Saving Private K9

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Q: The White House announced this morning that an American and Italian held hostage by Al Qaeda in Pakistan were inadvertently killed in a U.S. “drone” strike earlier this year. Your thoughts? 
A: My condolences to their families. The announcement however begs some questions: Why was this announcement made today – not when it happened? And second, why don’t we have better HUMINT – human intelligence. 

The answer to the second question is pretty clear to me. We don’t have any spies on the ground in Pakistan because we don’t have a CIA Clandestine Service worthy of the name. You have to ask yourself, who in a place like Pakistan would dare spy for the U.S. after what happened to Dr. Shakil Afridi - the physician tried, convicted & sentenced to 30 years in prison for helping the find Osama bin Laden. 

Q: Describe your role with Saving Private K-9 and what viewers can expect to see when the show debuts tonight on Sportsman Channel? 

 A: For me, serving as the host of Saving Private K-9 is a great opportunity to let the American people see another – often unreported – dimension of our remarkable U.S. military & OUR 1ST RESPONDERS. 

 For the past 14 years my mission has been to let Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Guardsmen, Marines & LAW ENFORCEMENT tell their stories on FOX News Channel. I get to keep company with America’S heroes. 

I’m grateful FOX is giving me the time to host this show on Sportsman Channel about these four-legged heroes. They can’t talk – but they have the same kind of inspiring courage, tenacity perseverance as their human handlers and the troops & COPS who count on them in difficult and dangerous places. 

 Q: Tell us a story of how military dogs have helped you in your time in the military? Are there any special dogs you still remember today? 

 A: My first experience with military working dogs was in Vietnam. In 1968-69 I was a Rifle Platoon Commander in 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines. We were deployed in the mountainous jungles along the DMZ – a major infiltration and staging area for the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). 

 Daily foot patrols in this terrain were fraught with risk of being ambushed or stepping on an enemy mine. To be accompanied by a “dog-team” – a handler and his German Shepherd - was an answer to prayer. With a dog and a handler walking “point” on a patrol, we had an extraordinary advantage in detecting danger.

On scores of such operations the dog’s exceptional sense of smell and remarkably acute vision alerted us before a potentially deadly encounter. Despite terrible heat, humidity and extremely rough terrain, the dogs and their handlers saved countless Marines.

On one such operation, the dog alerted us to an enemy ambush. We deployed a squad to envelop the suspected NVA position and in the subsequent gunfight, the dog handler was wounded. After it was over a medevac helo was called in to get our casualties to a field hospital. The shepherd, though unhurt, “insisted” on going out with the handler.

I’m not sure the dog had ever been on a CH-46 helicopter before, but he went willingly aboard, w/ his handler on the litter. I’ve often wondered what happened at the field hospital when they took the handler into surgery. In hundreds of such patrols, whenever we had a “dog-team” with us, we unfailingly were able to initiate contact with an enemy force before they could engage us. Sadly, there were never enough dogs and handlers to accompany every patrol. I learned two important lessons from that Vietnam experience I still put to use in covering our troops in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines & WHILE HUNTING: 

(1) Never get in front of the dog! The dog will detect an IED or an enemy combatant better than a mine-sweeper or all the other high-tech sensors employed by our military today. When I accompany U.S. units on a mission – even SEALs racing out of a helo on an LZ – I always follow the dog.

(2) Watch the dog! When a dog “alerts” – it usually means “Danger Close” – something bad is about to happen. It means be ready to react – quickly! It’s amazing how fast an old man can move when he’s properly motivated. Finally, having learned to recognize when a dog is “on alert” has made me a better hunter. When my Boykin Spaniel “alerts” on a scent, I get my gun up.

Q: What do you want audiences to know about your most recent book, Counterfeit Lies? 

 A: This really is a novel – though much of it seems to be playing out today. The plot line is about how Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons. And without giving away too much of the story, it includes Peter Newman and other characters from my earlier novels. In a broader sense it’s about “good” vs “evil” and decisions that have to be made when none of the options are good and a person has to make the “right” call. Lots of us have been in that situation. Somehow, dogs – like mine at home – and those I’ve seen at war – don’t have that problem. They always seem to do the right thing.

Q: When viewers are done watching Saving Private K-9, what do you want them to remember? 

 A: Here’s the bottom line: the animals we show you on Saving Private K-9 are life-savers for U.S. military personnel. Dogs really are “man’s best friend” – particularly in harm’s way. Every dog I have ever had or seen – in combat, on a hunt or lying before a hearth – is special. Their courage and affection are unconditional. One of my close friends from Vietnam – a U.S. Navy Corpsman – says that’s because D-O-G is GOD spelled backwards. I think he’s right. But of this much I’m certain: The war dogs, & POLICE K-9s our viewers see in this series are every bit as brave and tenacious as the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Guardsmen, Marines & POLICE OFFICERS WITH WHOM THEY SERVE. They all inspire me to be a better human.


Oliver North