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Guardian of patrols: Afghan dog fights like Marine

COMBAT OUTPOST CASTLE, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan - Willy Pete constantly looks out for the Marines of Company D, even while they regroup and recharge.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE PAYNE, HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — He defends Marines and sailors with love and tenacity, protecting them as any Marine would protect a brother-in-arms. He is the epitome of man’s best friend, shielding service members from the enemy while providing companionship and camaraderie. His name is Willy Pete, and he’s a warrior, a protector, a friend. He’s also a dog.

Company D, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), arrived in the Khan Neshin District in the summer of 2009 for a seven-month deployment and established a coalition presence in the Southwest part of Afghanistan. The LAR Marines pushed west to gain a firm position in a town called Qal’ah-ye Now, where they found two dogs in a compound that they began using
as a patrol base.

“I believe that Willy believes it’s his duty and an honor to protect us from what may lie ahead.”

— Lance Cpl. Philip Bulford

Khan Neshin - "Willy Pete and Marines with Company D, rest before going out on patrol. Willy has gone on more than 30 combat patrols in the last 60 days."

Before the Marines arrived, the dogs had been beaten and were malnourished. One of the dogs was pregnant and the Marines named her Sandy; the other dog was small and frail, and the Marines fittingly named him Scraggles. The two adopted dogs accepted the Marines as family. Sandy soon had her litter of puppies, one was given the name Willy Pete – military jargon for white phosphorous, a incendiary material used in various types of ammunition. All the puppies were given to local residents to protect farms and herd livestock, but Willy had a different opportunity – he joined the Marines of Company D as their companion.

Scraggles and Sandy grew fond of the Marines in Qal’ah-ye Now and began to protect the patrol base, keeping unwanted dogs and suspicious people away.  Willy soon began to demonstrate the same protective traits of his mother. He also learned how to patrol with the Marines, what a patrol formation was, and how to react when the patrol came in contact with the enemy. Since accompanying his first patrol, Willy has been a welcome family member for three complete combat rotations of each LAR unit that has taken charge of the area in the past two years.

The veteran dog usually takes the lead when the Marines go on patrol now. He stays in front until the Marines pass through the bazaar outside the combat outpost. Local residents often look up in recognition of the dog, who seems to fancy himself a Marine. Willy relocates to a new position once he establishes a clear path for the Marines and begins moving from one side of the patrol to the other, warning Marines of anyone’s approach with a quick bark or a low growl.

The many stray dogs in the area tend to be very aggressive and travel in packs. Willy is routinely spotted scrapping with a pack of wild dogs that approach his fellow Marines.

“I had my squad on a local security patrol in Kala Shureh – we refer to the town as ‘Dog Town’ because of the large amount of wild dogs in the area,”said Sgt. Joshua Davis, a squad leader with Weapons Platoon, 2nd LAR. Willy Pete single- handedly fought off five wild dogs to protect the patrol. After Willy engaged the dogs, my squad was able to push through the village to complete our patrol.”

Willy also remains an integral part of security when the Marines and sailors return to the patrol base. He tours the grounds with the sergeant of the guard, chasing stray dogs out of friendly lines and warning the watchstanders if anyone approaches the outpost.

The Marines said they appreciate Willy’s dedication, as he provides them companionship and demonstrates his loyalty each day by returning to the fight.

“Willy never walks in the other direction or tries to hide when he sees a squad heading out for a patrol,”said Lance Cpl. Philip Bulford, a mortar gunner with the company. “I believe that Willy believes it’s his duty and an honor to protect us from what may lie ahead.”

Willy bears the scars from the explosion of an improvised explosive device and a gunshot wound from an enemy insurgent due to his persistent enthusiasm and unyielding vigor to protect the Marines. Still, his loyalty to the Marines is unrelenting.

“He is a proven veteran and a wounded warrior,”said Staff Sgt. Anthony J. Eichler, the platoon sergeant for Weapons Platoon. “Willy is always tirelessly watching over what I would assume he considers ‘his’ Marines. He is a friend of all Marines, and he works hard every day on patrol and for the security of the outpost. He’s been knocked down a few times, but continues on with the mission just like any Marine would be expected to do.”

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  • The NERVE

    “IT’S A SAD DAY
    WHEN YOU ARE GUNNED DOWN BY THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE AND PROTECT.” THAT IS PUTTING IT
    MILDLY. THE GENERAL WHO ORDERED IT NEEDS A PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION AND A FULL COURT-MARTIAL W/ A DISHONORABLE
    DISCHARGE AND THE REST OF HIS LIFE IN THE BRIG. AFTERALL, HE DID ORDER THE
    DEATH OF AN HONORARY AND MUCH LOVED “MARINE.”

  • John Doe

    “Its a sad day when you are gunned down by the people you love and protect.” That is putting it mildly. The general who ordered it needs a psychological evaluation and a full court-martial w/ a dishonorable discharge and the rest of his life IN THE BRIG. Afterall, he did order the death of an honorary and much loved “Marine.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brenda-Short/100000298564829 Brenda Short

    Hi I just read the article about Willy I loved it Then read the comments that he was   “put down.”  Well I and my Marine own 25 acres in S.C. and I was going to offer Willy and others a place to live.  I know how I feel about the “put down” can only imagine how Real DEVILDOGS MUST feel.

  • Angela6367

    I say, a man’s life and family who is waiting for him or her back home has far greater value in this world than a dog…If our sons and daughters are put on the front line..then why not a dog.  God bless those dogs as they are trained to sniff out invading intruders or a life threatening bomb…thank God for the comfort they bring to our troops…I didnt hear any of you volunteer your lives…it’s so much easier to criticize those who are out there doing the best they know how.  The very least we can do as an American, is prayerfully support them.  GOD BLESS AMERICA AND OUR TROOPS WITH WHATEVER MEANS IT TAKESS TO BE SUCCESSFUL!   SEMPI FI!
    MAY GOD ALMIGHTY ALWAYS BE FAITHFUL TO RESCUE YOU FROM ALL HARM!

  • GRUNTlife

    This reminds me of our local dog. As the pointman, this dog never left my side. He protected his Marines. During firefights this dog would still be by our side making sure everyone stayed together. Even when I would be on my belly sweeping dirt off of a pressure plate, he too would be in the “prone” right behind me. I have never loved an animal like I loved our local dog, who was rescued from being a fighting dog.

    He too, was put down. No patrol after that was the same. And moral was extremely low, as if surviving the summer and poppy season of South Helmand isn’t bad enough.

    Semper Fi.

  • Major AP

    As a retired Major in the Marine corp I spent 8 years of my life from 1989 to 2007 and went from the Middle East to East Africa, Asia, the Balkans, to the south pole you name it, not one day do I regret having spent with the various men who served under my command. I left the corp because it was filled with stupid co’s like the one(s) who likely issued the order to put down willy. What a lack of understanding from a CO to force an order like that down the chain of command. As a retired officer I offer my apologies to the enlisted Marines who have to deal with the ineptitude of CO’s like these, especially when you consider that the dog could have been vaccinated to prevent rabies and as long as the dog was being well hydrated there was little risk of him acquiring the virus. Plus the signs of rabies are so obvious. To kill a healthy and loyal dog…..
    Reconn.

  • Jlegel

    Rabies!? What a crock! Vaccinate him and quarantine for a couple weeks and that would be that. Must have been some other reason…

  • Defender417

    It has always been CENTCOM policy not to have any pets, a rule not enforced until recently. This past year one person in Afghanistan contracted Rabies from an infected animal and did not inform anyone. He died, and now the rest of us are having to deal with his stupidity and the knee jerk reaction from higher. I was a JCOP PL when we were forced to get rid of out dog. We dropped it off in a village outside of our AO instead of killing it. One of my soldiers cried as we left.

  • RainmaninDaytonaBeach

    RIP, Marine. Semper Fi.

  • Wolfjec

    i can tell you this right now. he was put down. the CO of Delta was told to put him down when the Army vet came to castle. they hid him for a long time. hiding him from tent to tent but they had to find him so they call an all hands formation and they said look. he has to go. so they found him and put him down. the reason they said they had to put him down is due to the high count of rabies in the area. all in all it crushed the moral of the marines at castle and it was dumb act on all who issued the order. just wanted to let you all know

  • Iowa61

    Please uphold the Marine credo, “No Marine left behind.” Bring Willy home to the USA!

  • samantha

    your words made me cry, i am so sorry for you and your Marines. :(

  • Hdtherapy

    if this is true,then that general need to answer questions from the marines,on why ?

    what a *,maybe he knows mike vicks,,dog killen prick,,

  • Kathy

    LMAO yeah buddy!

  • Devil Doc Mom 661

    I do not believe those Marines would have allowed him to be put down, I would like some kind of confirmation. If it is purely a rumor then the “TOOL” that posted it needs an old fashioned USMC reality check, My Son, an FMF Corpsman, wants to take the first shot!

  • Ruirocha

    i was in the helmund province from may to aug 2010, the first two months were spent at the castle, working at the water site. Willy pete spent every single day there with us, along with Sally D. We used to bathe them in our showers, and the dog handlers used to give them flea medications. I remember Willy Pete, I loved that dog. He was a faithful companion and a truly good friend. Congradulations on your fame Willy, i miss you buddy!

    LCPL Rocha, R,  9th ESB, Support CO, UT plt

  • USMC 97-02

    I hope they decide to bring him home when they finally come home. As for the guest that posted Willy being dead as of 2010… The date on This article is 12/19/11. Meaning it’s current. Please think & do the math before you post.