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Tom Sileo's op-ed column on The Unknown Soldiers: Seek On
ATLANTA--Five months into a second stint searching for deadly roadside bombs in Afghanistan, Sgt. Jason Cartwright knows every step he takes with his trusted military working dog, Isaac, could be their last.
"There's no time to be afraid now," Sgt. Cartwright wrote to The Unknown Soldiers from Afghanistan on Dec. 8. "I pat Isaac on the chest and say 'seek on.'"
Since initially making contact with the senior Army dog handler and trainer in 2011, I have marveled at the selfless courage displayed by this married father from Alabama. Based at Missouri's Fort Leonard Wood, Cartwright willingly spends months at a time hunting for improvised explosive devices that kill and maim U.S. troops and Afghan civilians.
"As Isaac and I come to almost half of our tour, we'll still have done our job with finding three caches consisting of six jugs of homemade explosives, three jars of explosive material, and two directional charges with eight pressure plates," the soldier wrote.
Isaac is a brave black Lab who looks like he's smiling in every picture the dog's handler sends me from the war zone. The fearless
"Isaac and I search for over 18 hours--800 meters of routes and compounds only to get everybody back on that chopper to leave once the mission is complete," Cartwright wrote. "That is exactly what we have done together out front taking point with all the troops behind us."
Serving with the Engineer Canine Company of the Army's 5th Engineer Battalion, Jason and Isaac have endured countless missions, including many that have come close to resulting in serious injury or death. But as soon as the inseparable pair returns to base, the two soldiers sit together to enjoy temporary moments of solitude and peace.
"Once the mission was complete, Isaac and I waited out in the open land of Afghanistan under the stars and half-lit moon," Cartwright wrote about a recent assignment.