberg writes in his fine essay on World War II, "the German failure to attempt an invasion was due at least as much to their naval losses in the Norwegian campaign."

That British attack on Norway long has been regarded as a disaster. Reading about its beneficial effect on the Battle of Britain makes me think that Churchill may have been right in his view that in conventional warfare, doing something, even at the periphery, is always better than doing nothing at all.

As Bob Dylan or Clausewitz once observed, nothing is easy in war, because friction makes even easy things difficult.