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Cairo CAD and Navy SEAL Will Chesney (2023)

Dyed, airbrushed basswood, cherry tongue, maple teeth, copper eyes, tactical vest provided by K9 Storm, Inc.

For a decade, a Combat Assault Dog named Cairo was the only American combatant known by name involved in the raid on Osama bin Laden in 2011.
A Belgian Malinois, Cairo’s heroism shines out in Navy SEAL Will Chesney’s memoir, No Ordinary Dog (2022). Initially, Cairo was not Chesney’s first choice as a working partner. Like every military dog handler, Chesney knew that CADS were trained as lethal weapons, not pets. And like every Navy SEAL, Chesney endured death-defying training regimens to build up an unassailable sense of toughness and confidence. Cairo’s standoffish, workaholic demeanor made Chesney hesitate about the partnership at first—on top of which, Chesney noted Cairo’s tendency to be “an aggressive snuggler and a blanket hog” out in the field. Trained to attack, bite-and-release on command, skydive, and detect weapons or explosives, Cairo’s canine logic was also expected to discern between dangerous insurgents and innocent civilians who were often coerced to shield them. Chesney chillingly recalls how Cairo bypassed the inert form of a sleeping baby during a night raid, but fiercely attacked a male combatant around the corner a moment later.
In 2009, Cairo detected insurgents on a distant ridge, cleared a four-foot high wall to attack them, and disappeared into a blaze of gunfire. When he did not return to Chesney’s call, Chesney feared the worst. Cairo finally crawled back to Chesney, who then realized that his bullet-ridden partner, no longer able to leap, dragged himself all around the long wall to get back to him. Evacuated to a military hospital, Cairo recovered enough to train for the top secret operation that would apprehend bin Laden in 2011. SEAL Team Six boarded two Black Hawks to reach the compound, where Cairo would detect hidden bombs, locate escape tunnels, flush concealed enemies, and contain civilian interactions while SEALS gathered intel. All the SEALS met President Obama and received Silver Stars, and Obama expressed amazement about Cairo’s role. Nevertheless, Chesney was deeply disappointed that Cairo did not receive a medal.
At 28, redeployed without Cairo, Chesney suffered a traumatic concussion, followed by PTSD, memory loss, and emotional volatility. He felt sure that his only cure was a reunion with Cairo. They reunited in 2014, and Cairo’s battle-scarred body took a final breath in Will’s arms. Cairo posthumously received the Animals in War and Peace Medal of Bravery.

1 Comment

  • Donna Burden Hart
    July 7, 2023

    I see that you’re still creating these wonderful, wooden, but “living” dogs. So touched to read the story of Chesney and Cairo.

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