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Fallen 94th Engineer search dog team remembered as first team killed in Iraq
Fallen 94th Engineer search dog team remembered as first team killed in Iraq

Brig. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn (left), chief of staff, Multi-National Corps-Iraq and Col. Rock Donahue, director, C7, MNC-I, unveil a painting of Cpl. Kory D. Wiens and Sgt. Cooper. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Joy Pariante/Army Public Affairs)
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq (Sept. 13, 2008) — Service members and civilians gathered to remember a fallen specialized search dog team by dedicating a revolutionary building in their honor on Sept. 12 on Camp Victory.

The new C7 Annex was dedicated to the memory of Cpl. Kory D. Wiens, an Albany, Ore. native, and his partner Sgt. Cooper, who performed a vital mission as a specialized search dog team with the 94th Engineer Detachment (Canine), 577th Engineer Battalion based out of Fort Leonard Wood. They were killed in an explosion during a cordon and search near Baghdad, July 6, 2007.

"It rips our guts out to lose two brothers in arms," said Brig. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, chief of staff, Multi-National Corps – Iraq.

The building was dedicated to Wiens, "primarily because he's the first engineer SSD handler lost in the conflict," said Capt. Timothy Butler, commander, 67th Engineer Company (Canine). "That, coupled with the fact that he was an outstanding soldier. Him as a soldier and as a team with Cooper has left a lasting impression on the unit, not only because of the type of person he was but because of the caliber of soldier he was."

Wiens was a capable soldier; dedicated to mission and his battle buddy. "He was the type of soldier that, as a leader, you want," said Butler. "He was respectful, he maintained military bearing, he was intelligent, he was resourceful and you could count on him to get the mission done."

First Lt. Jacob Peerless, commander of the 94th Engineer Detachment, told a story he had heard from Wiens' co-workers about the troop running eight miles every Saturday and Sunday from his barracks at Fort Leonard Wood to the kennels to see Cooper. He wanted the time to train and bond with his partner.

"It's an incredibly strong bond," Peerless said. "These soldiers don't really have battle buddies to the right and left of them like a regular line soldier. Their only battle buddy really is that dog."

Wiens joined the Army in 2005 and, after basic training and advanced individual training, was selected to attend the SSD handlers' course at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He was following in the footsteps of his grandfather, a military working dog handler in Vietnam. "There was a sense of pride that ran deep in his veins," Peerless said.

There he joined Cooper and began to build the bond necessary to perform their mission of identifying and locating explosive hazards to save the lives of soldiers. "With SSDs and their handlers, it's a very, very deep bond," Butler said. "These handlers are literally placing their lives in the nose of that dog."

Wiens and Cooper's primary mission was to join units in the field and provide remote indication of explosive hazards, Butler said. The pair searched buildings, fields and cleared routes to keep their fellow servicemembers safe. Cooper would go out ahead of a unit moving through an area and ensure it was clear of any explosives. Wiens could also use Cooper's nose to decrease the amount of time spent searching an area for a suspected weapons cache. "We will never really know how many lives Cpl. Wiens and Cooper saved in their work; seeking out explosive devices," Allyn said.

The loss of their team was devastating, Butler said, because not only did they lose two Soldiers, the entire country lost a very valuable resource. "You could always count on him [Wiens] to deliver an amazing asset and be able to advise unit commanders on how to utilize it and be that force multiplier we need the SSDs to be," Butler said.

In addition to the C7 Annex building memorializing the team, there is a veterinary clinic and kennel compound at Fort Leonard Wood bearing the names of Wiens and Cooper. The Oregon Police Canine Association designated an award in Wiens' name to be given to OPCA members for "actions in the line of duty which demonstrate, in great degree, the qualities of selflessness, exceptional courage, devotion to duty and personal sacrifice in the service of others." There is also a memorial standing in the SSD kennel on Camp Slayer. Cooper's crate has been closed and sealed and on top sit meaningful items left by friends of Wiens and Cooper's to pay tribute to them. Cooper's crate will not be used again.

Wiens and Cooper's helping and protecting spirit lives on in the structure bearing their name on Camp Victory. The new building is the first to be built using a reinforced concrete design which is more cost efficient, easily relocated and provides improved protection against indirect fire threats, said Col. Rock Donahue, director, C7, Multi-National Corps – Iraq. The structure is built by the Iraqi-owned 77 Construction Company and is expected to raise the survivability rate while inside a structure struck by a mortar or rocket.

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