“Fox 13 Q…does that mean what I think it means?!” It was a stupid question to ask on the radio; I had just seen Q, a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant and dog handler, give Cross, a male Malinois and SOF Multi-Purpose Canine (MPC), his reward. I knew damn well what it meant. Cross had found something. Something deadly. In the same spot I had stepped on an hour earlier.
Cross and Q came to our team in early months of '13 while they were waiting to support another mission. Though their time with us was only a couple months, I learned a few lessons from them. The first lesson I learned was that SOF MPCs fit the SOF model. They, like their SF handlers, are trained to be “Quiet Professionals.” He stood calm on patrol and he never barked. He walked into a room and he owned it. That brings us to the next lesson.
There is a difference between SOF MPC and regular military working dogs. I don’t say that as an ego contest. SOF MPCs are specially selected, trained, and deployed for special missions. Cross stood head and shoulders above other conventional force dogs I’d worked with. On two separate patrols, conventional force dogs barked constantly, either at local Afghans or at other Afghan dogs. We weren’t attempting surprise but their racket compounded tense situations and tense people.
One young handler was trying especially hard. After our first patrol with him, I said, “If you can’t improve as a handler and control your dog’s barking, you’ll never go out on an op with us again.” His wide-eyed look told me he understood. Lesson #3: If there is a problem with the dog team, it usually isn’t the dog, it’s the handler.
Lesson #4: Once the SOF MPC makes you family, they will protect you with their life. Q socialized Cross with us often. Cross would sit in the team room during meetings, and lie around after meals. He was a member of the ODA, a teammate, and like any good SF guy he put his teammates before himself.
Four of us had walked in the area Cross sniffed out. Thankfully, there were no casualties (this time.) Our Afghan partners and our team handled it and we moved on. That was early winter '13.
Thank you for saving us Cross. Thank you for saving me. I love you.