Dog may have saved lives of soldiers in Afghanistan

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Georgia Army National Guard soldier Devin Shaner, seen during a two-week visit home from his unit’s Afghanistan deployment in August 2009 with his wife, Christa, and sons, Colin, then 4, and Carson, then 11 months.

From STAFF REPORTS news@newnan.com When a man dressed as an Afghanistan policeman came to the camp of Newnan-based National Guard soldiers deployed to the country and blew himself up, things could have been much worse without the efforts of a stray dog -- Rufus -- who had taken up with the soldiers. Rufus is a true hero in the eyes of the soldiers, says Sgt. Devin Shaner of Newnan who is among those deployed with Georgia National Guard's 48th Infantry Brigade.
The soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan in summer 2009. The deployment included, among others, soldiers with Georgia National Guard's Bravo Company Second Battalion, based in Newnan at the Jackson-Pless National Guard Armory. The Second Battalion consists of men and women from around this region of the state. Five soldiers were injured in the blast, Shaner said: Sergeant Chris Duke, Staff Sergeant Charles Lancaster, Staff Sergeant Tony Davis, Staff Sergeant Marty Brownlee and Specialist First Class Garry Ware. None of the injuries were life-threatening. Shaner, who grew up and has family in Coweta County, sent what he calls "The Rufus Story" via email to The Times-Herald to share with the people back home. Among several dogs who have come into their base from time to time, the soldiers had somewhat adopted two of them, Shaner said. Both dogs, the older dog named Rufus and a small puppy named Sasha, the night of the incident were seen barking at and trying to attack the intruder. Two of the five soldiers who were wounded heard the barking right outside their room and yelled at the dogs, Shaner said. At that point the suicide bomber detonated himself in the doorway of the building, Shaner said. After the attack, witnesses said they saw Rufus and Sasha biting the leg of the intruder -- and the dogs are credited with keeping the attacker from making it no further into the building than the entrance. "Had the dogs not tried to stop him, no one knows what the outcome would have been or how many more casualties we would have taken," Shaner writes. The puppy Sasha did not survive the attack, but Rufus was found and treated for his injuries. He's a real survivor. To show their appreciation to Rufus, three of the soldiers who were injured in the attack but were returning to duty soon are organizing an effort to have Rufus shipped back to the United States, Shaner said, as they plan to adopt him. "These three soldiers feel that people at home should know 'The Rufus Story' as he is now viewed as a hero in their eyes," Shaner said in his email. The soldiers of Newnan-based Bravo 2/121 are engaged in various missions during their deployment to Iraq, Shaner explained during a two-week break back home last August. Shaner said he feels that his mission -- mentoring the Afghan Army -- is the most important of all. His team at that time was mentoring an Afghan Army battalion, fresh from basic training. "It's the most important mission in Afghanistan," he said. "As soon as we get these guys" trained and ready to handle things themselves, "the sooner we can come home." "Twenty years from now, in the history books, they're going to be writing about the mentoring training teams and how much we changed history," he said. Shaner last August was filled with praise for the Coweta community and all the support his unit has received. Shaner's colleagues "have been great," said his wife, Christa. "They call and check on me. I got home one day and my grass had been cut," she said. The couple has two young sons. When he's not fighting in Afghanistan, Shaner is fighting fires in Coweta. He is one of three Coweta County firefighters in Bravo Company. When the National Guard group left Newnan last April, the soldiers first made a stop at Ruth Hill Elementary School to visit Shaner's mother, who has been a big supporter. - Editor's note: Here is the story of Rufus and his heroic act in the words of Sgt. Devin Shaner: * * * Our National Guard unit is currently deployed to Afghanistan. We recently had a suicide bomber attack our base. Five soldiers were wounded in the blast, but the outcome could have been far worse. We have had several dogs come onto our base from time to time, and we have somewhat adopted two of them. We have a small puppy named Sasha, and an older dog named Rufus. On the night of the incident, both dogs were seen barking at and trying to attack someone in an Afghan police uniform near one of our buildings. Two of the five soldiers that were wounded heard the commotion and yelled at the dogs, which were right outside of their room. Right after them yelling, chaos happened. The suicide bomber detonated himself in the doorway of the building. Amidst the smoke and confusion, soldiers were scrambling to find out what had happened. Once everyone realized that we had taken casualties, everyone started to move and treat the wounded, and we began to secure the base. After the five casualties had been medevaced to another base, secondary assessments of the area began. During that check, Rufus was found lying outside of the building. Witnesses said they saw Rufus and Sasha biting the leg of the attacker as if they were trying to keep him from entering the building. Because of their efforts, the attacker was only able to make it to the building entrance. Had the dogs not tried to stop him, no one knows what the outcome would have been or how many more casualties we would have taken. Plain and simple, Rufus saved countless lives. Some people say they have read or heard stories of dogs with another sense in which they can detect danger. It was clear that Rufus sensed danger that night. The next day, medics treated Rufus for his injuries sustained in the blast. Unfortunately, Sasha did not survive the attack. Three of the wounded soldiers are returning to duty soon. They have had time to reflect on what happened, and they feel that they owe their lives and many of their brother's lives to the efforts of Rufus and Sasha. To show their appreciation to Rufus, they are organizing an effort to have Rufus shipped back to the United States as they plan to adopt him. These three soldiers feel that people at home should know "The Rufus Story" as he is now viewed as a hero in their eyes. -- SGT Devin Shaner


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