War dogs: Meet Valdo, heroic combat dog that saved soldiers from RPG blast

Valdo, a Military Working Dog (MWD) sleeps beside his handlerCanines have fought alongside mankind for thousands of years. History tells us they were first used in 2100 BC by Hammurabi. These dogs fought, bled and died alongside the elite warriors of his Army.

War dogs have helped turn the tide of many battles with their ferocity and ability to strike fear in the hearts of the opposing army. Pliny the elder was the first to record the western use of dogs during war in his writings, the Naturalis Historis.

Modern combat dogs are not much different then those used in ancient warfare. Canines are fiercely loyal and protective of those with whom they serve. However, it’s a long road to hoe when becoming a combat dog, or a military handler of these brave animals.

Canines that are used in combat are highly trained and can be ruthlessly aggressive to attack and take down the enemy. They are an extra pair of eyes and ears during patrols. A military working dog (MWD), and their handler, have to endure 11 long months of rigorous training.

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Studies show that a dog’s sense of smell is 1,000 times stronger than a human being; that’s why they are used to “sniff out” danger found on the battlefield.

Dogs that become “Explosives detection canines” are scent-trained to sniff out incendiary components. Some of which are: nitrates that are found in TNT, PETN which is found in plastique, RDX which is a high explosive compound often used by the military), flash gunpowder, both high and low. Canines can also sniff out det-cords that contain explosive cores for initiating a series of charges.

Bomb sniffing is a very dangerous job for both the war dogs and their handlers. Numerous canines and their handlers have been killed while performing this job. Many dogs have been hailed as heroes as they have saved numerous lives of Marines, soldiers and sailors. Sadly many heroic canines have paid the ultimate price with their life in the process of saving others.

The next part of this article will introduce Petty Officer 1st Class Valdo.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Lee, Valdo’s handler, said Valdo was hand picked in Germany. He was then trained and employed as a Navy military working dog. Valdo became a veteran at sniffing out bombs, IEDs (improvised explosive devices), small mines and booby-traps. He’s also credited with saving four coalition lives in Afghanistan.

On April 3, 2011, Valdo and his handler, Lee, were on patrol north of Bala Murghab in Badghis Province, Afghanistan. Scouts from Red Platoon, Bulldog Troop, 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment were also with Valdo and Lee. They ventured further than coalition forces ever had before on the mission, and plotted fighting positions, and to anticipate possible enemy location.

The following morning Valdo, his handler and Red Platoon came under a “sustained attack” from the enemy. According to the report a rocket propelled grenade was fired into their position and landed directly behind Valdo. He was seriously injured from the grenade and bore the brunt of the blast saving four coalition troop’s lives.

Pfc. Ben Bradley, Red Platoon scout said: “If Valdo wasn’t here, I’m pretty sure I’d be dead right now.” Bradley suffered only minor injuries, was dug into a firing position a mere three feet from Valdo.

Valdo was carried by a fellow sailor almost a mile and a half south to Combat Outpost Metro. Once there, Valdo was treated by Spc. Kellen West, a Red Platoon medic. Valdo was then med-evaced to Forward Operating Base Todd. Once there he was stabilized and sent on another med-evac to Camp Arena, Herat.

Valdo’s service as a military working dog came to an end that day but he survived the blast. It was reported shortly after Valdo was injured that Lee planned to adopt him. However, Lee was having trouble aligning his rotation date from Rota, Spain, to Valdo’s retirement date. A recent search by this author to find out where Valdo was, found the following report:

“Valdo is now retired and his handler, Ryan Lee was looking for suitable living quarters without many stairs and some room to roam,” according to Brian Gaverth a Real Estate Agent with Redfin Corporation.


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