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Military working dogs share ‘Bastard’ burden

1 Sep 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis

The “Betio Bastards” are taking a bite out of insurgents with the help of some four-legged friends.

Marines with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment aren’t patrolling alone; they’re taking along man’s best friend, military-working dogs, to assist in combat operations.  The canines are running, crawling and even braving insurgent fire right alongside their Marine handlers.

“The dogs patrol, clear houses and insert on boats with Marines,” said Cpl. Eric R. Snipes, a military working dog handler assigned to the battalion.

The 21-year-old from Albuquerque, N.M, said sometimes the dogs enter insurgent strongholds first. Their keen sense of hearing, smell and high-level of discipline assists Marines in finding and fixing insurgents in this area west of Habbaniyah.

“The battalion keeps us busy with combat missions,” said Cpl. Vincent Acevedo, also a military working dog handler with the unit.  That’s good for our dogs because it keeps them sharp.”

The 20-year-old from New York City said the dogs are not only saving Marines lives but also the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians who walk the streets on a daily basis.

Acevedo named his dog CAR, the shortened version of Combat Action Ribbon Marines earn in combat under fire.  CAR earned his name, several times over.  He’s been right there when Marines dug up buried weapons caches, and he’s even braved enemy rocket-propelled grenade attacks.

When Acevedo, CAR and other Marines were headed to a firm base, they started receiving RPG and machine-gun fire from a chicken coop.

Marines, CAR included, took it all in stride. 

“They took care of the situation,” Acevedo said. “They sent a squad out and moved into the next house. That night we stayed in that house.” 

When all seemed well, the unit was attacked again.

CAR alerted Acevedo and other Marines when they started receiving a barrage of enemy mortar fire.

“A round landed about 10 meters away from me and my dog,” Acevedo said.

The blast was deafening.  Acevedo said with all the commotion, explosions and Marines scrambling for cover and mount security, he couldn’t hear a thing.  Still, CAR was there by his side.

“I just saw the dog barking, but there was no audible sound,” he said.

It was CAR who led the squad to safety.   Acevedo and the other Marines moved out of the area before the enemy could pinpoint the unit’s position. 

It’s not just Acevedo who’s convinced of CAR’s abilities and his performance in combat.  Marines walking the beat alongside him rest easier knowing he’s there.

“It’s good to have the dogs around,” said Pfc. Malik J. Staggers, a 19-year-old rifleman from Bronx, N.Y., assigned to K Company. “They save a lot of lives.”