FOB McHenry has Sniff Support
Blackanthem Military News, KIRKUK, Iraq, March 12, 2006 12:56
With a modified ballistic vest, a Screaming Eagle combat patch and a Combat Action Badge, Zeko, an explosive detection dog, may not look like the average Soldier, but he has definitely brought a new meaning to the phrase "man’s best friend."
"He’s got a good rapport with the Soldiers," commented Staff Sgt. David Silberman, Zeko’s Kennel Master and partner for nearly two and a half years now.
Zeko may not be the average height of a Soldier, carry a full combat load, or even shoot a weapon, but he has become a valuable asset to the Bastogne Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, stationed at Forward Operating Base (FOB) McHenry, Iraq.
"Our missions are really broad; we support everything," Silberman reflected. "Every day we are learning something different for us to do."
According to Silberman, Zeko has detected explosives buried up to four feet in the hard desert ground.
When it comes to his job, Zeko may be at the top of his game, but Silberman says he trains on a regular basis, just like Soldiers.
Silberman said it takes on average two and a half years to get an explosive dog certified, but it does not end there, each dog must also go through an annual certification. Each dog must have a minimum 95% success rate on explosive detection or the dog is decertified.
"Explosive dogs are trained in nine different explosive odors," Silberman stated confidently, while petting his partner. "He’s got to find every single one; he can’t miss them."
Although Zeko is currently tested at 98.7%, and trained in desert warfare, Silberman takes it upon himself to keep their team up to the task by training everyday.
Using a newly built training course, Zeko practices many different obstacles.
Zeko warms up, walking through a small jump, followed by stairs and tunnels.
The real workout starts when shouts echo through the air, followed by yelping. Silberman holds Zeko tightly, while a volunteer Soldier wearing a protective sleeve runs. Then, at the right moment Silberman releases the now vicious dog. Zeko sprints after the man, leaping into the air and locking his jaw on the Soldier’s protected arm. Attempts to shake him off fail as Zeko just bites harder. Then with a single command from his handler, Zeko releases the Soldier returning to sit next to Silberman. A few seconds later, Zeko is rewarded with playful hugs and praises.
Not only does this furry four-legged Soldier pull his weight in the fight against terrorism, he has become very protective of his new Bastogne comrades.
"We get to spend a lot of time with [Soldiers], he’s really close, and really protective of them," Silberman commented. "When we are taking rounds, he’s watching and really alert of his Soldiers, so he’s got a pretty good rapport with those guys."
It isn’t all work and no play for Zeko though. His kisses may be sloppy, and he has doggy breath, but Zeko has become well-known and loved among the Soldiers at FOB McHenry. During a simple strut down the gravel walk-ways, Zeko receives many playful pettings, and sometimes even a rowdy play session.
With loyalty being an Army Value this fury friend strongly possesses, many consider him the FOB pet, and even part of the 1st Battalion team
By: Spc. Barbara Ospina
1st BCT Public Affairs
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