This sailor and his dog save lives

This photo shows MA2 Devon Johnson and his military working dog, MWD Kalo, posing in front of a U.S. flag. This sailor and his dog save lives.

Recently, an email appeared in MWDTSA’s inbox entitled, “This Sailor and His Dog Save Lives.” It turned out to be an article by longtime MWDTSA donor Duke Cannon about a care package recipient! With Duke Cannon’s permission, we are reprinting the full interview below. We are grateful for their unwavering support of MWDTSA’s mission to support both ends of the leash. Please check out their amazing products!

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If you’re familiar with Duke Cannon, you know we have a special place in our hearts for those who serve our country. And we have an even bigger place in our hearts for dogs. So imagine how we feel about dogs who serve our country. (If we used emojis, it would be the face with hearts for eyes.)
 
This month, our Good Folks Project pays tribute to two heroes with a total of six legs: MA2 Devon Johnson and his military working dog, MWD Kalo. The duo travels worldwide to sniff out threats in order to keep our bases and embassies safe. In their downtime, they boost soldier morale with a heavy dose of tail wags. We are grateful for the hard work Devon and Kalo dedicate to their country, and we’re honored to share their story.

A NO-BS INTERVIEW WITH DEVON JOHNSON

How did you get involved with Military Dog Handling?

When I was first joining the Navy, I got taken by my recruiter to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island to see what my future job as a Master-At-Arms would be. It was a lot of law enforcement and gate duty until I met the handlers and fell in love. I did everything I could to get selected for it in our training school, but with no luck. So, my next choice was to volunteer at the Kennels in Bahrain. I would come in on my off time as Kennel Support helping the real handlers do their job and learning from a great group of people. From there I ended up getting a letter of recommendation from the Kennel Master, and leaving Bahrain with Military Working Dog Handler orders to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

What does a normal day look like for Kalo and you?

A normal work day for us always starts out with giving him breakfast, then grooming him to make sure he’s ready for the day. After that we start our day with obedience work in explosive detection training and end our day in some kind of patrol A.K.A. “bite work”. We can and do get calls throughout the day for vehicle searches or searches of unattended bags, as we are the base’s narcotics and explosive experts.

How does Kalo help fellow soldiers, even on the toughest days?

The biggest benefit I saw was during our time in Kuwait with the National Guard. For most of the soldiers, it was their first time away from home, let alone time in the Middle East. So we allowed them to come in, get in the bite suits, pet the dogs, and show them what we do daily. It was an amazing experience to see their faces brighten up when they see dogs, especially since most people think they’re overly aggressive – but they’re just big ol’ teddy bears.

They say a dog is a man’s best friend – is this true for you and Kalo?

Oh yes it is! I love that dog as if he were my son and he made days when it was hard for me 100x better. You spend everyday with him, talk to him, workout with him, and even eat with him so you build this bond that you will never build with anyone else. We have our days when we fight – like when I just got to one of the borders for a mission and he decided he wanted to take all my clean clothes out of my bag to lay in instead of lay on his or my bed, so I didn’t have any clean clothes for a week.

Which Duke Cannon products are essential for your daily hygiene on base? Which is Kalo’s favorite scent?

The biggest must have is the Cold Shower Cooling Field Towels. I love these things to death, especially traveling between countries or when you are on duty/somewhere it’s hard to get a shower. You guys supply them to MWDTSA and we get them in care packages which help out so much. I’ll have to say Kalo’s favorite scent besides explosives is Naval Supremacy because we are U.S Navy Sailors for life. 


The Duke Cannon Good Folks Project aims to highlight hard working men and women and pups making a positive impact on their community and country.

Dogs’ noses, key to security, detect explosives in Afghanistan

A Belgian Malinois awaits the next command at a competition to test dogs' noses. The event took place in September at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

This K9 awaits the next command at a competition to test dogs’ noses and obedience. The event took place in September at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (Video image by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

By Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan—These dogs’ noses save lives.

But aside from an ultra-sensitive nose, the dogs must have traits of absolute obedience, discipline and loyalty. And more smarts than can be imagined, along with the power to take down an adversary if necessary.

These are only some of the qualities the dogs here must possess in order for them to assist in the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

“All the dogs have to be certified,” says Sergeant First Class Christopher Ogle, theater military working dog program manager, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, Combined Joint Task Force 36. “I certify the contract dogs in theater to make sure they’re able to do their job.”

The breeds of the dogs at the kennel complex are German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. While Shepherds are more muscular, the Malinois does not lack for strength. Both are ideally suited for security purposes.

The dog teams—consisting of handler and dog—provide direct counter to Improvised Explosive Devices, the enemy’s weapon of choice.

Detection improves mission effectiveness and reduces IED-related casualties. A dog’s nose is the key to sniffing out bombs inside and outside the wire, Ogle said.

“There’s no machine built yet that can duplicate what a dog can do.”

“There’s no substitute for the detection of a dog,” says William Cronin, director for American K9 for Afghanistan and Mali, West Africa.

Cronin has been in his position for five years working out of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital. He was at Bagram Airfield to see some of his dogs carry out their skills in a two-day K9 competition in mid-September.

The company’s headquarters is in Moyock, North Carolina, and part of a bigger organization, Constellis. That company is a leading provider in risk management and operational support services to government and commercial customers, according to its website.

“We keep people safe,” Cronin said of AMK9. “We make the world a safer place. There’s a lot of passion in the guys that do this type of work.”

AMK9 has more than 25 years of experience in training and staffing highly qualified detection dogs and handlers with the ultimate goal of quickly implementing and sustaining K9 operations in high-threat, complex locations worldwide, the website stated. And, AMK9 has been working with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2004.

The dogs are of the highest quality with proven working dog bloodlines from European sources. In fact, less than 10 percent of the dogs screened will pass the initial evaluation and be approved for training at AMK9 facilities, according to the organization’s website.

Two-day K9 competition tests dogs’ noses and obedience

Ogle explained the competition was to build morale, sharpen the dogs’ skills, and enable better dog teams.

“This actually sharpens their skills because these teams have been preparing for a month and a half to get ready for this competition,” Ogle said.

The first day tested the teams on explosives detection. The dogs had to find two explosives placed on a possible 10 vehicles with distractors such as foods like bacon and sausage. In this timed event, most dogs averaged about two minutes to find explosives, Ogle said.

“The dog can locate it (explosives) outside the vehicle and tell you there’s something wrong. Some of the dogs can hit it up from 50 feet away,” Ogle said. “Therefore, you’re not putting people in harm’s way. The dog can go up and search the object, take the Soldier out of the aspect, reducing the risk of the handler getting hurt.”

The second day tested obedience. Situations were created to see how obedient the dog was to his handler regardless of what was going on, i.e., a man in a padded suit trying to get the dog’s attention resulting in an attack.

Top honors

In the end, handler Frank Musoli and his partner, Tina, took the most honors with the top Overall Dog Team and also received a second place in the Detection category and third in the Obedience/Controlled Aggression Category.

Dog handler Frank Musoli holds prizes from the K9 competition.
Dog handler Frank Musoli of Kampala, Uganda has 10 years’ combined experience as a dog handler in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Video image by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

Musoli is from Kampala, Uganda, and has been a dog handler serving in Iraq for five years and now in Afghanistan for five years.

“We are a team. Me and my dog are a team. So, we work hard,” Musoli said.

Asked what he thought of having a non-computer job while helping to save lives, Musoli said he recognizes how vital such a job is to the mission in Afghanistan.

“It doesn’t mean I’m only here for money. I’m here to support the U.S. Army … we are in it for peace. We make sure our people in the FOB (Forward Operating Base), stay alive,” Musoli said.

“I make sure when I’m out there at the checkpoint, I make sure I focus on what took me there. I make sure people’s lives—the generals, colonels, other guys and civilians—are safe,” he said.

So, between man and dog, IEDs do have an enemy.

“The dogs are the best resource out there that units can employ to make their units safer,” Ogle said. “The dogs detect stuff … explosives.”

Cronin put it another way: When “you go into your grandmother’s kitchen, you smell stew. The dog goes in your grandmother’s kitchen, he smells carrots, pepper, tomatoes and lettuce. I mean he smells all the ingredients.”

This article and a slide show originally appeared here. Many thanks to author Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs, for inviting MWDTSA to repost.

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MWDTSA sends quarterly care packages to military working dog teams (dog plus handler) deployed in global combat zones. We are currently collecting items for our Q4-2018 boxes, which will ship on December 1. You can contribute by visiting MWDTSA’s Amazon Wish List. It’s a quick, easy way to say thank you to these intrepid teams.