The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office has a new employee who finished a tour of duty in Afghanistan and is eager to settle into a new position as Assistant District Attorney Jason Beato’s right-hand man.
Andy, who returned in early May, has extensive knowledge in explosive detection and was stationed at Ft. Bragg before deploying with 12 soldiers, including Beato, to the mountainous, war-torn country for nine months.
“For all practical purposes he is a team member—he just can’t talk and that’s about it—and he sheds a lot more,” said Beato. That’s because Andy is a five-year-old Belgian Malinois.
Andy’s primary handler was wounded after leaving Afghanistan and the dog was put up for adoption shortly after. Beato said when he and the other soliders in his unit heard the dog was up for adoption it was almost a race among them to see who could get him first.
Beato has been a prosecutor since 1998 and in 2005 he joined the U.S. Army. Beato then came to the DeKalb County district attorney’s office in 2009.
“It turned out that none of my other teammates were able to get him in a quick fashion,” Beato said. “It’s been about two weeks since he has been here.”
Beato said Andy’s duties in Afghanistan consisted primarily of explosive detection and searching for improvised explosive devices. His other skills include tracking and searching buildings and vehicles.
“We didn’t do a lot of roadwork; a lot of the searches were in buildings,” Beato said. “He has a specific vest that he wears that has handles on it so you can pick him up if you need to and throw him over a wall or get him through a window.”
Beato said Andy’s presence was like having another set of eyes and ears on patrol that were much keener and sharper.
“I can’t say one thing negative about him serving over there, he was just as important as the guy next to me, everyone on our team thought so,” Beato said.
Beato was Andy’s secondary handler and he said a large part of the canine’s training was interacting with other members in his unit. Throughout their time there, Beato said everybody had a chance to pick Andy up, throw him over their shoulder and learn the commands.
“Basically my role was, if something went wrong with his handler, I would jump in and if something went wrong with Andy I would provide medical attention to him,” Beato said.
During the unit’s nine-month tour, Beato said, Andy was an invaluable resource and the soliders were all much safer because of him. He also said the dog’s presence helped them connect with some of the villagers.
“Our morale was always better because he’s always happy to see you no matter how miserable you are. If you’re cold, you’re wet and you’re hungry, he’s always there and doing it with you, and happy to be with you,” Beato said.
Even though the dog is fully certified by the military, Andy will be training to work in a civilian setting. Beato said the canine underwent an intial assessment and will soon begin training to receive certification in explosive detection.
Beato said Andy will be integrated into the district attorney office’s investigation and security detail and used for courthouse security. The dog was also recently used in a DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office training seminar on courthouse security.
Although Andy came back from active duty in May, he spent a lot of time in the kennel while he was waiting to be adopted. Beato said at first it was a tough adjustment for Andy, but now the dog is doing fine.
“When I went to pick him up from Ft. Bragg he recognized me immediately. He came up to me and we have a greeting that we usually do where we bump chests together, we did that with all of the members of the team,” Beato said.
Beato said that Andy has been extremely well-behaved and he can tell the dog is excited to start his new job at the DeKalb County Courthouse. Beato, with a smile, said he can’t wait to be working with an old friend again.