Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Last Known 9/11 Search Dog Returns to World Trade Center Site

Bretagne, one of the few remaining 9/11 search and rescue canines, returned to the World Trade Center site with her handler Denise Corliss on the 13th anniversary of the attack.

"It's always a difficult time," Corliss told NBC's Tom Brokaw in an interview last Thursday. "It hasn't gotten any easier year to year."

Referred to as a last resort, Bretagne's job was to search for survivors behind workers in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

"We would search an area, and I would report back whether we had found anything or not," said Corliss. "And, if we did not, they would come in and remove that area of the pile. It was concerning because you wanted to make sure you had a thorough search before they moved that part of the pile."
Canine handlers often have very close relationships with their canine search partners. Here, Denise Corliss shares some ice cream with her dog, Bretagne, during a deployment debriefing meeting.

Watch the full report here.

Bretagne and Corliss also appear in Bud Force's book Texas Task Force: Urban Search and Rescue. Describing what it takes to become a search and rescue dog, Force says the first thing is breed, although specific breeds are more a guideline than a necessary requirement for search dogs.

"There are no hard-and-fast rules as to what breeds make the best search and rescue canines, but it is generally accepted that certain breeds regularly produce dogs that are better suited for a life of working rubble," said Force.

In fact, FEMA produces annual statistics of which breeds successfully make it through its extensive testing regimens and become certified rescue dogs. Labradors, shepherds, retrievers, and other hunting breeds often are among those that make the cut. However, handlers also used pit bulls and rat terriers effectively during the World Trade Center response after 9/11.

Genetic makeup also is important, according to Force.

"Canines in the search and rescue field are asked to perform a very difficult set of skills, one that few dogs are capable of performing," Force writes.

During search assessments, dogs must be able to search two rubble piles, each 20,000 square feet, locating numerous victims. Once a dog has made it to this level and passed a number of other assessments, it moves on to advanced screening and testing, which includes finding six victims in three massive rubble piles in less than an hour with limited visual commands from the handler.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Texas Aggies Go to War: Belgium Museum to Tell Story of Aggies Who Fought in World War II's Battle of the Bulge

 Although the historic Battle of the Bulge is approaching its 70th anniversary, the conflict is not ancient history to the residents of Bastogne, nor do they intend to let it become so to their descendants.

"Their town is really a living museum to their being saved," John A. Adams, Jr. '73 recently told Texas Aggie magazine.

Adams is project historian for the "Texas Aggies Go to War" exhibition set to open in Bastogne in December -- an exhibit that will trace five Aggies from A&M student life in the 1930s to their post-war successes and struggles.

He is also co-author of a book by the same title upon which the exhibit is based, published in 2005 by Texas A&M University Press. Written with historian Henry Dethloff, the book compiles the impressive war record of Texas A&M.

The main objective of the exhibition, said Christophe Gaeta, exhibition designer, is telling the younger generation of visitors, including locals, that a soldier in a black-and-white picture is not just a soldier.

The Bastogne exhibit will feature displays on the lives, service and careers of Aggies Lt. Col. James Earl Rudder '32, Capt. Joe E. Routt '37, Maj. James F. Hollingsworth '40, Lt. William M.
Peña '42, and Lt. Turney W. Leonard '42.

Read more on the exhibit in the Sept.-Oct. issue of Texas Aggie magazine.

For more on A&M's World War II record and service, check out the biography of James Earl Rudder: Rudder: From Leader to Legend and Texas Aggie Medals of Honor: Seven Heroes of World War II.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ancient Skeleton Steeped for Years in Lawsuits, Controversy Finally Freed to Share Secrets

In the summer of 1996 two college students were wading in the Columbian River in Kennewick, Washington when they stumbled upon a skull.

While clearly old, the skull did not appear Native American, according to reports. But when experts sent a sample off for carbon dating, they discovered the remains were more than 9,000 years old.

Kennewick Man: The Scientific Investigation of an Ancient American Skeleton, edited by Douglas W. Owsley and Richard L. Jantz (TAMU Press, 2014) reveals for the first time the results of the scientific study of this remarkable find.

"The book recounts the history of discovery, presents a complete inventory of the bones and explores every angle of what they may reveal," wrote Douglas Preston in a cover story for the Sept. issue ofSmithsonian Magazine.

"Three chapters are devoted to the teeth alone, and another to green stains thought to be left by algae. Together, the findings illuminate this mysterious man’s life and support an astounding new theory of the peopling of the Americas."

But, the scientists' journey toward examining and studying the specimen was not an easy one. Says Preston, "If it weren’t for a harrowing round of panicky last-minute maneuvering worthy of a legal thriller, the remains might have been buried and lost to science forever."

Read the full article, which features details on the secrets Kennewick Man has revealed and continues to reveal about the first Americans, interviews with key researchers including Owsley of the Smithsonian Institution, numerous images, and details on the lawsuit that kept the skeleton under wraps for years here.