Lt. Col. Oliver North Discusses New Season of Sportsman Channel’s “Saving Private K9″

NEW BERLIN, WI – (Ammoland.Com)– Lt. Col. Oliver North is prepared to embark on his new role as host of the award-winning Sportsman Channel original series Saving Private K-9, which premieres exclusively Thursday, April 23 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Recently, Lt. Col. North participated in a question and answer forum with Sportsman Channel to discuss a wide variety of topics including, Saving Private K-9 presented by Kel Tec, business ventures and the 30-year anniversary of the capture of terrorists who hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro.

The following is the Q&A Sportsman Channel conducted with Lt. Col. Oliver North:

Lt. Col. Oliver North
Lt. Col. Oliver North

Q: Describe your role with Saving Private K-9 and what viewers can expect to see when the new season debuts on Thursday, April 23?

A: For me, serving as the host of Saving Private K-9 is a great opportunity to let the American people see another – often unreported – dimension of our remarkable U.S. military. For the past 14 years my mission has been to let Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Guardsmen and Marines tell their stories on FOX News Channel. I get to keep company with American heroes. I’m grateful FOX is giving me the time to host this show on Sportsman Channel about these four-legged heroes. They can’t talk – but they have the same kind of inspiring courage, tenacity and perseverance as their human handlers and the troops who count on them in difficult and dangerous places.

Q: Tell us a story of how military dogs have helped you in your time in the military? Are there any special dogs you still remember today?

A: My first experience with military working dogs was in Vietnam. In 1968-69, I was a Rifle Platoon Commander in 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines. We were deployed in the mountainous jungles along the DMZ – a major infiltration and staging area for the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Daily foot patrols in this terrain were fraught with risk of being ambushed or stepping on an enemy mine.  To be accompanied by a “dog-team” – a handler and his German Shepherd – was an answer to prayers.

With a dog and a handler walking “point” on a patrol, we had an extraordinary advantage in detecting danger. On scores of such operations the dog’s exceptional sense of smell and remarkably acute vision alerted us before a potentially deadly encounter. Despite terrible heat, humidity and extremely rough terrain, the dogs and their handlers saved countless Marines.

On one such operation, the dog alerted us to an enemy ambush. We deployed a squad to envelope the suspected NVA position and in the subsequent gunfight, the dog handler was wounded. After it was over, a medevac helo was called in to get our casualties to a field hospital. The shepherd, though unhurt, “insisted” on going out with the handler. I’m not sure the dog had ever been on a CH-46 helicopter before, but he went willingly aboard, walking beside his handler on the litter. I’ve often wondered what happened at the field hospital when they took the handler into surgery.

In hundreds of such patrols, whenever we had a “dog-team” with us, we unfailingly were able to initiate contact with an enemy force before they could engage us. Sadly, there were never enough dogs and handlers to accompany every patrol.

I learned two important lessons from that Vietnam experience I still put to use in covering our troops in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines and elsewhere:

  • Never get in front of the dog. The dog will detect an IED or an enemy combatant better than a mine-sweeper or all the other high-tech sensors employed by our military today. When I accompany U.S. units on a mission – even SEALs racing out of a helo onto a landing zone – I always follow the dog.
  • Watch the dog. When a dog “alerts” – it usually means “Danger Close” – something bad is about to happen. It means be ready to react – quickly. It’s amazing how fast an old man can move when he’s properly motivated.

Finally, having learned to recognize when a dog is “on alert” has made me a better hunter. When my Boykin Spaniel “alerts” on a scent, I get my gun up.

Q: What do you want audiences to know about your most recent book, Counterfeit Lies?

A: This really is a novel – though much of it seems to be playing out today. The plot line is about how Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons.  And without giving away too much of the story, it includes Peter Newman and other characters from my earlier novels. In a broader sense it’s about “good vs. evil” and decisions that have to be made when none of the options are good and a person has to make the “right” call. Lots of us have been in that situation. Somehow, dogs – like mine at home – and those I’ve seen at war – don’t have that problem. They always seem to do the right thing.

Q: This year marks the 30th anniversary of the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro. What lessons did you learn when looking back on that event? What lessons did the U.S. Military learn? What kind of impact did it have on terrorism planning/strategy moving forward?

A: On October 7, 1985, when the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked by four terrorists, our government was just coming to grips with how the terror threat to Americans had changed because of the Iranian revolution.  Until 1979, when the Ayatollah Khomeini seized power in Tehran, nearly all the terror threats to Americans originated with Soviet inspired – often KGB supported – terror organizations with names like the “Red Brigades,” the “Red Army Faction,” the “Baider Meinhoff Gang,” or initials like MFLN and ESLN in Latin America. Even those in the Middle East like the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) had connections to Moscow.

In the early 1980s we could put “wire-diagrams” of each organization up in the White House Situation Room showing the leadership, the locations of cells and the terror attacks they had perpetrated. What we missed was seeing the forest for the trees.

Within weeks of coming to power, Khomeini created the “Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps” (IRGC) – with the mission of spreading a Shiite brand of radical Islam around the world. Sunni radicals in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf Emirates responded in kind – funneling “petro-dollars” into Sunni-oriented terror groups. The “new normal” for the U.S. became radical Islamists of both sects vying for “Top Dog in Terrorism” by showing the world how willing they were to commit suicide by killing Americans in their Jihad.

The terrorists who seized the Achille Lauro on 7 October 1985 – my 42nd birthday – didn’t set out to hijack the ship. They were on a suicide mission to Israel – where the ship was supposed to make a port call. Surprised by a ship’s crew-member while cleaning their weapons, the terrorists rushed into the vessel’s dining room, rounded up about 100 of the ship‘s passengers and murdered Leon Klinghoffer, an American tourist, confined to a wheelchair.

Within minutes of being briefed on the attack, President Reagan ordered U.S. Special Operations units to deploy to the Mediterranean and “get them.” They did.

With “real-time” help from Israeli spies in Egypt, carrier-based pilots from the U.S. 6th Fleet and Special Operations units deployed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina and Dam Neck, Virginia, the aircraft flying the terrorists from Egypt to Tunisia (then the Headquarters for the PLO) was intercepted and forced to land at a NATO airbase in Sicily. There, the terrorists were taken into custody and turned over to Italian authorities for prosecution.

The “Achille Lauro Incident” became the catalyst for creating the Counter-Terrorism Center” (CTC) at the CIA.  The CTC – combining the talents of every U.S. intelligence agency, “operators” and analysts alike – enjoyed several years of success in preventing terror attacks and ensuring perpetrators were never safe.

Unfortunately, from 1993-2000, funding and staffing for the CTC were dramatically reduced to the point where we were effectively “blind” to the plotting of a radical Islamist named Osama bin-Laden and his al Qaeda organization. The attack on September 11, 2001 was the result. We needed a “seeing eye dog” and didn’t have one.

Q: When viewers are done watching Saving Private K-9, what do you want them to remember?

A: The animals we show you on Saving Private K-9 are life-savers for U.S. military personnel. Dogs really are “man’s best friend” – particularly in harm’s way. Every dog I have ever had or seen – in combat, on a hunt or lying before a hearth – is special. Their courage and affection are unconditional. One of my close friends from Vietnam – a U.S. Navy Corpsman – says that’s because D-O-G is God spelled backwards.

About Pilgrim Studios: Craig Piligian’s Pilgrim Studios produces a wide variety of unscripted and scripted programming for television, including hit series Fast N’ LoudMisfit Garage and Street Outlaws for Discovery; Ghost Hunters for Syfy; The Ultimate Fighter for FOX Sports 1; Down East Dickering for History; Swamp Pawn for CMT; Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s and Raising Whitley for OWN; David Tutera’s CELEBrations for WEtv; Wicked Tuna and Wicked Tuna: North vs. South for National Geographic Channel; Amazing America with Sarah Palin and Saving Private K-9 for Sportsman Channel; Bring It! for Lifetime; Somebody’s Gotta Do It with Mike Rowe for CNN; and the recently launched My Big Fat Fabulous Life for TLC. The company also produced the breakout movie Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives for Discovery’s 2013 Shark Week, as well as the movie Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine and the special Megalodon: The New Evidence for the channel’s Shark Week 2014. In the scripted realm, Pilgrim has produced the pilot Recovery Road ABC Family, recently picked up for a full season. The company’s original movies for Lifetime include Amanda Knox: Murder On Trial In ItalyAbducted: The Carlina White Story, which earned a 2012 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing In A Motion Picture; and the crime thriller Stalkers.

About Sportsman Channel: Launched in 2003, Sportsman Channel/Sportsman HD is a television and digital media company fully devoted to honoring a lifestyle that is celebrated by millions of Americans. A division of KSE Outdoor Group, Sportsman Channel delivers entertaining and informative programming that showcases outdoor adventure, hunting and fishing, and illustrates it through unique and authentic storytelling. Sportsman Channel embraces the attitude of “Red, Wild & Blue America” – where the American Spirit and Great Outdoors are celebrated in equal measure. Sportsman Channel reaches more than 36 million U.S. television households. Stay connected to Sportsman Channel online at thesportsmanchannel.comFacebookTwitter and YouTube.