(July 30, 1950 to August 6, 1999)

My name is Terry Gawel. After completing Dog Handler School at Lackland A.F.B. with my sentry dog Sherlock (X984) my class flew to Vietnam in an Air Force C-141 cargo jet. We arrived at the 981st in Cam Ranh Bay on March 10, 1970.

After I arrived, the 981st C.O. CPT Billy Held offered me the opportunity to train as a vet tech. After several weeks of O.J.T. at the Cam Ranh kennel, I was assigned to Team D, An Khe in the Central Highlands. It was there I met Joseph Geueke, from Scranton PA. Joe was quite a character, always upbeat and always laughing or smiling. I do not remember anyone who did not like or could not get along with Joe. I still remember and tell stories about Joe that make me laugh.

In December of 1970, I was reassigned to Tuy Hoa where I spent the final few months of my tour. I returned home in February 1971.

It was after being assigned to Tuy Hoa that I lost track of Joe. I have often wondered what became of him over the decades and was saddened to read of his death in the March/April 2017 Sentry Dog Newsletter. In 1970 it seemed like we were young, strong and would live forever.

Joe’s dog was named Rex, and I believe Rex was the dog asked about in the Newsletter. Rex was possibly the meanest dog in An Khe but Joe thought of him as an overgrown puppy. Joe and Rex: Laidback and Vicious. It was an interesting if not amusing pairing. If they did not instill fear in you, they certainly commanded respect and a wide berth!

As I transported Joe and Rex to and from their post in the quarter ton Jeep, Rex would try to pull his muzzle off with both front paws in order to chew my right arm off. I can still hear Joe proclaim with all sincerity: “Doc, I think Rex likes you!”

Thank you for putting me on the Newsletter mailing list. Until being contacted by the 981st company clerk Steve Dragovich in July 2016, I had lost contact with most everyone from that period of my life. It has been interesting, and in some cases sad, to learn the fate of the “men of the 981st.”

Sincerely, Terry Gawel; 1530 E. Columbia Rd.; Dansville MI 48819;

LtoR: Joe Geueke (shirtless), Terry Gawel, Tom Dudley, Luther Adkins. Team D, An Khe, 1970

Joe Geueke’s fearsome dog Rex (78X5)



    Terry, your heartfelt tribute to Joe Geueke is even more poignant when you realize that he died young, one week after having turned 49. And you recounted vividly too that it is possible for an aggressive dog — Rex — and a determined handler to make up a fully functioning team.

    There have been many other difficult dogs that served with the Army Military Police in Vietnam, with varying degrees of success. King M000, handled by Alumni Newsletter editor Dave Keeton, immediately comes to mind. Despite a fierce mien and a penchant for chewing through metal, King bonded well with Dave and they became a strong sentry team. Other dogs like Kai, as described by Rich Placido, had the reputation of being bad asses who chewed up every handler who tried to work them.

    Other anecdotes about angry or stressed out Vietnam dogs may well be the stuff of urban legend (or war zone legend): one purportedly chewed through a thick chain-link fence during heavy enemy fire; another more aggressive one took off the little finger of a handler (not his own) who got too close to the metal crate the dog was in.

    A few dogs have turned on their handlers with particular vengeance and in at least one case, that of handler Francis Zindt, it was shown after autopsy that the dog had a brain tumor that presumably caused or worsened the attack. Zindt exacerbated the incident by fleeing from the dog as it attacked. He eventually went home due to the severity of his injury. Sometimes aggression is fomented when a handler deliberately and physically teases his dog. This occurred on one occasion while I was at Lackland, and the handler not only was injured but caused his dog to be put down for attacking him.

    Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan’s website offers these tips for what to do when confronted by an aggressive dog: Stay calm and stay still. Do not run away. Don’t yell at or kick the dog. Avoid direct eye contact. Protect face, throat, chest, and fingers (keep your hands in fists). If possible let the dog attack something that isn’t you — a shoe, glove, cap, small pack, etc. — then slowly back away if the dog takes the bait.

    In dog school and in Vietnam, I don’t recall being offered such detailed information (except for not running away) but we did learn to keep away from and not pet the dogs of other handlers, keep a safe distance from neighboring teams of handlers and dogs, keep your face away from your dog’s face, and use a muzzle when groups of teams are being transported by truck in tight spaces — especially if you know your dog is aggressive.

    There are many different reasons for why a dog becomes aggressive, but a handler should deal reasonably with the dog he’s got and not contribute to or be the cause of the aggression.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *