AFGHANISTAN - Regardless of the branch of service an individual
belongs to, deployments can be challenging for everyone.
When being away from home and the stress of being in a deployed
location begins to be too much, there is a furry, four-legged
energetic red Labrador retriever traveling around Afghanistan, ready
to help service members.
U.S. Army Maj. Eden, 98th Medical
Detachment Combat Stress Control combat stress dog, and her handler,
Pfc. Alex Fanning, 98th Medical Detachment CSC behavioral health
specialist, visit different units and forward operating bases in
Afghanistan to not only build morale, but to help service members
through their combat stress.
U.S. Army Pfc. Alex Fanning, 98th Medical Detachment Combat Stress
Control behavioral health specialist, and Maj. Eden, 98th Medical
Detachment CSC combat stress dog, visit service members at Bagram
Air Field, Afghanistan on Jan. 21, 2014. Fanning and Eden travel
around Bagram and other Forward Operating Base's telling deployed
service members who they are, what the 98th Medical Detachment CSC
does and what they can do for them. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior
Airman Kayla Newman)
“Our job is to travel around Bagram and to other FOBs
where the 98th is,” explained Fanning, deployed from Joint
Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and a native of Hueytown, Ala.
“We tell people who we are, what we do and what we can do
for them. At the same time we let them play with Eden, which
brings people to us instead of me just going to them. “
According to Staff Sgt. Thomas Hewett, 98th Medical
Detachment CSC noncommissioned officer in charge of warrior
recovery center, Eden provides an “in-road” with clients and
helps open the door for combat stress personnel.
“Eden is here to help clients relax when they're engaged and
talking about the problems they may be facing,” explained
While Eden helps clients relax and open up,
she also builds the morale of the service members that she
“I have talked with generals and
colonels that are just so on board with the program and they
think it's a wonderful thing,” said Fanning. “They see the
difference we make in their soldiers and how happy it makes
them; they always want us to come out with Eden and help
boost the morale of the soldiers.”
Eden, however, was
not always on the path to become a combat stress dog.
“Eden is an AMK-9 dog and she originally was training to
become a narcotics dog,” explained Fanning. “She ended up
failing out of the program because she was too hyper and
With Eden's temperament, the American K-9
Detection Services knew she would be perfect for something
like helping soldiers with combat stress. Eden will however,
return to AMK-9 once the 98th Medical Detachment leaves
Fanning and Eden have been a team since
December 2013, and have been able to see the impact Eden has
on soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines.
we go I can tell she makes people happy,” said Fanning. “I
have actually seen people cry tears of joy from seeing Eden
and playing with her.”
Fanning explained how he has
seen a service member lie down with Eden and just cuddled
her and cried.
“I've had people say they are having
the worst day they've ever had and then they see Eden and it
makes all the difference,” said Fanning.
is making an impact on deployed service members, she is
making an impact on Fanning as well.
“I'll miss her
and all the times we spent together. It's been really
memorable when we travel together, because it is just me and
her flying on helicopters and airplanes,” said Fanning.
“I'll miss the little moments when we are flying on a
helicopter and she's lying down at my feet, looking up at me
as we fly over Afghanistan.”
Although Eden is
currently with the Army, she and Fanning work hand in hand
with the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Combat Stress Control.
The two units conduct walkarounds together informing service
members that they can get help with stress through either
the Army or Air Force.
So whether a deployed service
member is at Bagram or another FOB where the 98th Medical
Detachment is located, Eden and her combat control stress
team are available and willing to help.
By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kayla Newman
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