By Sgt. Terence EwingsMarch 19, 2013
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ - Soldiers assigned to 85th Medical Combat Stress Control Detachment were recognized for their hard work providing behavioral health services for the deployed troopers of 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, during an awards ceremony, March 8.
Of the 10 soldiers who received certificates of appreciation during the ceremony, Spc. Lawrence Shipman, a patient administrative specialist, and Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Zeke, a combat stress-relief dog, were inducted into the Order of the Spur for their outstanding work with the cavalry unit.
"It was an honor to be able to induct our extended family members into the Order of the Spur," said Lt. Col. Paul Reese, deputy commander of 4th AAB.
The Order of the Spur is a cavalry tradition within the U.S. Army, stemming from the days when cavalry troopers used horses to perform their duties, during westward expansion in the U.S. and in America's wars as late as World War I.
"They earned their spurs going on patrols and providing services for the 4th AAB Soldiers at the outlying checkpoints and joint security stations," said Reese, a native of St. Louis.
Soldiers serving with cavalry units during a combat deployment are inducted into the Order of the Spur and awarded gold spurs that are typically worn with the military uniform during unit ceremonies, special observances or formal occasions.
"It definitely feels good to be recognized for helping other people and giving back to soldiers who need the services we provide," said Shipman, a native of Washington, D.C.
Shipman and Zeke traveled throughout northern Iraq visiting different combat outposts and joint security stations, providing behavioral health counseling and teaching medical prevention classes to the 4th AAB soldiers.
"My military experience and combat arms background makes me more diverse and helps me relate to soldiers on a more personal level," said Shipman. "I can talk to people and know what they're dealing with or what they're going through."
In April of last year, Shipman met with Zeke when he arrived at Contingency Operating Site Marez; the combat stress Soldier immediately bonded with the canine warrior during the initial military working dog training.
After completing training, two soldiers began visiting remote military bases, providing combat stress classes to Soldiers who do not regularly have the opportunity to visit the combat stress clinic at COS Marez.
"Zeke is like an ice-breaker," said Shipman. "Sometimes people are scared to talk to us. But when they see the therapy dog, soldiers naturally come up to pet him and generally loosen up around us; and most of the time, we are able to talk about anything that is possibly bothering them."
The four-year old Labrador Retriever from San Antonio enjoys going out to the different bases and visiting the soldiers.
Shipman said he enjoys playing catch with one of Zeke's favorite rubber chew toys when the therapy team is not visiting soldiers serving from contingency outposts in northern Iraq.
The 85th Medical Detachment soldiers are scheduled to redeploy back to Fort Hood, Texas, in a few short weeks, said Shipman, and once Zeke completes a Post Deployment Health Assessment and redeployment training, the military working dog is set to retire.
Shipman said he is making preparations to adopt his "battle buddy," once the shiny, black, 74-pound canine turns in his "dog" tags.
"I've grown accustom to being with Zeke; we're attached at the hip," said Shipman. "I'm already in the process of applying to adopt him, and hopefully everything will work out okay. We've been through so much together; I can't wait until we're finally at home."