Kentucky ADT 4 mission goes to the dogs for a day with Animal Planet

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans, KY ADT 4 Unit Public Affairs and Historian Representative

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Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team 4’s Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Dunning [left] of Murray, Ky. answers questions from the television network Animal Planet and Ten100 Production Company’s Cico Silva [middle] as Scott Stoneback [right] films after a safe mission in southern Afghanistan on July 11, 2012. The film crew was present to gather footage documenting military working dog teams on mission helping guard against potential unseen threats to Coalition Forces. Dunning acted as a security guard for MWD team for the day. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan — For the Members of Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4, July 11, 2012 might have been just another day on mission in southern Afghanistan were it not for the two-man film team following close behind. Even so, the excited Soldiers kept their focus solely on the mission at hand.

ADT 4’s Security Force Platoon Sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Dunning is a 36-year-old Charleston, Ill. native now living in Murray, Ky. On the 11th, he worked as the primary security guard for the military working dog [MWD] team.

“It was different, but I will say the number of civilians we’ve had with us on missions over the last several months, they were probably the most compliant,” Dunning commented on working with the film team of cameraman Scott Stoneback and audio specialist Cico Silva. The two men were gathering footage for the television network Animal Planet and Ten100 Production Company.

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Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team 4’s Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Dunning [left] of Murray, Ky. stands guard over Sgt. Charles Nelson [right], a 27-year-old military working dog handler from Ahoskie, N.C. and his MWD partner Zzack as they take a moment to cool off in the shade. The MWD team accompanied Kentucky’s Agribusiness Development Team 4 during their mission in southern Afghanistan on July 11, 2012 to help guard against any potential unseen threats to Coalition Forces. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans)

“They were there for footage of Zzack [the military working dog], they did what they were told, they took the briefing well, and they were very pleasurable to work with,” Dunning recalled. “They weren’t out there with an ego–they were a great bunch of guys. It was a really good experience for us.”

Contacted for further information, Animal Planet offered the following description for their special television program profiling the everyday lives of military working dogs and their handlers:

On the battlefields, a remarkable group serves the United States with limitless courage and unparalleled loyalty. Devoted to protecting their comrades, military working dogs serve beside their human partners in Iraq and Afghanistan, only asking for affection in return.

The show explores the friendships between man and dog, which are magnified and transformed into deep, emotional bonds that can last the rest of their lives. From tracking insurgents to sniffing out explosive devices, military working dogs are an integral component of the armed forces. GLORY HOUNDS [working title] drops audiences into the heat of battle and reveals extraordinary stories of heroism and friendship that have shaped the lives of the men and women who serve our country.

Added Animal Planet executive producer Lisa Bosak Lucas, “Animal Planet is thrilled to have our camera crews from Ten100 working alongside Kentucky ADT 4’s Soldiers, Sgt. Nelson, and ZZack. We celebrate the human and animal bond—and the bonds formed by these teams are extraordinary. We’re honored to be sharing their story.”

“It’s a different experience [working with a film crew],” noted Sgt. Charles Nelson, a 27-year-old native of Ahoskie, N.C. who’s spent the past four years as a military working dog handler. “When they [Scott and Cico] first came to us, we did have our doubts. But as we got to know them, they just pretty much told us ‘hey, do what you do. Act like the camera’s not even there.’ So we just go about our way and do what we need to as they’re tagging along with us.”

“This is the first time that I can think of that any MWD handlers or canines as a whole have been in the spotlight,” Nelson said. “It’s a little bit of excitement…it’s nice that we’re finally getting a little bit of spotlight to show them exactly what we do.”

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Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team 4’s Master Sgt. Chris Campbell [farthest right] of Nicholasville, Ky. offers a drink of water from his Camelback hydration system to a thirsty Zzack the military working dog while his handler Sgt. Charles Nelson [center] of Ahoskie, N.C. smiles as the television network Animal Planet and Ten100 Production Company’s Scott Stoneback [left] documents. The MWD team accompanied Kentucky’s Agribusiness Development Team 4 during their mission in southern Afghanistan on July 11, 2012 to help guard against any potential unseen threats to Coalition Forces, while the film crew gathered footage documenting MWD teams on mission. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans)

“Like a lot of people know, we’re the ‘unsung angels of the battlefield,’ that’s what they like to call us,” Nelson reflected. “We’re enablers–we assist, but we’re never in the spotlight.”

“The main worry that all of us have is that we’re actually going to mess up and actually make us look bad when we know we’re not that bad,” Nelson said about pressures of working with a film crew.

“If more people know about what military working dogs do, they can get a better appreciation of their mission and how stressful it can be,” Dunning contributed. “I mean, you’re talking about a dog whose body’s core temperature’s probably about 100 [degrees Fahrenheit] anyway, to be in 110 degree heat, running around trying to sniff bombs for us–it’s good to tell the story.”

“It’s kind of neat [possibly being on television], but I think it’s better to tell the story, Zzack’s story,” Dunning continued. “Zzack’s been with us several missions, so has Sergeant Nelson. It’s a great morale booster for the guys, and he does his job well.”

“Zzack’s great. He’s very efficient, very fast, and he’s always glad to see us,” Dunning observed. “He comes out and hangs out. You know, he’s been around during our little get-togethers and cookouts, he hangs out with Soldiers, he’s always friendly with us. And his handler, Sergeant Nelson’s probably one of the best guys I’ve been around as far as MWDs. We work very well together.”

“I’ve worked with military working dogs in the past as an MP [military policeman],” he added. Stateside, Dunning serves as an MP with Murray, Ky.’s 438th Military Police Co., 198th MP Battalion, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.

“He’ll work until he gets tired, and then he’ll let me know,” Nelson noted, discussing Zzack’s work ethic on missions. “Just lying there, saying ‘I’m tired, I need a break.’ I’ll give him a break, give him some water, and we’ll continue after he’s done.”

“Zzack’s just like a Soldier,” Dunning added. “If you overwork him, it doesn’t do you any good.”

“They’re a great group,” Nelson said of ADT 4’s Security Platoon. “I’d go out any day of the week with them if they asked, just because how they support us when we’re out there.”

Nelson also offered a word of encouraging advice to ADT 4’s Security Platoon.

“Just keep up what they’re doing with the dog teams,” he said. “Keep showing how much they support them [MWDs] while they’re out there. They just constantly listen to the handlers.”

“I just hope everybody keeps up the same thing that they’re doing, so that way everyone can get home,” Nelson concluded.

‘Glory Hounds,’featuring ADT 4’s favorite MWD Zzack and his handler Sgt. Nelson, with possible cameo appearances by the Soldiers of ADT 4, is tentatively scheduled to air on the television network Animal Planet in early 2013.

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