Pentagon Going to the Dogs
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 29, 2000 For a second, it looked like Nike was going to join in singing the National Anthem.
Nike isn’t your ordinary vocalist. He is a search dog of the Fairfax County, Va. Urban Search and Rescue Team.
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen speaks with members of the Fairfax County, Va., Urban Search and Rescue Team. Cohen honored the team for its humanitarian work at disaster areas around the world June 27. (Photo by Jim Garamone)
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and DoD honored the 100- person team during a Pentagon ceremony. The team -- with both two-legged and four-legged members -- has helped people around the world recover from natural catastrophes and terrorist attacks. Typically, DoD provides transportation for the team.
“Two years ago I got a call in the middle of the night with the tragic news of the bombing of the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania,” Cohen said. “People the world over were stunned at the unspeakable cruelty and inhumanity of that act.”
The search and rescue team answered the call to hunt for survivors under the rubble of the embassies. Cohen said the members of the team represent humane behavior and generosity of spirit during crises such as the bombing. “We want to honor you, to express our thanks to a group of men and women who have taken that ideal to its highest expression,” he said. “Because time after time, over the past 14 years you have been to some of the worst disasters we have ever seen: Mexico City, Armenia, Oklahoma City, Turkey, the Philippines, Taiwan. You have gone into cities that would vie with Dante’s vision of Hell.”
The work is dangerous. Cohen recounted a rescue in the Philippines where team members worked for nine hours inside a collapsed hotel to free a trapped man. The aftershocks of the earthquake were still rattling the building, he said.
Cohen called the work physically and emotionally draining. “I think the rest of us can only imagine the toll that this takes on each and every one of you,” he said. He noted the team members go days without sleep and live in the “chaos of circumstances, the calls for help and relief that far outnumber your manpower. And it's because of understanding the dimensions of what you endure on a daily basis when you are out there forward-deployed that we in this department wanted to pay tribute to you, to say thank you, in particular for the work that you did during those bombings.”
Cohen said the team represents the “better angels of our nature.” He commended the team for the way they represent America to the world. “When you go to a foreign country and you raise those tents with the American flags sown on top and you use your skill and patience and compassion, that sends a powerful message to every one in the world about who we are as a people.”
He said the rescue team’s example is precisely the kind of positive example and image DoD tries to instill in service members.
Cohen also thanked the team for the harmonious working relationship it has established with the department. He said in this time of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the increased threat of terrorism in the United States that the working relationship and their preparation is going to be more important. “Every time we work with you that partnership becomes more valuable for you and for us,” he said. “Ultimately the next time the sirens sound, that experience is going to allow you to save even more lives.”