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War Dog’s Tale: Film Follows Navy SEAL, German Shepherd

War Dog’s Tale: Film Follows Navy SEAL, German Shepherd
War Dog’s Tale: Film Follows Navy SEAL, German Shepherd
GUESTS:Trevor Maroshek, former Navy SEAL Charles Poe, executive producer, "SEAL Dog"

An unusual type of veteran is receiving attention this Veterans Day. The Missoni and channel is premiering a new documentary on the dogs trained by Navy SEALs to provide life-saving support in war zones. There trained in skills like parachuted from helicopters. Detecting explosives cop, eating rescue missions. Joining me today is the Navy seal who created the program to train these amazing dogs. Trevor Maroshek . He is featured in the documentary. Welcome. Thank you I am honored to be here. And you brought along chopper. Yes. Tell us a little bit about chopper. Well, we just had a newborn so he has gained about 5 pounds in the last two months. He is a 95 pound all-black German Shepherd from Czechoslovakia. He is a very handsome boy. Also joining us is Charles Poe. The executive producer of the documentary called seal dog. Charles, welcome to the program. Thank you. As you were developing this first canine combat unit, what did you think would be the limit of what these dogs would be able to do? By the nature of our job there is no limit. It's just making sure that all of our dogs can actually keep up and that we were not a liability for the actual Navy seal platform. Did their capability, you were able to train these dogs to do, did this surprise you? Not really, we actually went to a lot of different schools all over the world to learn from the best people and we just asked the portions that we really liked as far as training the dogs we applied it and then joined the platoons. Give us an idea as to what type of things that SEAL Dog can do. Certain back SKU, extensive bite ., laser target acquisition, tracking, things of that nature. What is laser target acquisition? If I can point a laser at a target and get the dog to key up on it, that is where he's going to go. Rappelling and last year I jumped my other dog from 13,000 feet from an airplane at it Ojai. What prepared you to develop this seal dog program two it was a Proof of Concept because most dogs from the conventional source usually do 1 or 2 things. They hone in on this those few things. Ours was actually the multipurpose canine. These dogs can actually do a multitude of for tasks especially for the Navy seal teams. We need to be versatile as far as what our capabilities are. My do we need to be able to insert and do everything else without slowing down the train. I know that all Navy SEALs are trained here in San Diego. Are all SEAL Dog trained here? No they are in both coasts. Let's move the conversation to you specifically Trevor, what drew you to become a Navy seal two used to surf competitively I was a bartender in San Clemente and then after 9/11 happened I gave away all of my stuff and joined the war. It made sense because I was a water baby and those are the most hard-core assault on the planet and I was honored to try out for a be accepted. After you were accepted did you think that part of your service would be training dogs? I had no idea, my life goal was to become a Navy seal sniper. Which I accomplished and also being a lead assaulter work at the beginning of my third platoon is when the canine program popped up. It was just a whisper at the time unsure if it was going to happen. Then just popped up and they said okay, go after it. You've been deployed to Afghanistan several times, what difference I've noticed SEAL Dog make to help keep Navy SEALs and other military personnel safe? In the end we are all their humbly to make sure we accomplished the mission of getting our boys home say to see their families. The dog is a bigger a safer extension of that. And chopper for example, saved my life on multiplications from IED and from ambush of the Taliban. We have a clip about an episode from the documentary from the Smithsonian. This film accounts the story of Trevor on a patrol mission with his dog chopper, [ Video playing ] felt warm like it had just been abandoned recently. The motorcycle. On a hunch guessing the enemies were nearby Trevor decided to send chopper out to find them. Chopper followed his nose and instinct and attack if necessary. He took a big with and bolted like a lightning bolt into the bushes. And what did he find their two multiple members of the Caliban. -- Caliban -- Taliban. We train the dogs to follow their sixth sense. As a handler your dog becomes a part of you and you learn how to read each other very well. In fact comes to the point where you don't even need to give a verbal command is by body reflections that the dog can feel. You can tune into what the dog is keying up on. We came into that situation in a very channelized area and we casted the dog out. As soon as chopper was 10 feet out he came up upon an odor. We were searching for some guys coming towards us but we had no idea where they were. Our job was to find him and neutralize the threat. He drove in -- does into a cave of bushes and he jumped right in and engaged on multiple guys. So you knew that he was beginning to sense that because of the close association with him? Yes, I was watching him and as soon as he heat up I knew exactly what was happening he just bought us enough time because they were getting ready to ambush us. Me bring Charles Poe into the conversation. How did you hear about these SEAL Dog's Trevor and his partners came to us. It's rare to get access to that Navy SEALs. There a very secretive group understandably so. We felt privileged that Trevor came to us with the story. His own story is remarkable. But you add in the warrior dog program that he pioneered with the Navy SEALs and it's really an extraordinary story. Cover give us an idea of what these dogs are capable of. What will we see these dogs do in this documentary? Along with the story that you were counted, you're going to get a sense of how Trevor met chopper and how chopper became a Navy seal dog. Apparently only 1% of dogs who enter make the cut. He was trained up. You'll get a sense of what that involves and what they had to do to prepare to go into the war zone. An aspect of the film is that we managed to convince the VP Joe Biden to do an interview about the dogs. He did have one condition. He said he could only do the interview if you got a chance to meet Trevor and chopper. I'll tell you which side was more starstruck. The vice Pres. was giddy to meet chopper because he has a German shepherd of his own named champ. This really grew the story. What qualities does the dog need to become this highly trained seal dog Mac we go all over the world to find the cream of the crop. The best dogs known to man and then we give him rigorous test. It has a lot to do with play drive. Developing and shaping their behaviors and such. And once they meet the mark most dogs get washed out. You left with just a small amount. With all of this intense training and the fact that you need to bond with this dog. You and other trainers need to develop a great affection for these dogs. Does it become hard to send them into harms way that just the thought about that, I wasn't trying to think that downrange, because my job is to be expendable to make sure my boys get home and we accomplished the mission. So chopper being an extension of me, that's just a part of the job. If were lucky enough to survive it we get to come back and start over again..To kindergarten in work back up and go back overseas. Just having a dog or a companion animal. The idea of putting that dog into harms way. Even to save human life, would be an emotional kind of thing. Did you find that at all? Of course it would be heartbroken if something happened to them. The same time the greatest sacrifice you can do is for another man or for another person. It was me never being too far away from them. I was also in harms way. You have any thoughts about the ethics of sending these dogs, innocent animals over into a man-made war zone? Ethically, they are there to accomplish a mission. There a tool just like a hammer or a gun or anything else. When used property -- properly there one of the most extensive lifesaving tools that any platoon can have. I don't special, I was just blessed to have this dog and to be introduced to this trade craft. But it's really about saving lives and making sure everyone gets home. I'd like to jump in, this is Charles, to me this story is the ultimate expression of this amazing symbiotic relationship that humans have with the dogs. We've had it for thousands of years. When you put the super soldier or Navy seal together with a super dog inspiring. Obviously they are both put in jeopardy in the course of doing their work. But it also an example of how we've taken this inner species relationship apparently the dogs can be sent on covert missions with a special kind of gear. There's body armor on these dogs and high definition cameras, something called doogles. Can you tell us at that is? There useful when helicopters are stirring up dirt. You need to make sure that your dog can see yes, German shepherds can get something called penis and that's when they're in high-altitude and some light exposure. Their eyes actually create sunglasses and clouds their vision it helps with debris and some might. -- Sunlight. Did chopper get all geared up with this? Oh yeah, when we were on missions of would use a vest that was good for load airing so I could fast rope him or repel him. They are kind of like tigers. In his prime he was able to rock climb and he would bound 30 feet ahead of us just sitting there on a rock waiting for us. What is chopper helping you with now since are both retired? I'm glad you bring that up. The biggest portion for me is the message today and what were doing. Like a lot of other soldiers out there having an extensive career and then having it come to a screeching halt and then dealing with life on life's terms and dealing with PTSD. I had to dramatic brain injuries in the service and I was blessed to have a canine companion with me who was a partner and was able to transition to my service dog I know a lot of other guys have been able to do that as well. That sparked what were doing now. We have this seal dog foundation raising money to help wounded warriors that other families gain access to service dogs and companion dogs. Actually having them vetted and working with the families of the veterans on transitioning will deal of some of these traumatic injuries that occur on the battlefield. Is that what happens to some of these Navy seal dogs? This very rarely when we hear about a handler is denying taking his dog. Charles, why is it important to tell the story? Because it's important to honor veterans around Veterans Day. We try to have programs that celebrate veterans. I think this is a reminder that it goes much deeper into the individual sacrifice as to what Trevor and chopper are doing. You need to remember that we respect our soldiers and how we support them after our service the fact that chopper and Trevor are still out there trying to help and serve the wounded warriors, I think that is significant. Speaking with former Navy seal Trevor Maroshek and his canine companion, chopper, and with Charles Poe one of the executive producers of the documentary Ken seven. It premieres tomorrow night on the Smithsonian Channel.

Event Info

What: "SEAL Dog" documentary film

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Smithsonian Channel

An unusual type of veteran is receiving attention this Veterans Day.

SEAL Dog,” a new documentary about dogs who are trained by Navy SEALS to provide life-saving support in war zones, will premiere at 8 p.m. Wednesday on the Smithsonian Channel.


While most military dogs are trained in one area of expertise, SEAL dogs are trained in five: explosive detection, search and rescue, laser target acquisition, sixth sense training, and bite work.

“By the nature of our job, there is no limit,” Trevor Meroshek, a former Navy SEAL featured in the documentary, told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday.

Meroshek, who lives in Imperial Beach and joined the Navy after the 9/11 attacks, said dogs are trained with the help of experts from around the world.

“We have to be very versatile,” Meroshek said. “Chopper, for example, saved my life on multiple occasions.”

After retiring from the Navy, Meroshek formed the SEAL Dog Foundation, a group that connects war veterans with service dogs. Chopper retired with Meroshek.


Charles Poe, executive producer of the documentary, said the relationship between SEALs and their service dogs is extraordinary.

“We felt privileged that Trevor came to us with this story,” Poe said. “You’re going to get a sense of how Trevor met Chopper and how Chopper became a SEAL dog.”

“It’s very rare to get access to the Navy SEALs.”