The name has been changed, but the story is true. Care to guess what the Navy is doing for Joe?

“We were called on a mission under circumstances that we normally don’t like to go. We generally work at night and we generally work when there’s not a full moon and we generally get to choose the circumstances a little better, but this time we did not, and I can’t discuss the nature of the mission, but there was a reason that we had to go. And we somehow ended up landing next to a compound full of people.

We pushed through south, kind of moving to the north in the helicopters and when you land near structures, it’s extra terrifying because, like what happened on this one, you don’t know who’s there, and if they’re bad guys, those helicopters look like school buses and they feel like bullet magnets. So, the helicopters landed and I could hear over the rotors the guns–there was a mean gunfight going on. I was in Chop 1, Chop 2 landed a little bit farther to the east, probably 100 meters, that was the helicopter that was being engaged, and the men coming off that helicopter were immediately in a–in a serious gunfight. We maneuvered–I was a Team Leader and we maneuvered to get on line, to try to stay out of the beating zone where the bullets were going on, and while we were doing this, there were–as is common, there were people running, and it was very difficult to ascertain who was who, so you can’t just start shooting people, you have to close in on them.

As the team from Chop 2, the other helicopter suppressed the fire, there were some grenades, rockets, it was a heavy-duty engagement. I could see that there were multiple what we call ‘squirters” that were moving and–and running from structure to structure and hiding in fields, and we had to cover some ground. And it was important that we–the nature of the mission called for us to find people, specifically to find people. Because of the significance of the firefight at our insert, I was very concerned that we were messing with people that weren’t your average dirt farmer Taliban, that the level of fire, the volume and the amount and the types of fire we had received, belt-fed machine guns, heavy duty stuff, not just some farmer with an AK47, it was heavy duty, I was really concerned, and when I saw there were people running just crazy, the people in this little village were frightened, I knew we had to get close and identify people and the best way to do that was to divide up my team, there were three shooters, myself, another shooter, “Joe” and his dog , and I sent a team farther to the east as we moved southward in the initial contact.

Other teams were maneuvering and there were other gunfights going on at this time. It was very confusing and very dynamic. As we moved south, we crossed through some structures which we had to clear quickly because we’d seen people run from them, but we needed to make sure that they were secured because you can’t move past something and then hope that those people are going to come back around on you, you need to worry about what’s in front of you. So, I could see the other half of my team maneuvering, and I had picked “Joe” specifically, I wanted to go with him because I knew this was his fifth or sixth mission. This was the first time he’d been in a really heavy-duty gunfight, and I wanted to make sure that I had eyes on him with the dog because I had experience with that as well.

As we moved through the fields, we engaged people who were hiding with the women and children, which is common with the Taliban, and just about any other terrorist like that, they hide. When you get the drop on them, they hide with the women and they hide behind them and the children, so we had to engage on a couple of occasions during our movement to the south, we had to engage people, and then at one point we saw some people in the ditch and I said to “Joe”, “Send him, man, send the dog,” so he sent the dog and the dog kind of–he ran in the direction and he kind of stopped for a second, he paused, and then “Joe” gave him the command again, and I’ve only seen one other dog really do that, and I figured the reason why he did it, and we knew later, it was because there were children in the ditch. 

So, once that happened, we moved in, we could see with the equipment we were using, we were using lasers and the night vision, we could see they were children, “Joe” took the dog off, held security, I grabbed the children out of the ditch, I talked to them, I put them in the center of the field, I threw chem lights around them and then, as I turned from that, “Joe” and the other shooter that was with me, I looked at them and they were looking–there was an aircraft overhead that was burning, some more individuals moving, and there were a group of them and they split up, and some of them moved to the east, I’m facing south now, some of them were moving to the west. So, I–being a dog guy, and “Joe” helped me, we wanted to set up where the wind was, there–we were in a field that was about as flat as this, with ditches occasionally where the kids were hiding, and there were weeds maybe knee high and it was very flat. They moved a little bit to the west, and we maneuvered to the south and farther west to open up the distance with them and get downwind so that the dog could smell them, and because of–to this point we had–we had run across several groups of children or women or combinations of children, women and terrorists, I wanted to try and take it as slow as possible, but I knew that we were going to have to get close, unless we could get them to maneuver to us.

So, we sat down or we knelt down quietly in the field, they moved, and they moved around for a little bit and then they stopped, and when they stopped they just–they got very low and still, and I–I’m guessing at distances, but probably we were 150 meters roughly from them and perfectly lined up with them. So, we sat and I said, ‘Okay, we have to go get them. Are you guys ready?” and they said, “Yes.” So, we moved out, “Joe” and I moved together, lined the dog up and we started moving towards them. And, you know, again we’re going to have to line up to send the dog, and he was going to buy us a little time, so a full moon, fields like this, and weeds about knee high, and I knew when we sent him that we only had a few seconds. So, we started walking, kind of crouched, walking towards them, walking towards them, walking towards them, close to about maybe 30 meters or roughly that, and I said, ‘Okay, “Joe”, send him quietly,” and he sent him, and he gave him the command and he went out. And you could see him, you’ve heard talk of the way dogs indicate on things, he could smell men, he was–he was on them, and when they smell the fear of those–’cause they’re scared, they know, man, and it makes them hungry and ready to fight, and you could see him just bob his ears and his tail, and he started hauling ass, and so we–we have to stay with him, man, we’re right on top of him, he’s only going to buy you a second. 

So, I remember running, I was watching him, he was about from me to you, sir, and when he looked at me as though he got to one of the black shapes, they were hiding behind the small berm ditch, and I heard boom, boom, two quick shots, and I knew they were loaded. I couldn’t tell if they hit him or not, and there wasn’t really time to worry about it, I had to start filling them in, and then they say you never hear the bullet that gets you, and you don’t. I fell forward and rolled towards them, it hit me and I flipped forward, my back was to them, and my first thought was, “I’m a dead man,” I’m right–I mean I’m this far away, I’m dead. l–l really thought I was done, man, ’cause we were that close to them, and I didn’t know what was going on with the dog. And at first when you’re shot, it doesn’t–you–l just felt my leg give way.

Then I thought I was going to die because I was so close, I was waiting for the next shot and didn’t come, and it didn’t come ’cause that dude went to work, that dude being “Joe”. I heard–we had suppressed weapons, silencers, I could hear pops, gunshots from guns that didn’t have suppressors, spraying automatic, which I knew wasn’t him. I could hear the two suppressors, his and the other shooter who had come around to make the I could hear thumps and then something else, and they ended up being grenades being thrown at us. I heard silence for a minute, and then I screamed, I was in such pain, I wasn’t nearly as tough as I thought I would be, I was screaming, it hurt bad, and then I heard more shooting, and the most distinct sound of all was I could hear him walking, whoosh, whoosh, and crunching the weeds, and he was walking at them, and this is something that–you can’t train somebody to do that.

You can try as hard to replicate what it’s like to get shot at, to have your dog get shot and killed, to have your buddy next to you go–go down, you don’t know if he’s dead. And most people’s natural instinct is to run. He didn’t do that; he kept walking, whoosh, whoosh, I could hear his suppressor, whoop, whoop, whoop, and I heard hissing because the Taliban he was shooting had RPG rockets on their backs, and the propellant for the rockets, when the bullet would go through it, it would shhhhh, it would make a hissing sound, it would ignite that booster, and he kept walking, and he kept walking. And then I heard some rapid shots from him, I presume it was him or the other shooter, and then he came over and he knelt next to me… , and then the other shooter came over while he held security. And then I faded in and out a little bit, I lost a lot of blood. Some other folks came over to help with tourniquets and bandages, and he went to work on the dog after he was certain that I was being taken care of and it was secured. I don’t know exactly what he did with the dog. He could have done a trach, ’cause most of his mouth was blown up, he could have put a trach in his throat to get air to him, he could have given him mouth-to-mouth or mouth-to-nose in this occasion, stop the bleeding. While, I was carried over to the helicopter, I was hopping on my left leg and screaming and being carried by a bunch of teammates and when I turned around and sat down, I was really concerned about the dog as well, and “Joe” was carrying him, and he- -he had to have help carrying him, and his gear.

When we got back to the MEDEVAC place, I remember asking about the dog, I remember seeing him there, and I don’t remember much after that. I’d lost, I think, units of blood, something like that, and I went under and, when I woke up, I was in–somewhere else, but the guy who helped me get on the helicopter went out, after they pronounced the dog dead, they went back to the fight.”

Posted by M. Ittleschmerz in Foreign Policy, Navy

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  • Navy Cross?

  • Nope. Appropriate, but not what is happening.

  • Forward the post to your Congressperson and Senators, asking the same question: “What is the Navy doing for Joe?”

  • Mittleschmerz

    Bill is right – because “Joe” is being forced to retire.

  • What? Why??

  • JamesT

    I believe “Joe’s” dog received a Silver Star. “Joe”, however, may have some difficulty in getting any official acknowledgment.

  • M. Ittleschmerz


  • CDR Tom O’Malley, USN (Ret)

    OK team what do we have to do to make sure this is fixed and done right?

  • alfred_the_great

    As a member of the RN, I’m missing the sub-text of this piece – any help?

  • exforfan

    He was the LCPO with the Bahrain Military Working Dog outfit that involved hazing/cruelty & maltreatment, and LPO’s suicide a few years go, right?

  • Any updates on “Joe” for us?

  • @Alo – unfortunately not.

  • Nancy Custin

    I am a Rhode Island resident and an artist. I specialize in dog portraits in pastels and wanted to know if I might paint this special dog in a portrait. It is my goal to find, over time, deserving hero canines that would be honored in this way as a gift to the brave handlers; military men and women who are responsible for the training of such wonderful dogs who have helped our military so much.
    Please let me know. Thank you.