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Reunite: Bob Curnick and old war buddies.



Laketown's Deputy Bob Curnick Shares Vietnam Memories
The Local Observer
Saugatuck, Michigan

Allegan County Sheriff ’s Deputy Bob Curnick spends his time patrolling the streets of quiet Laketown Township. But that hasn’t always been his charge. Curnick spent one year in Nakhon Phanom (NKP), Thailand as a member of the 56th Security Police Squadron. There he was a military working dog handler. He was only 19 years old. Thirty-five years later, memories of his time overseas have come flooding back thanks to the current accessibility of the Internet.

“For the most part, we came back (to the United States) and lost touch. We lost touch with the guys from the squad as we moved to new assignments. We wanted to return to our normal lives. Not much was celebrated back then for soldiers coming back from the Vietnam region,” said an emotional Curnick.
Curnick enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1972. The Vietnam War was still seeing full action when Curnick left for training in June – the night he graduated from high school. He volunteered for the police and trained for the assignment as well as going through dog training school.

When he left for NKP in September of 1973, he was newly married and newly trained. While the Vietnam War was winding down and POW’s were returning home, there were still battles raging throughout Vietnam and Thailand. The support base was 75 miles from North Vietnam.

While the base was within the range of communist positions in Vietnam, the main threat was Vietnamese storming the base and attempting to blow up the aircraft. Curnick and his German shepherd, Rex, worked after dark, patrolling the perimeter of the base.

“We were called the Night Fighters. I relied on the dog’s sense of smell and hearing to detect anything outside of the perimeter. We worked seven days on and one day off and then six days on and two days off. We became a tightly knit group and developed a bond with the other dog handlers and the dogs themselves.”

Rex, who had been at NKP for several years, was a quick learner and a smart dog. Curnick quickly bonded with the dog, who was one of 65 canines on the base.

“It was a difficult year, especially being newly married,” said Curnick.

When he returned home in September 1974, Curnick was stationed at Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Northern Michigan. He separated from the service in 1976.

Fast-forward to today – Curnick, a father to two grown children and five grandkids, started surfing the web. What he found brought memories of his time in Thailand flooding back to him.

“I found a picture of me and my dog, Rex, on a war dog site that led me to the Vietnam Security Police Association web site. There was an e-mail address from my old roommate. I e-mailed him and he responded in 12 hours. It was so great to get back in contact with him.” Curnick quickly became a member of the VSPA and got in touch with other friends from his squadron. In October he flew to Luke Air Force Base, just outside of Phoenix, for a reunion and memorial service for three members of the squadron who died during the time overseas.

“The way they [the soldiers] opened their hearts to us and treated us like dignitaries was amazing. They were over the top on how they welcomed us home,” said Curnick. “It made me so proud of what we did and what our military, especially the dog handlers, do today.”

Curnick reunited with friends and was treated to a security dog demonstration. He also met the dog handler who he was paired with through a mentoring program through the VSPA. A plaque honoring the three men lost was also dedicated to the new kennel and training facility at Luke AFB. The new facility is set to open in April 2010 – Curnick hopes to return for its opening and dedication.

“Going to the reunion was one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had. It was very emotional,” said Curnick while looking through old photographs. “It made me who I am today. I’m keeping in touch with the guys now.”

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