By CourtesyJanuary 7, 2019
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo -- In southeastern Europe, a camp represents an essential command and supply hub for NATO operations throughout the region. It is also a crucial staging ground for U.S. forces deployed in support of Operation Joint Guardian forming Multi-National Battle Group-East. The camp is Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.
Helping to secure this vital NATO hub are two Military Working Dog Handlers and their dogs from the 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, headquartered on Rose Barracks, Germany.
Sgt. Joseph Tucci and Sgt. Benjamin Paige from two separate Military Police Detachments execute force protection and anti-terrorism operations every day in support of the NATO mission in Kosovo.
In the summer of 2018, both Soldiers deployed on their own to Camp Bondsteel. The two non-commissioned officers execute NATO missions, care for and train their Military Working Dogs, Junior and Csoki, maintain Kosovo's only kennel, and assist with Law Enforcement operations.
"Sgt. Tucci and Sgt. Paige hold a great deal of responsibility," said Area Support Team Director, Ms. Della Hodges. "They are essential to the security of Camp Bondsteel and are the only NCOs of that rank who can completely halt access operations on the camp if they determine a threat exists."
The handlers are self-sufficient, living separate from the other Military Police Soldiers on Camp Bondsteel. In a recent visit to Kosovo, Lt. Col. John Copeland, the commander of 709th MP Battalion and Command Sgt. Maj. Joshua Kreitzer, the battalion command sergeant major, recognized the NCOs for their work in running the kennel. "They epitomize what it means to be a disciplined warrior that is ready to fight tonight," Copeland said.
"Everything we do is a direct reflection of us," said Tucci, a native of Venice, Florida. "This motivates us to train and keep the kennel organized when we have down time."
"We rely on each other to accomplish our mission," said Sgt. Paige, of Sacramento, California. "We are ambassadors for canines that have a direct impact on the Camp and are proud to be a part of the Camp's history."