'Man's best friend' MP, dog deploy to Middle East
August 24, 2009
By Jeremy Wise
FORT RUCKER, Ala.--When most Soldiers deploy overseas, it is with fellow Soldiers, but Friday, 6th Military Police Detachment Cpl. Simeon Dunker deployed with man's best friend.
Dunker and his military working dog, a German Shepherd named Maxi, will serve at least one year in Iraq. Their specific mission and installation will not be known until they reach the country. Dunker said it is possible the team will travel around Iraq. Provost Sgt. Maj. Michael Cieslewski said military working dogs track down insurgents and detect weapons caches and explosives among other duties.
Dunker said Maxi specializes in narcotics detection, so he may be assigned to customs. Despite the specialization, Dunker and Maxi completed other types of training before the deployment.
"We have a wide range of responsibilities, and we keep proficient in all of them," he said. "I feel comfortable with my dog and my training, with anything they hand me." Dunker said other handlers offered advice and instruction that will aid in the deployment. "I couldn't have come half as far as I have without their help. Dogs are like humans - none are the same. You have to pick and choose what works for you," he said.
Deploying with Maxi puts Dunker at more ease than deploying with other Soldiers. "A dog is the best partner you can have. I'll never have to second-guess him. He'll never have the conscience to ask, 'Is this going to be safe''" the corporal said. In addition, Dunker is familiar with Maxi because they have trained together since August 2008.
The pair has worked well together, placing third in narcotics detection at a Training and Doctrine Command working dog competition in May. Cieslewski said before dog handlers deploy with an animal, they must be certified on that specific canine, a process that varies in length of time. "There are so many hours you have to log and so many hurdles and goals to achieve in order to be certified," he said.
Dunker deployed as a National Guard field artillery member in 2005-2006. He said since his specialization has changed, he cannot apply many lessons learned from the first deployment. Dunker's Family status also changed since the last deployment - he got married and has a 1-year-old son. Dunker and Joanna, his wife of two years, say the new Family status makes this deployment more difficult than the last, even though they dated several years before the last one. Joanna said staying busy and visiting friends and Family will make the deployment pass quickly for her.