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    Unleashing the dog of war



    Story by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary 

    United States Air Forces Central     

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan - I have been training for this deployment since enlisting. For two years, I have learned as much as I possibly can along with other security forces Airmen. Finding explosives and weapons caches are my specialty but I will defend my Wingman with my life if necessary. I am not just a military working dog. I am a weapon.

    Edy, or military working dog identifier Edy N300, is a 3-year old Sable Shepherd who has been an Airman since November 2009. He is an explosive detection dog who can identify at least 15 different scents that serve as explosive markers for bombs.

    This is Edy's story seen through the eyes of his handler, Staff Sgt. Pascual Gutierrez, Jr., an Air Force MWD handler attached to the Army’s 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment here.

    Before Edy deployed, he was engaged with typical garrison work performing explosive detection aid during random anti-terrorism measures, performing sweeps of military buildings and undergoing constant training to further hone his skills.

    In August 2010, the veterinarian discovered a cyst on his ride haunch that needed to be surgically removed. It took nearly six weeks to recover before being cleared for duty.

    "Edy is tough," his handler said. "Nothing was going to keep him down for long. Looking at him now, you'd never know that he was laid up not too long ago."

    As with anyone who deploys to a new environment, it takes time to acclimate. By Edy's third mission, he had found his battle rhythm. The weather, terrain and altitude changes were no longer issues for him.

    While at Combat Outpost Mizan, he expertly fulfilled his role of searching a bordering village and ensured there were no immediate threats from the inhabitants as well as providing detection of explosive devices if needed.

    "When we go out on missions, Edy's job is to search out weapon caches, explosives and bomb making supply centers and be prepared for any threat that an individual may present to the mission itself," Sgt. Gutierrez said. "Basically, Edy helps keep the villages honest and on the right side of the fight. If something is there that we miss, you can be sure Edy won't."
    Edy is a highly driven dog who, while young and full of play, knows when to get down to business.

    "Edy can be all over the place but the minute we gear up for a mission, he puts his game face on," his handler said. "He has so much energy that he can work for days and hardly gets tired."

    Tireless in his pursuit to complete the mission and seek out what he has been trained to search for, Edy also epitomizes the adage of being "man's best friend."

    "I have worked with other dogs before who probably wouldn't protect me if I got hurt out here," Sgt. Gutierrez said. "But with Edy, I know without a doubt he would protect me with his life. His animal instincts would take over and he would protect me from anything and everything."

    The sergeant is Edy's first handler. The bond between them is almost tangible. For Edy, Sgt. Gutierrez isn't just his partner during training or while searching for explosives. To him, the sergeant is friend, father and protector.

    "You're told not to get too attached to the dogs but that’s difficult," he said. "To Edy, I am a father figure.. And it's my job to make sure that he's well taken care of."

    Seeing to Edy's needs means more than just ensuring he has a place to sleep and food to eat. It's about being a true companion and making sure he is happy.

    "The dogs have to be in kennels and so when I let him out, I want to make sure that we're doing something that he enjoys," the sergeant said.
    For a dog who is so full of energy, getting the chance to just run loose is high on the agenda.

    "It's important to me to make sure that Edy has his freedom as much as possible," Sgt. Gutierrez said. "We have to be on our toes when out on missions that in our down time, it's more about rewarding him with the things he enjoys most. Simple things like going for walks make him happy and that's key."

    Since Edy thoroughly enjoys patrol work, walking and fetching the ball are two easy luxuries his handler grants him. One training tool in particular seems to excite Edy most: centerline drills.

    "I'll take him out with two toys and throw one in one direction, wait for him to fetch it and throw the other in the opposite direction," the handler said. "He can do centerline drills forever."

    Edy is the story of the underdog come to life. Relatively small for his breed, Edy is only 56 pounds. For all his pint-sized stature, he is not a dog to be underestimated.

    "He's like [the football character] Rudy," the handler said. "He has a big heart and never gives in or gives up. He's very driven and it more than makes up for his size. He's a pure threat now but if he had a little more weight on his side, he'd be a powerhouse."

    Personality-wise, Edy is your typical busybody. He is ever-curious and has to be in the middle of all the excitement or he's not happy.

    "Edy is always nosy -- almost too nosy," the sergeant said. "If he was a person, he'd be that guy who always has to be in the middle of the action."

    But being nosy is good. It means he's questioning what may be hidden on the side of the road, tucked away in a building or hidden on someone ready to do harm.

    "Being nosy makes Edy a really good detection dog," the handler said. "I am constantly on my guard because his alertness can one day save my life."



    Date Taken: 02.23.2011
    Date Posted: 02.23.2011 07:51
    Story ID: 65931

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