As we take time to honor our veterans, we may also remember those who serve on four legs. Just in time for Veterans Day, a group of veteran K-9 handlers has found the original records on two Army dogs buried on land now owned by the Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland.
Falko and Rinnie were both Sentry Dogs. That means they protected the bases where they were stationed, alerting their handlers to anything out of the ordinary.
Phil Carroll, a Service retiree and now the president of the Vietnam Security Police Association, served with an Air Force Sentry Dog named Tina. As he says, “On our posts guarding the perimeter of the bases with their millions of dollars worth of combat aircraft, sleeping aircrews, late-working flight crews and support staff, Tina and I were a perfect team. I trusted her without reservation to tell me if anyone or anything approached in the night – she trusted me to keep her safe and healthy, and to understand and react appropriately to her alerts."
The two had nights when, Carroll says, “she alerted on something we couldn't see, and we radioed in for flares, Security Alert Teams or other support.” No intruder was found, but Carroll says “if she said they were there, they were there, so I can only believe that somebody outside the perimeter fence might have changed their mind about testing us after seeing the immediate reaction to their approach. “
Today's military working dogs are less aggressive -- unless they're ordered to attack -- and are much more specialized. Many in military service overseas detect explosives or narcotics, and still maintain basic K-9 law enforcement abilities.
Both Falko and Rinnie and Carroll’s partner, Tina, were trained by the 3700 Military Training Wing (ATC), Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Back then, as now, all branches of the U.S. military trained virtually all their working K-9s at Lackland AFB.
Falko, a big German shepherd at 90 pounds, patrolled bases in Virginia that were staffed by the Army and Virginia Army National Guard. He died in 1965.
Rinnie was smaller than Falko, just 78 pounds, also a German shepherd. He died in 1968.
Carroll’s Tina died in 1975.
Anyone who has loved a dog knows the bond between people and dogs. With K-9 teams of any kind it is that much greater. Carroll says of the relationship between him and Tina, “That’s what partners do, take care of and protect one another.”