Dispatch from Downrange

A gathering of articles published in the Gonzales Cannon about the day to day life of a military contract dog handler in Afghanistan.  Click on any button below for the full article. Story will be displayed in a new window.

Aug 26, 2011Sept 6, 2011Nov 7, 2011Dec 7, 2011Dec 24, 2011

Feb 24, 2012Mar 17, 2012Apr 2, 2012Apr 17, 2012Apr 23, 2012May 7, 2012Jun 6, 2012Jun 16, 2012

Jul 22, 2012Aug 4, 2012Aug 30, 2012Sept 10, 2012Oct 27, 2012

The following articles are from a new assignment in Iraq

Jul 1, 2013Aug 4, 2013Sept 6, 2013Sept 18, 2013 Sept 30, 2013Oct 13, 2013Oct 21, 2013Oct 27, 2013

Nov 3, 2013Dec 8, 2013Dec 15, 2013Jan 2, 2014Jan 17, 2014Feb 15, 2014

Epilogue

Click on the above image to be transferred to OpsLens.com

 

 Jon Harris and his counter narcotic canine Jack, Forward Operating Base Orgun-E, a remote US base mere miles from the Pakistan border and the largely ungoverned Waziristan.

Jack relaxing on the bed at FOB Sharana, Paktika Province

Located in one of the most deadly provinces in Afghanistan, and a staging area for the Taliban, new fighters pour in from the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan, eager to prove themselves against the infidel foreigners. Rated as one the 5 most dangerous places in the world where violence and death still remains only a trigger squeeze away.

About the author

Jon Harris is a retired Cold War era soldier. His first assignment after completing advanced initial training (AIT) was with the Berlin Brigade at the Berlin Wall, when there was still such a thing, he got a first hand view of the world  from the very symbol of the decades long Cold War. Trained as a military police officer and Russian linguist and interrogator, Jon was later assigned to a small detachment of 34 U.S. soldiers in the west German border town of Helmstedt. There he was the senior Checkpoint NCO at Allied Checkpoint Alpha. and an unofficial Russian linguist. Unofficial meaning he posed as the Colonel's driver. When the Colonel would talk with the Soviet Commander, Jon would be in the same room.  On the drive back Jon and the Colonel would compare what they had heard. Jon never spoke a single word of Russian to the Soviets although he understood every word. 

When the USSR fell, Jon actually lowered the U.S. flag for the last time at the Checkpoint as the border opened.  A long standing  tradition when a post closes has the flag presented to the last U.S. Commander of the outpost as a memento. At a small ceremony, Jon turned the flag over to the commander, stepped back and saluted. With that the official U.S. military presence at that location ended.

To be perfectly clear, "A" flag was presented to the outgoing commander. "The" flag some how ended up in Jon's personal belongings when he transferred to his next assignment in Wurzburg, Germany.  Jon would have several more assignments in the military spanning several more years.

During Desert Storm, the first Gulf War, he was tagged as rear detachment commander, later at his only U.S. assignment he took the position as Chief of Military Police Investigations based at Ft Dix, NJ.  There, he was medically retired as 80 % combat related disabled from injuries during preparation for deployment to Desert Storm several years earlier.

He settled in NJ for ten years with his wife Katherine and son Joel. As is normal with many military veterans, he bounced between several occupations trying to fill a void.  Jon started several ventures during that time. The most successful was centered around a tactical paintball company that he and his son started. This brought the family to Texas where he lives now with his best friend and partner of over thirty years, Katherine.

His son, now an officer in the U.S. Army and a graduate of West Point, is embarking on his own military career.  Before the military he was a police officer in Texas. After the military he found himself returning to his first profession as a law enforcement officer. He started the canine unit for the Gonzales Texas Constable's Department and worked as a narcotics interdiction canine officer in a high intensity drug trafficking area (HIDTA).

While on duty, Jon was involved in a horrific vehicle accident where he and his canine were trapped in the patrol vehicle.  Jon credits his survival to his canine partner he had with him that day. After months of physical recovery Jon found the mental issues associated with the accident interfering with his ability to do his job. The TBI and PTSD from the accident worsened the longer he was on the street. At the suggestion of his therapist, he took a position as a military contractor in South West Asia.  There he is again with a trusted four legged partner searching for narcotics or explosives. These articles are a chronicle of life in the "unofficial" war zone.

Jon's love for writing started when he was in Germany where he authored his first novel " Breakpoint" available at most major booksellers on the internet such as Barnes and Nobles and Amazon.  He has written articles for several publications as well as short stories.  This site is a collection of articles  from his long time running column "Dispatches from Downrange" published in one of the local newspapers in Texas and are to be included in his current project "A Year Behind the Leash" the story of a contract dog handler in Afghanistan and Iraq doing the work and winning the fight  against PTSD with the help of his dog. Jon is currently a senior contributor to OpsLens.com where his many articles can be found.