Two dozen Navy SEALs descended on Osama bin Laden’s walled off compound in May of 2011 with the mission of killing the man who planned the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
“Nobody expected to survive,” said SEAL Team 6 member Will Chesney, a trained dog handler who was on the ground that night and now lives in the Houston area.
Chesney was with his dog Cairo, a Belgian Malinois trained to find explosives, hidden tunnels and enemies who are hiding out-of-sight. Even after the SEALs killed bin Laden and carried his body into a helicopter for the return flight, they knew they were not out of harm’s way.
“It was a pretty long helicopter ride,” Chesney said, noting that Pakistan’s Air Force scrambled their fighter jets looking for the American chopper and its crew that pulled off the historic raid without permission to be there. The American’s literally flew under the radar and avoided detection coming and going.
Chesney will speak before the Fulshear Katy Area Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 12 at 8 a.m. at Parkway Fellowship 27043 FM 1093, Richmond. He’s promoting his book titled “No Ordinary Dog.” It’s not about himself. It’s about Cairo.
“I just did my part,” Chesney said. He wanted to make it clear that there were other SEAL team members who were in a more dangerous place than he was as bin Laden was tracked to a third floor bedroom and killed.
“I just went to the second floor,” Chesney said.
It was dark. The property could have been loaded with explosives, hidden tunnels and hidden enemies. It was Cairo’s job to sniff out those potential dangers on the outside of the compound. It was Chesney’s job to recognize when Cairo had picked up a scent. The two had worked together for years.
That night they began on the outside of the compound, as many of the other SEAL team members stormed the inside of the compound.
“It was a pretty uneventful night for us,” Chesney said about the work he and Cairo did that historic night.
“We did our sweeps outside and didn’t find anything. We went inside and started doing explosives sweeps and hidden room sweeps.” Again, they found nothing, but Chesney’s teammates found bin Laden, who was not wearing an explosive vest as they’d expected. It made the world’s most famous terrorist a safer kill.
The story of Cairo and Chesney began in 2008. That’s when Chesney was introduced to the SEAL canine program. While they had an uneventful night on the bin Laden mission, he and Cairo depended on each other for survival on hundreds of other critical operations in the war on terrorism.
Prior to the bin Laden raid, Cairo was shot. He made a full recovery. Later it was Chesney who was severely injured by a grenade. He’s still recovering from his injuries, but the worst is behind him. Chesney suffered from deep depression, crippling migraines, chronic pain and memory issues.
“My hair fell out twice and my fingernails had gotten brittle,” he said.
Modern medicine was not working. Instead, it was up to Cairo to save Will's life once more, and then up to Will to be there when Cairo needed him the most. The details are in the book, which Chesney hopes will call attention to Cairo, and bring more understanding of traumatic brain injuries.
His traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder would take him to a very dark place that literally kept him from being able to function.
“I was in a bad place for quite a while,” Chesney said.
Fortunately, he had support from people in the military who guided him toward recovery.
“I was very fortunate to find some brain treatment centers,” he said.
And he was fortunate to have Cairo for a short time after retirement. He adopted his favorite dog once Cairo had completed his missions for the Navy.
“He passed away about a year after I retired,” Chesney said.
“I really did love that dog,” Chesney said. “I don’t like talking about myself but love talking about Cairo.”