The little dog worked hard to become a good soldier. He learned to stand at attention. He learned to salute by sitting down and raising his right paw to his face. The soldiers called Stubby their mascot. The little dog had never been so happy. The camp had become his home, and he wanted to stay there forever (11).
In the tradition of Stubby, and the brave Connecticut men whom he accompanied into battle in World War I, the Connecticut 928th Military Police Working Dog Detachment is ready and motivated for all of their future missions.
The 928th from Newtown, Conn. is a part of the Connecticut Army National Guard, but is not a traditional ‘one weekend a month’ reserve component unit.
The 928th is a full-time AGR (Active Guard/Reserve) unit and is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is the only U.S. Army Guard/Reserve component military working dog unit in the United States.
Kennel Master, 928th Commander, Sgt. First Class Gerald Fountaine said his Soldiers come to work every day and eagerly await new assignments. Fountaine said between assignments, the 928th teams train each day on current and new training certifications.
“Our training minimum is four hours on odor detection and four hours on patrol and obedience training per week,” he said.
Fountaine said his Soldiers spend more time with their dogs than any other working dog unit in the United States, and that it shows.
“Our Soldiers are not here for short tours. They’re here for their careers. They have bonds with their dogs that won’t be found elsewhere.”
The 928th currently consists of four dog teams: four dogs and four handlers. Two of the teams are FORSCOM certified PEDD (Patrol Explosives Detective Dogs), trained in explosives tracking; one PDDD (Patrol Drug Detective Dogs), certified in narcotics detection and one is re-training to be a tactical explosives detection dog (TEDD). The unit is fully staffed with Soldiers, but has a few canine partner vacancies. It takes a great deal of time to train a dog before the unit receives the canine member of the team.
The detachment currently has three German Shepherds and one Belgian Malinois named Balou.
Balou’s handler, Sgt. Kimberlee Ruppar, joined the 928th following a 2013 deployment to Afghanistan. She said she feels very fortunate to work with such a dedicated organization, and with Balou. Ruppar said the members of the 928th receive such strong support for their training and readiness from their leadership and that the result is fantastic morale across the board.
“We have a saying, that we use here,” Ruppar said. “Enthusiasm travels down leash. When we’re feeling great, the dogs are feeling great.”
“That’s what makes our jobs unique in the military,” said Fountaine.
Fountaine said the teams have to be aware of the intangible factors of dog-handling.
“It translates into other areas of their readiness,” he said.
Most of the 928th dog teams have deployed. The detachment traveled to Balikatan in the Philippines for narcotics, explosives and combat tracking training in 2012, and the kennel master and three PEDD teams deployed to Qatar in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2013.
In May, unit members and dogs will deploy to train with the Uruguayan military in support of their continuing narcotics/terrorism prevention mission as part of the Connecticut Army National Guard’s State Partnership Program.
Fountaine said the 928th has been tasked to support the patrol and explosives detection mission at the Boston Marathon in the fall of 2014. Two teams will be supporting the Massachusetts Army National Guard and Boston Police on this assignment.
“Our teams are fully ready for that mission,” said Fountaine.
Although the 928th was not used for President Obama’s visit to Central Connecticut State University in March, the teams have provided military working dog support to 25 President of the United States (POTUS) missions since the kennel began operations in 2007. They also supported Pope Benedict’s visit to Yankee Stadium in 2008.
The 928th is currently working on new tracking training certifications.
“We’re doing everything we can to ensure future readiness,” said Fountaine.
Balou’s readiness level may exceed that of the other dogs. In 2012, in New York City, the Belgian Malinois was awarded an American Kennel Club Award for national service.
The 928th members are proud of her. Her medal and plaque hang in their detachment’s common area.
“According to the Army, Soldiers and dogs are all functional pieces of equipment,” Fountaine said. “Here, that’s different. Our Soldiers know that, and the dogs know that. That translates into success.”
Stubby’s dog tags flashed in the sun as he strutted proudly with the troops to their camp in France. The young soldiers in the Yankee Division knew that this was serious and dangerous business. Stubby seemed to know that too. His legs hurried to keep in step with the marching soldiers. His duty was to stay with friends (22).
Glendinning, Richard, and Sally. Stubby Brave Soldier Dog. Champaign, Ill: Garrard Publishing Company. 1978.