Dogs of War: Remembering Cairo

Rare Breed

The death of Osama bin Laden is one of those events that we all remember where we were when we heard about it. Unfortunately, we only learned the name of one of the operators that night, although we learned that the US Navy was conducting the raid; Cairo, Belgian Malinois.

Of course, Cairo was not there alone; he had a little help from his human friend Will Chesney.

Will and Cairo. Photo courtesy of the United States Navy

A few years ago, Navy SEAL Will (Cheese) Chesney wrote a book about his best friend, Cairo. “No ordinary dog” (co-written with Joe Layden) was first released in April 2020. It has garnered almost universal praise, receiving 4.9 out of five stars on Amazon and another 4.9 out of five stars on People love a good dog story and a good war story and “No ordinary dog” it is both.

Chesney’s book is a tribute to his four-legged friend, who unfortunately had to be put down in April 2015 due to inoperable cancer. He still has the bloody harness he wore during the Cairo raid on bin Laden. His ashes are kept in a place of honor.

The book begins:

“Cairo was my dog. And I was his father. I do not use the term euphemistically. The bond between a handler and a canine SEAL is deep and close. It goes far beyond friendship and the usual bonds that bind a man to a dog. The training is experiential and all-encompassing, a round-the-clock immersion designed to develop not only expertise but extraordinary depth and complexity.”

Very good boy. Screenshot from YouTube and The Reserve Label

Chesney joined the Navy in 2002, but it wasn’t until 2006 that he was introduced to military working dogs after a training demonstration in Kentucky. Back in 2008, when Chesney was still searching to find his place on Teams, he said: “It’s always seemed to me that bad guys are more afraid of our dogs than they are of us, and maybe with good reason.” Iraqis generally view dogs as a nuisance at best and a security threat at worst. Dog rabies was rampant in the country, and Saddam Hussein encouraged the killing of stray dogs to eradicate the menace. One of the unintended consequences of our 2003 invasion was the approximately 1 million homeless dogs that proliferated in Baghdad as a result of the city’s suspension of typical public services. As a result, packs of dangerous stray dogs roamed the city streets.

Chesney was chosen as a handler, a dog, or military working dog (MWD) as they are called. He took his training quite seriously, realizing they weren’t pets; they were tools of war like him. He will admit that Cairo is not the first choice to work with him. He was interested in a dog named Bronco. Bronco was friendly and sometimes wanted to play. Cairo was further away and everything was busy. After two weeks of working with both animals, Chesney knew Cairo was special, but he still wasn’t sold on it.

In his boots and dogs (dog goggles), Cairo was enjoying a good tennis ball. Photo: Will Chesney.

It turns out that a program director assigned Cairo to Will. The man said to him: “He’s the right dog for you.” And that was it. Shortly after, the pair left for a seven-week training camp in California. For several days, the two shared a bed. But Chesney saysI remember pushing him in the middle of the night for being such an aggressive hunter and quilter.”

Cairo excelled in his training: learning to move quickly and quietly, sniff out explosives and weapons, and learn to parachute. In 2009, Chesney and Cairo were sent to Afghanistan. Chesney admits that Cairo is a bit worried about how to pick out the bad guys from among the human shields the enemy has placed in their midst. These were often women and children. As he explained New York PostChesney said, “Most of the time you call people out [of a house]and men and women will leave their babies inside – perhaps using them against us, hoping we’ll hurt or kill the babies.


Will vividly remembers a special summer night in Afghanistan in 2009. It was June 30, and the seals were hitting targets hundreds of yards away in the woods. Chesney unleashed his dog and Cairo sped after the bad guys. Finally, he cleared a four-meter stone wall and disappeared. Immediately afterward, the SEALs heard several rounds of small arms fire. Chesney immediately called to return to Cairo. Slowly the dog limped backwards and then collapsed onto the heap, panting heavily. He was shot in the chest and front leg and was bleeding. He could no longer jump over that stone wall, so he had to walk all the way in pain.

A doctor immediately tended to his wounds and a “FWIA” (wounded in action) call went out over the radio, requesting immediate medical evacuation. Cairo was MEDEVACED with Will to the nearest medical facility, where military doctors and nurses performed life-saving surgery on him. Chesney stayed in Cairo for the rest of the night, falling asleep on the cold hospital floor. When he licks her the next day, she says she knew Cairo would make it.

Spear of Neptune

Cut to March 2011 and Cairo was now six years old and close to retirement. Will Chesney wasn’t just a Navy SEAL; he was a member of DEVGRU’s (aka SEAL Team Six) Red Squadron, and he got the call his teammates had been waiting for years. They wanted to go after Osama bin Laden. Many believed that it would be a one-sided mission, as they could not imagine the destruction of the head of the terrorist organization without a massive and bloody battle. When the time came, all the men said their last goodbyes to their loved ones without revealing the nature of their mission. It was nothing new, but it was a goal. Chesney was well aware that the immediate end of any of bin Laden’s quarters could almost certainly be littered with tripwires and explosive devices; Such was the nature of Operation Neptune Spear.

On May 2, 2011, Cheney sat on the floor of the plane wearing a Kevlar vest and dog goggles with Cairo as a highly modified Black Hawk helicopter from the Army’s 160th SOAR ferried them over a sleepy Pakistan. feet in the dark. The first Black Hawk slid off the compound wall and made a hard landing. The plane belonging to Cairo and Chesney landed safely.

Rex Specs Dog Goggles with Dog Vision System. Note the high-resolution camera lens located between and above the dogs’ eyes – an image from Popular Science and Rex Specs.

The pair jumped off the ground and Chesney left Cairo to search for explosives and possible escape tunnels. After making two laps around the complex, he returned. Everything is clear. They entered the house, helping to clean the first two floors. At that time, Mohur, coming down the stairs from the third floor, said to them: “I don’t think they need a dog.”

The Navy's small handling of a SEAL on the Bin Laden mission

Read next: The Navy’s handling of the SEALs on Bin Laden’s mission is minor

“Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo!” it came out on the radio that that person is known by their code name “crankshaft” he was dead. Osama bin Laden was no more. By now all the shooting and explosions had woken up the locals and they understandably wondered what was going on. Cairo was taken outside to handle the crowd while the rest of the SEALs managed to get computer hard drives and whatever other intelligence they could before getting the hell out of Dodge.

Thirty-six hours later, all SEALs on the mission, including Cairo, met with the President of the United States. When the public wanted to know who carried out the raid that night, the only name was Cairo. He became an instant celebrity and was kept at a military base. Chesney would later reassign without him. Over time, he developed symptoms of PTSD, depression and severe migraine headaches, and began drinking heavily. The only thing that made him feel better was a trip to Cairo.

In 2013, the Navy announced the retirement of Cairo. Chesney wanted the dog to live with him, but so did at least two men. Chesney was so stressed by the idea that he later announced plans to hijack Cairo. He even bought an old motorcycle with a sidecar to ride in Cairo. “I felt he needed me” Chesney wrote in his book: “And I definitely need it.”

All good things…

Cairo finally got to ride a bunch of sidecars, and he seemed to enjoy them. Photo courtesy of Will Chesney.

It took a long year to wait for approval, but Cairo finally went home with Will. The two spent tons of quality time together, snuggling on the couch, watching movies, eating steak, and going on long motorcycle rides. Unfortunately, this did not last long. Cairo developed cancer and his quality of life deteriorated. He was supposed to fall on April 2, 1015. Will held Cairo’s claw until the end.

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