Marley and Me … and a jar full of explosives

Staff Sgt. Jason Ragucci, 1st BCT, 1st AD
Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 10:16pm

Seasoned Soldiers are well aware of the term additional duty. Along with the role of infantryman, Soldiers are accustomed to being everything from computer technicians to waste specialists. For Spc. Jerome Fryar, having an additional duty means he has traded his semi-automatic weapon for a three-year-old yellow Labrador named Marley.

Before Fryar could deploy with Company B, 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, to Afghanistan, he had to pass the Tactical Explosive Detector Dog program at Fort Bragg, N.C. The “Ready First” Brigade, 1st Armored Division, sent 25 Soldiers from Fort Bliss, to the class; eight returned TEDD qualified.

“When Marley came out the kennel with a trainer and I saw this beautiful yellow lab, I knew I wanted him,” said Fryar. “I used to have a yellow lab named Cocoa when I was 10 years old.”
“The trainer came up to me and said that if I want Marley, I could have him,” Fryar said. “Once I grabbed the leash, he was dragging me around the pond and we were having a great time. I loved it.”

During a long mission outside the small Combat Outpost Terra Nova, Marley and Fryar were called to assist the Afghan national army. With Marley’s assistance, the ANA had uncovered 43 land mines.

“Once I got the brief and were dispatched to the scene, Marley quickly started searching,” said Fryar, “Two minutes into the search, Marley found a dug-in jar of explosives. I contacted (explosive ordnance disposal) to confirm. During the confirmation process, I continued my search. Marley then found another jar of explosives hidden in a room.”

For Marley and Fryar’s quick reaction assisting the ANA in uncovering two jars of high explosives in record time, Fryar received an Army Commendation Medal from the brigade command group.

“I actually didn’t know the brigade commander was coming,” said Fryar, “My unit wanted it to be a surprise. I woke up one morning and my first sergeant told me ‘someone wants to talk to you.’ I was shocked and ecstatic to be awarded an ARCOM. I told them that Marley deserves the award since he did all the work.”

Fryar said his biggest job is to be concerned and responsive to his battle buddy’s health. Once every month, Fryar takes Marley on a weeklong trip to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. During his visit Fryar conducts training with Marley and ensures Marley has all of his vaccinations.
“In my sector there is a lot of disease and bacteria so I keep him physically fit and healthy in the best way I can,” said Fryar.

Terra Nova is closing soon and Company B will be redeploying back to Fort Bliss. Fryar will then say his tearful goodbye to Marley as he picks back up his semi-automatic weapon once more and joins the ranks of the noncommissioned officer.

“I plan to re-enlist and stay on the East Coast,” said Fryar, “Marley has given me many opportunities to meet people and to take me out of my comfort zone and try new things. I see people come to me and want to pet Marley and this makes me happy when I see smiles on other people.”   

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