Saturday, April 01, 2006

Devil Dogs

All my life, Dienekes said to the assembled warriors, one question has haunted me. What is the opposite of fear? As the three hundred Spartans formed up ranks at Thermopylae, awaiting the charge of the Medians, at the forefront of the two-million-strong Persian army, that question was on each Spartan’s mind.

The commander Dienekes continued: How does one conquer the fear of death, that most primordial of terrors, which resides in our very blood, as in all life, beasts as well as men? He pointed to the devil dogs. Dogs in a pack find courage to take on a lion. Fear conquers fear.

This is how we Spartans do it, counterpoising to fear of death a greater fear, that of dishonor; of proving ourselves unworthy of our wives and children, our comrades-in-arms; of exclusion from the pack.

Now the Medes formed up not 50 yards from the Spartans front lines. Now the nerves began to scream. More endless moments passed. Of a sudden, a hare started from the cliffside, dashing directly between the two armies. At the sight of the wildly sprinting hare, our roan bitch Styx, who had already been barking wildly at the Medians, now bolted into the open. The hare fled straight for the Median front-rankers with Styx in hot pursuit. At the last instant the hare reversed course and wound up in the jaws of the devil dog. A cheer rose from the throat of the Greeks, until two Median archers fired a pair of arrows from twenty yards striking Styx in the flank and throat. Our commander Xenocratides seized the moment: Zeus Thunderer and Victory! he cried. The battle commenced.

(Excerpts are from Gates of Fire, the epic novel of the battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield.)

Our own Devil Dog Brian Weiss sends this update from Djbouti.

Another week is done and we are on our day off. We have been pretty busy. Somalia has been in a decent amount of strife and that has been adding lots of missions to our schedule. In my last 48+ hour shift, I saw about 4 hours of sleep in half hour increments.

We got to the range to get some much needed shooting in on our training day. I have attached a video of a NSR drill. Non Standard Response has been developed since Iraq. I’m shooting 3 round bursts at 3 meters. We sure get to see the countryside. This whole area is covered with volcanic rocks, and some parts have the most powder- like red dust I have ever seen. Some days we come back looking like we were spray painted reddish orange from head to toe.

We got to spend our first night in town and it was fun. The bars have food on their menus, but I haven’t dared to eat it yet. I have a translator who is attached to my squad and he is going to take us out in town and show us the ropes. My Somali has been improving, but I’m still just working with the catch words like good morning, evening, how are you. I will have plenty down by the time I come home.

The other day while we were searching a Somali man, my search guy was pulling the man's food out of the plastic bag it was in to check for contraband and when he reached in to pull of what he thought was food turned out to be a live mouse. Now I was standing next to him when he grabbed this handful of mouse but I wasn’t watching what he was doing, he yelled, threw the bag and backed away from the man. His yell prompted the other Marine and me to reach for our weapons. It’s pretty funny that a little mouse can make such a stir, but we have no way of knowing what is in these people’s bags when we deal with them.

Please keep in mind that the Marine is no way a coward, as he is a veteran of combat in Iraq, but is sure funny to see the 200 lb Marine who has faced the enemy in war yell with a little mouse.

Since everything here is a learning opportunity we decided to work on our communication procedures some more. We now have a policy that you may yell when we see a mouse, but you must inform the other Marines what it is directly afterward so no one gets shot. We also have a policy that all living things are required to have proper government ID before they may proceed on base, including mice. (As a note no mice were harmed in the making of this story).

I went on a foot patrol of an outpost this week with four other Marines. When we got to the grid coordinates we were assigned one of the local dogs. We got the dog to patrol with us, and it was great. I’m not sure of his name but I will try to send a picture of him soon enough. He was harder working than the military working dogs and he never gets air conditioning like they do. The dog actually took point on the whole patrol and even alerted us to a Somali herder that had crawled under a bush in a prohibited area.

All in all everything has been pretty good but got to go. I hope all is well with all of you…. B

Brian, you might call the dog Styx.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian, the mouse story is too funny!! I can just imagine....

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you pls pass 2 Brian? Would like more detail on use of local dogs. I'm at Quantico (Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities) and working on a more effective (non-aircon, no frills) Infantry-based single purpose dog modeled after dogs used in Vietnam. What dogs are you using? Using them for OP/LP? force protection? What do you look for in a dog? My contact info is Thnx for yr svc!

1:42 PM  

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