[November 2, 2020] Can dogs be heroes? Some people think so, and I agree with them. A year ago, a daring raid was conducted by U.S. Special Forces targeting ISIS terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The hero dog Conan chased al-Baghdadi into a tunnel, resulting in the terrorist leader blowing himself up.1 This highly-classified, dramatic operation took place in Syria.
Contents of this article are taken from open sources, and no classified information is used. I’m acknowledging this upfront because there are always nick pickers who believe and will accuse me of improperly exposing classified information. Naturally, the exposure of such classified information is unacceptable, and I am careful about no longer having access to such secret data.
The dog Conan is a male Belgian Malinois breed. More details on this breed can be found at the American Kennel Club website (see link here). An average male runs about 75 pounds and is part of the “herding group.”2
“We have declassified a picture of the wonderful dog (name not declassified) that did such a GREAT JOB in capturing and killing the Leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi!” – U.S. President Donald J. Trump in a tweet, October 28, 2019
Conan, name later declassified, was injured during the raid when al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and three of his children. Working dogs have been a part of U.S. military culture dating back to World War I. Dogs typically are ranked as noncommissioned officers, often a higher rank than the dog’s handler.3,4 These dogs are routinely involved in high-level, special operation missions or assigned to conventional forces to find hidden explosives.
After quickly garnering mainstream attention following the raid, merchandising with Conan’s depiction and the slogan “Zero Bark Thirty” appeared online, a reference to Zero Dark Thirty, a film about the 2011 special operations raid targeting Osama bin Laden. This goes to the center of what a hero can be; someone, in this case, a dog, who does something extraordinary at the risk of their life.
Conan made a surprise visit to the White House along with his handler. President Trump called him a “tough cookie” and “actually incredible.” First Lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence attended the event. VP Pence petted Conan and called him a “hero” during brief remarks.
President Trump also met with some of the other Special Forces personnel that participated in the al-Baghdadi raid, who were not identified for national security reasons as they were engaged in active duty.
- During World War I, “Sergeant Stubby,” described by The New York Timesat his death in April 1926 as “only a dog, and unpedigreed at that,” was the first dog in U.S. Army history to be granted military rank, according to U.S. Army historical records. He took part in four major offensives, the Times wrote, and Stubby’s first injury in combat was from gas exposure.