In the beginning of March, I visited the Peshmerga’s K9 Unit in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Over just several days we covered significant ground in and around Erbil and Suleymaniah. The K9 Unit currently has 15 explosive and mine detection dogs (EDDs and MDDs) provided by MLI and all donated by caring American individuals, schools, and organizations. The dogs are working with several units in three Peshmerga bases to provide assistance in the Kurdish army’s continuing fight against ISIS. In addition to ensuring roads are clear of bombs and IEDs (improvised explosive devices) at checkpoints throughout KRI, the EDDs conduct house and car searches when the Peshmerga deploy on missions.
The love and care the handlers showed their dogs was contagious. While some of the dogs get easily excited (this is what - after all - keeps them motivated to work!) like Woody and Kenji, others have more mellow personalities and like to be petted and get belly rubs, like Scout and Lennox. But no matter in what kind of mood a dog is in, the handlers were able to expertly lead their dogs through explosive search trainings and commands.
During my visit, I also got the chance to meet with all of the K9 Units’ team leaders, as well as the commanders of the Peshmerga bases where the K9 Units were located. The commanders were clearly proud of the work of the K9 teams, and especially all that they have accomplished in their fight against ISIS, which continues to this day. In fact, one of the bases that we visited south of Erbil is located at the foot of a mountain range where rogue ISIS soldiers are still present. The K9 teams assist the Peshmerga in searching the area and extracting the terrorists. The commander of this base showed me all of the ISIS vehicles they had captured, which was astonishing to see.
It is wonderful to witness our dogs conducting such important and lifesaving work in KRI, and MLI is incredibly thankful to all of the donors who have made this program possible: CHAMPS Glenelg Country School, Chandi Heffner, Hilda and Preston Davis Foundation, Stephen and Jaqui Edelmann, General Dynamics, Hillwood – a Perot Company, LTG (Ret.) Roger Schultz, Northrop Grumman Corporation, CHAMPS Coulson Tough Elementary School, and CHAMPS Connecticut campaigns led by Greenwich Country Day School and North Mianus School.