01 August 2011

Two Not-So-Shaggy Dog Stories

When I embedded as media with 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division units in central and eastern Afghanistan last May, one day's escort was showing me around one of the larger coalition military bases. The base was big enough to comprise a number of "camps" inside the security perimeter. (Think villages or suburbs inside a larger city.) While I had a pretty long leash, journalistically speaking, a couple of the camps were strictly off-limits. Blank spots on the map, because of the secret-squirrel stuff happening inside.

"That one over there is Special Forces," my handler said, waving as we drove by. "They won't talk to you."

Knowing my growing interest in military therapy and service dogs, he added: "They keep dogs there."

My ears pricked up, and the escort sensed it. "Don't even think about it," he told me. "The dogs are Special Forces, too. They won't talk to you, either."

We laughed to ourselves, and continued on our way.

I was reminded of the conversation while reading this once-around-the-world narrative from the Aug. 8 New Yorker magazine. The article regards the nighttime U.S. helicopter raid into Pakistan May 1, in which a U.S. Navy SEAL (which stands for "SEa, Air, and Land") team killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. According to the article, U.S. President Barack Obama subsequently visited with team members at a May 6 meeting at Fort Campbell, Kent.:
When James, the [Red Squadron, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment] commander, spoke, he started by citing all the forward operating bases in eastern Afghanistan that had been named for SEALs killed in combat. “Everything we have done for the last ten years prepared us for this,” he told Obama. The President was “in awe of these guys,” Ben Rhodes, the deputy national-security adviser, who travelled with Obama, said. “It was an extraordinary base visit,” he added. “They knew he had staked his Presidency on this. He knew they staked their lives on it.”

As James talked about the raid, he mentioned Cairo’s role. “There was a dog?” Obama interrupted. James nodded and said that Cairo was in an adjoining room, muzzled, at the request of the Secret Service.

“I want to meet that dog,” Obama said.

“If you want to meet the dog, Mr. President, I advise you to bring treats,” James joked. Obama went over to pet Cairo, but the dog’s muzzle was left on.

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