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Marine dog handlers in Iraq mourn death of colleague
Sgt. Adam L. Cann killed in suicide blast in Ramadi
By Monte Morin, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Monday, January 9, 2006
Courtesy of Joseph Manning
Marine Sgt. Adam L. Cann, who was killed in a suicide attack in Ramadi on Thursday, is remembered by fellow Marines as a consummate professional. “I never met a better Marine doing what he did,” one of his fellow dog handlers recalled.
RAMADI, Iraq — Marine Sgt. Adam L. Cann had less than two months to go before he finished his second tour in Iraq, and the 23-year-old military dog handler told friends that he and his trusty German Shepherd, Bruno, would be right back for a third.
“He loved it out here,” said fellow Marine dog handler Cpl. Allen Swartwoudt, 27, of Austin, Texas. “He was looking forward to coming back immediately.”
Cann, a native of Davie, Fla., died Thursday as he was helping to control crowds outside of an Iraqi police recruitment and screening center at the sprawling Ramadi Glass Factory. He was attached to the 2nd Military Police Battalion, 2nd Force Services Support Group, the Marine Corps said.
A disturbance had broken out among hundreds of police volunteers late Thursday morning after warning shots were fired at an approaching vehicle. Cann, Bruno and two other dog handlers and their hounds had just helped to restore order before a suicide bomber detonated an explosives vest, killing Cann, Army Lt. Col. Michael E. McLaughlin, 27 Iraqi police volunteers and two Iraqi army soldiers.
The blast also injured the two other dog handlers and their dogs.
Bruno suffered injuries as well. He will be flown back to the U.S. for treatment and returned to service if he fully recovers.
On Sunday, friends described Cann as a dedicated and knowledgeable dog handler who could never sit for very long inside camp. He was happiest when he and his dog were outside the wire, hard at work, they said.
“He did it for the guy next to him,” said Cpl. Brian Treille, 22, another dog handler from Hardin, Texas. “He was always about being out there with the fellas. He didn’t have to come out here. He could have been a trainer back home.”
While military dog handlers back in the U.S. usually place their dogs in kennels for the evening, handlers in Iraq live with their animals full time. “They’re kind of like house pets — they sleep on your bed, you feed them beef jerky,” Swartwoudt said.
In Cann’s case, his relationship was even closer. He had worked with Bruno for five or six years, including a tour in Afghanistan. “He’d been with Bruno for quite a while,” Treille said.
Military dog handlers in Iraq are a small but close-knit group, and word of Cann’s death left them stunned. Their mission is to assist in crowd control and raids and to sniff out explosives.
Cann’s friends said that up until recently, their tours had been without serious injury or death. This deployment, though, has been different. In addition to Cann’s death, another dog handler was shot by a sniper two months ago. He survived.
“Because there are only a few of us, it seems improbable or unlikely this would happen to any of us,” Swartwoudt said. “It seems like we do our job and go home.”
Treille and Swartwoudt were planning a memorial service for Jan. 14. On a laptop computer, they clicked through photos of Cann and Bruno on missions and playing around.
Cann told them that when he finished with the Marines, he was considered moving back to Florida to open up a restaurant with his brother — a bar and grill.
Up until a few days ago, though, Cann’s retirement from K-9 operations seemed a long way off.
“He loved dog training,” Trielle said. “He took it very seriously. I’ve never met a better Marine doing what he did.”
My heart felt sympathies go out to the families.
For me this brings the war closer as one of the dogs injured was a mal I helped procure in Czech Republic. In Canes Confiderous
The Marine Moms are putting together a book of condolence emails for this American Hero.
If you wish to send a condolence please forward it to email@example.com
Thank you all for your service
Proud Marine Mom
Anything we can do for this Marine's Family wardog72? Do you know of a contact to send condolences ?
Best I could think of is from the poster above you. I know the Marines in our unit were taking donations within their own section but nothing was passed on to the rest of us...
If you would like to do anything for Sgt. Cann family please contact Penny at firstname.lastname@example.org she should have an address for the family and the contact information for the casualty officer. Keep in mind she will not give you the families address - we have to protect our fallen families but she will pass on any information you want to send them.
Just want to take a moment to explain what a condolence book is. We collect emails expressing condolences for our fallen Marine. Some books will have 100 emails, some have several hundred. Depends on the media attention. These emails are collected from all over the US and a few from Europe. The emails are then printed out onto Patriotic paper, placed inside a book and presented to the family.
Also included in the book is any information about the Heroes MOS. It would be appreciated if you could send some information about Dog Handlers.
Spread out through the book are beautiful poems and graphics. Again maybe you could send this Mom some War Dog handler pictures, the history of Warrior Dogs, etc., to include in his book. The Mom - in this case Penny will also secure a Gold Star Banner, a fallen angel tag and a portrait to also present to the family from grateful Americans who are forever indebted to his family for our freedom.
You can check out our group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MFO_In_Action/
this is not a solicitation to join our group of course you are welcomed to do so, just trying to explain why I intruded onto your site. I found it by accident and thought it would be a great place to solicit emails for Sgt. Canns book. I think emails from dog handlers would be just so perfect.
Also if you really want to do something you can contact Jan Landers at http://www.landersink.com/fallenheroes.htm $30.00
Ms Landers is a Gold Star Mom who makes the fallen Angel tags (Dog tags) for all the families of the fallen. She does this at her own expense but does accept donations. You could purchase one for this Marine and she will send it to the bookmaker - Penny.
Once again thank you for your service
Proud Mother of a Marine
Thanks very much for the information. I will sends my email condolence shortly. Thank you again for the quick reply.
Odds Of Survival Improve For The U.S. Military's Best Friends
Bomb-sniffing dogs are now vital to the Iraq war effort, and the Army has improved its medical care for those severely wounded in combat.
By Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
BAGHDAD - Lt. Col. Randall Thompson knows his life has gone to the dogs. But that's probably a good thing for the Army, the canine corps and for him.
One of only six clinical veterinary surgeons in the U.S. military, Thompson works to save the lives of some of the military's most valued assets: bombsniffing dogs that have been severely wounded in combat. He arrived here in October to open Iraq's first urgent surgical care ward for canines.
Before Thompson's arrival, injured dogs were shipped to a U.S. base in Germany or to the United States for emergency medical treatment. At best, seriously wounded dogs were out of commission for weeks; at worst, they died during transport to a faraway veterinary facility.
The dogs' talent for sniffing out hidden explosive devices has become crucial to the war effort, so the command changed policy.
"It reached a buildup of dogs here and a concern level that said we had to do something to support these animals the best way possible," said Thompson, 46, a native of Savannah, Ga. Quicker medical care means the dogs return to duty sooner, he said. "Every day that we can keep a dog out on the line working is another day that a soldier or Marine is going to live because the dog was doing its job."
By uncovering tons of explosives that insurgents could otherwise use against coalition soldiers, the dogs have saved countless lives, said Col. Arnaldo Claudio, who as 18th Airborne Corps provost marshal commands all military police and dog handlers in Iraq. He declined to disclose the precise number of war dogs here.
"The dogs weren't needed as much when [the war] started. But the threat has changed," he said, referring to insurgents' increasing use of hidden, remote-controlled bombs often fashioned from mortar and artillery shells and detonated by cellphones and pagers. The bombs cause the majority of casualties suffered by U.S.-led forces in Iraq.
Claudio said a bomb-sniffing dog probably saved his life in August when it alerted him and a handler to a roadside bomb at a traffic stop in northern Baghdad.
"We got out of there and the bomb exploded a few minutes later," Claudio said.
But the dogs and their handlers sometimes pay a steep price. Four-year-old Flapeur was receiving treatment at Thompson's clinic last month. The Belgian Malinois had taken a piece of shrapnel through the chest in a suicide bombing in the Sunni Triangle city of Ramadi days before. He was on crowd-control duty with two other dogs and their handlers when the bomber struck a line of police recruits.
Flapeur's handler, a Marine whom the military declined to identify, was also seriously wounded, as was a second handler. Both were airlifted to Germany for medical treatment. The third handler, Marine Sgt. Adam Cann, was killed in the bombing.
Flapeur and the other injured dogs were taken by helicopter to Baghdad's combat support hospital, just as severely wounded soldiers or Marines would be.
"We would never fly a dog in front of a human casualty. But when there isn't someone ahead of them, we'll fly them," Thompson said.
He and other vets narrowly saved Flapeur, the most severely wounded of the three canines, from dying of shock, blood loss and a collapsed lung. Had the bombing happened before Thompson's arrival, Flapeur almost certainly would have died.
Although the wound left a nasty-looking hole in his chest, Flapeur was alert and friendly after his treatment. He is expected to be back on duty in three months, as is his handler.
Cann's dog, Bruno, will go through training again with a new handler. The third dog, Kevin, is expected back on duty as soon as his handler recovers.
A professed dog lover, Thompson says caring for man's best friend is one of the military's best jobs. "How many of your other friends listen to you attentively, don't talk back and are always glad to be in your company?" Thompson said. He has owned dogs, mostly German shepherds, since he can remember, he said. He and his wife have a Labrador retriever and a Cairn terrier.
Most of the dogs used in bomb-detection operations are either German shepherds or Belgian Malinois; they have been trained to detect explosives and to chase down and detain suspects, Thompson said. Just the sight of them usually deters unruly crowds, however.
"It's the only weapon system we have that you can change your mind on after squeezing the trigger," Thompson said.
The military dogs here were bought almost exclusively in Europe, where the canines are bred for detection and tracking skills. Then they are sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for training. Each dog goes through a six-month course to learn how to sense a dozen or more explosives and weapon