Fluffy: Special Forces Dog
Maj. Jim Pompano (left), 615th Air Mobility Squadron, escorted Fluffy, an Iraqi-born honorary Military Working Dog, back to the United States to retire with Army Sgt. 1st Class Russell Joyce at Fort Bragg, NC, 1 June 2003.
Iraq Special Forces Military Working Dog (MWD): Fluffy
A twelve-man U.S. Special Forces unit serving in northern Iraq had successfully used dogs as sentries in Afghanistan. They had no official dogs in Iraq so they requested help from their Kurdish allies. Sgt. 1st Class Russell Joyce, in charge of supplies for the unit, asked the Kurds for a dog. They brought him a scarred, underweight, abused German Shepherd once used by Iraqi police. The Kurds called him “Tariq Aziz," named after Iraq’s former deputy prime minister, an unsuitable name for a soon-to-be U.S. Military Working Dog. Joyce renamed him "Fluffy", and while not a traditional warrior's name, Fluffy rapidly showed he had the heart of a soldier.
When he first joined Sgt. Joyce, Fluffy weighed only about 31 pounds and was missing his front two bottom teeth. But after only two weeks of basic training, he was put to work. Although he did not get the full MWD training normally provided, the German Shepherd quickly learned to respond to commands and was able to become a guard and pursuit dog with Sgt. Joyce as his handler. Joyce was completely satisfied with his progress and performance and Fluffy became member of the unit with regular assignments. The dog guarded Special Forces soldiers on missions including taking control of Maqlub mountain, and overcoming the last of Mosul's defenses.
“He’s been in harm’s way and shot at more times than anyone on my team," Joyce says. “He proved himself to be a worthy asset. He means a lot to me because we definitely went through a lot over there together." Joyce rates Fluffy an “immeasurable success".
When Joyce's unit concluded its work in Iraq, they returned to the Special Forces base at Fort Bragg, NC. Since Fluffy was from Iraq, he had to be left behind. Health and customs laws created barriers to bringing him into the United States. Although Fluffy was in the care of an Air force Squadron at Kirkuk Air Base, Joyce became alarmed that Fluffy might be euthanized. He wrote to Senators, the Pentagon and the State Department as well as using the Internet to get public support. "What every American soldier is doing around the world in the war on terrorism, Fluffy was part of it and definitely deserved the opportunity to come home and be free," Joyce said.
There was a tremendous outpouring of support and the red tape was cut. Fluffy was fast tracked to be brought to the U.S. and put up for adoption as "military surplus". Sgt. Joyce is first in line and expected to be able to become Fluffy's adopted family.
On 1 June 2003 Fluffy was flown from Iraq to Germany and then to Charleston Air Force Base, SC, where he was reunited with Sgt. Joyce.
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