Soldier memorialized at Kennel
January 19, 2012
She was a knitter, she was a student and she was a leader.
Sgt. Zainah "Caye" Creamer, a former Military working dog handler for the Military District of Washington at Fort Belvoir's 212th Military Police Detachment Kennels, was also a Soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Creamer was killed in action when insurgents attacked her unit with an improvised explosive device during a route and building clearance mission, Jan. 12, 2011.
On the one-year anniversary of her death, Fort Belvoir leadership memorialized her by naming the Fort Belvoir Kennels the "Sgt. Zainah "Caye" Creamer Military Working Dog Kennels."
To commemorate her life and sacrifice, Soldiers from the 212th MP Det., and her former military working dog, "Jofa," unveiled a bronze plaque next to the facility's front door with Creamer's bio and a picture of her kneeling with her working dog.
Soldiers, civilians and the local community attended the ceremony to pay their respects to a Soldier who impacted the lives of many.
"She definitely had the ability to light a room up no matter what the situation," said Sgt. Sean Nugent, 212th MP Det. military working dog specialized search handler, who served in Afghanistan at the same time as Creamer.
Creamer enlisted in the Army as a military policeman in September 2004.
She decided to become a working dog handler because of her love for canines and her experiences during a deployment with the 543rd and the 511th MP Companies in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
She was assigned to Fort Belvoir in 2009 and conducted more than fifteen missions in direct support of the President and Vice President of the United States.
On Oct. 26, 2010, she deployed to Afghanistan with Jofa and the 2nd Battalion of the 502nd Infantry Regiment. Her mission was to search for weapon caches and explosive devices prior to her unit's arrival to an area.
Lt. Col. Dwayne Bowyer, Headquarters Battalion commander, recalled Creamer being determined, focused and happy the day she departed with her unit.
"Silently, we all knew that we were sending them into harm's way but we never imagined that Sergeant Creamer would make the ultimate sacrifice doing what she loved," Bowyer said.
Creamer was the first Soldier from the Military District of Washington and the first female working dog handler killed in action during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Belvoir conducted a candlelight vigil and memorial ceremony immediately after her death.
Those who knew her well said they were devastated by her loss.
People like, Capt. Aurlbrio L. Fennell, 212th MP Det. commander, who said he had the privilege to spend several hours with Creamer during a mission prior to her deployment.
He related that Creamer told him that she found her niche in the Army as a working dog handler, but she was also preparing for life after the military by attending school to become a massage therapist.
Fennell said he felt guilt, grief and disbelief at the time of her death; and he wasn't alone.
Jofa, who Creamer purchased extra treats and toys for during their partnership, suffered from handler separation anxiety after Creamer's death.
"A dog gets traumatized just as much as a human. You can't see their emotional scars through communication verbally, but dogs communicate. They get sad, they get depressed," Fennell said. "I'm sure anytime he picks up her scent on something he has a flashback."
Jofa has a new handler now, and Bowyer said the dog is doing great.
Bowyer said he appreciated all the people who helped make the memorial possible.
He urged the attendees to honor Creamer and remember that the war for which she sacrificed her life is ongoing as Soldiers from Belvoir and across the globe continue to serve overseas.
"I am confident that Sgt. Creamer is watching over them all with her beautiful smile, understanding the importance of their unique capabilities and knowing that they're saving lives," Bowyer said,
As a testament to Creamer's reputation, Fennell recounted how her mother, Carlyn Brown, took the lead on the conversation when she learned of her daughter's death.
Instead of her commander recounting Creamer's character, Brown described the love Creamer had for her job and her fellow Soldiers.
Fennell said Creamer's joyous and passionate personality brought comfort to her mother and himself even after death.