MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Charles Hardesty’s K9 training revolves around the behavior of the animal. He teaches his Marines and civilian dog handlers to pay attention to how working dogs react to situations and environments.
> I grew up on a farm and family ranch in Wyoming. I grew up milking cows and putting up hay.
> Early mornings and yelling don’t really affect me. I remember when I was going off to boot camp, it was kind of funny. Some kids, they get yelled at and they just shut down. My dad, he yelled, like really yelled. So when I was getting yelled at by drill instructors, inside I was laughing a little bit. I was thinking, “You think this is yelling?”
> Growing up, my dad was very discipline-oriented. He had no problem swatting my butt for doing something wrong. Drill instructors really couldn’t do anything to me. Them yelling at me was no big deal.
> I’m an outdoors kind of a guy. I like hunting and fishing. I’m a very avid bow hunter.
> There is a bear hanging up in my office. That was from my very first bear hunt in Canada. It’s crazy. All the training you get in the Marine Corps is all high speed and low drag. When you truly hunt and you hunt to kill something, it’s different.
> Everyone thinks bears are big, noisy, clumsy animals. The scariest thing for me was sitting in the tree stand and looking and seeing nothing. It gets to the point where you start getting a little drowsy. So I’m looking, and scanning, nothing. I go ahead and nod back. About a minute later, I look around and down and there’s a bear below me.
> I was looking around the whole way. That bear did not make a single noise. When you’re walking through the woods and going over dry leaves and stuff, it sounds like you’re a herd of cows running through the forest. Bears, it’s scary how quiet they are. With that said, I shot him with my bow from 15 yards.
> I’ve been in the Marine Corps just over 10 years and I’ve been in K9 my entire career. As K9 handlers, we typically only do it for three or four years. This is a job that requires a lot of training. After four years, I barely touched the surface of what it means to be a dog handler. At six years, I looked back and said, at four years I didn’t know squat. At eight, I said at six I didn’t know diddley. It’s taken a long time to get where I am today.
> There’s no job you can compare to dog handling and dog training. You have to work with this weapon every day. No one dog is the same. A dog needs training every day just to maintain basic proficiency. And we’re not looking for basic.
> I like to tinker on things. If something is broken, I like to pull it apart and see if I can fix it and put it back together. I’ve always been that way.
> Growing up on the farm, if machinery broke down, we couldn’t afford a mechanic to come out every time and fix a part, so guess what I had to do? A couple of times I learned that the hard way.
> Something would break down out in the field and I would walk a couple miles back to the house and tell my dad. He would ask, “Where’s the part? What do you want me to do about it? Go fix it?” I’d have to walk all the way back pull it apart and bring it back.
> My wife would say that I’m a hoarder. I say to that, I’ll pull something apart and maybe it’s a broken clock. I’ll see if it’s fixable, if not I’ll keep all the screws and the metal pieces. I’m thinking that I can use that somewhere else.
> Honestly, I’m a very patient and humble person. I’m very religious. I probably don’t walk the walk, but I definitely try to make good moral and ethical decisions in the eyes of God. That’s how I try to live my life.
> I don’t go out preaching but think, by my actions, that it says enough. As a young Marine you think, “Man, when I get up in the ranks, I’m going to make a difference, I’m going to do things differently.” Most of them end up doing the same thing as those before them. I honestly believe that I am different.