By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Connecticut's 928th Military Police Working Dog Detachment takes its canine legacy very seriously. It's a noble one, as Stubby, the Connecticut stray-turned-war dog, was perhaps the most decorated canine in U.S. war-dog history.
The detachment, comprised of three German shepherds and one Belgian Malinois (and their handlers), "is a full-time unit manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is the only military working dog unit in the United States that is part of the Army Guard/Reserve component."
The 928th is just another example of how far and wide this MWD community -- however small by comparison in the military world -- really stretches. And these teams do more than just run drills and patrol the Nutmeg State -- they make overseas deployments and, earlier this week, helped patrol Boston during the marathon by "supporting the patrol and explosives detection mission," along with the Massachusetts National Guard and Boston Police.
Below is Balou and her handler, Army Sgt. Kimberlee Ruppar, who came to the CT-based detachment after finishing a tour in Afghanistan last year. "She said she feels very fortunate to work with such a dedicated organization and with Balou."
When it comes to dog-to-handler pairings, these teams are in many ways more like police dog teams than military ones. For one, their teams' abilities run the gamut of stateside law enforcement work -- they're trained in explosive detection work and one of their dogs is a patrol/narcotics detection dog. But the dog-handler relationship spans longer than just one deployment or the length of just one home station assignment. No one's complaining about that.
"Our Soldiers are not here for short tours," the 928th's kennel master, Army Sgt. 1st Class Gerald Fountaine, said. "They're here for their careers. They have bonds with their dogs that won't be found elsewhere."
In other war-dog news: For those of you living in or around the DC/Maryland area, tomorrow America's VetDogs will host its 4th Annual Annapolis 5K Run & Dog Walk. This is a wonderful organization that provides therapy service dogs to veterans. I've known these folks for years -- full disclosure, I write about them in War Dogs -- and we've been following the good work of the committed individuals who run this charity event each year. Don't miss it: Registration starts at 7:30 am; more details here.
Rebecca Frankel is senior editor, special projects at Foreign Policy. Her forthcoming book War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love comes out on Oct. 14 from Palgrave Macmillan.
Update: Due to a technical error the original formatting of this post was lost in a previously circulated version. The links attributing the source of the quotes -- Staff Sgt. Benjamin Simon of the Connecticut National Guard -- have been restored.
Photo by Connecticut National Guard; Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Gerald Fountaine, 928th MWD Kennel Master