By Nicole Johnson
Thousands of Pentagon employees returned to work on Sept. 13, 2001, with the horrific events of 9/11 still haunting their minds. The day began with a bomb threat that prompted an emergency evacuation of the building.
Worried and nervous personnel feared another terrorist attack and quickly vacated the premises, but former Army staff sergeant and current UMHB history education major Martin Lowrey did the opposite. He and his K-9 comrade, Kiko, fearlessly headed toward the hallway of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s office, which was the suspected location of the bomb.
“You (could) just smell the pungency of the burnt building,” he said. “Because where the plane went in, it wasn’t far from that area. I went over, search the hallway with Kiko, didn’t get a response from Kiko. EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) came through, did their clearance thing, and the Pentagon was cleared.”
Lowrey was a military police dog handler and Kiko was his 6-year-old, highly trained German shepherd partner. On that particular day, their assignment was to report to the Pentagon to search for explosive devices in the already heavily damaged complex.
Through the years, this dynamic duo of man and dog often found themselves in or around historical events. As a lover of history, Lowrey jokes about their experiences.
“Sometimes I feel like the Forrest Gump of the Military Police Corps. Just like the scenes in Forrest Gump, he was always at those spots in history.”
Two months after the Pentagon assignment, Lowrey and Kiko were assigned to the security team for the U.N. General Assembly in New York. Tensions rose as another plane crashed near the location of where the General Assembly convened. It was suggested that this was another act of terrorism
targeting the U.N.
“Everybody was on pins and needles because they weren’t sure if it was another attack,” he said. “Everybody, from Secret Service, Department of State and me included.”
Sophomore history major Erin Goolsby, an aspiring historian, was impressed with Lowrey’s accomplishments.
She said, “I think it’s a really cool that he’s been involved in so many things because you don’t meet a lot of people that have been all over the place like that.”
Senior communication major Chris Collins recalls an experience working with him while the two were assigned on Fort Hood.
“As an investigator and having to follow up on possible drug cases, I frequently coordinated with military working dogs and their handlers,” he said. “We had (Lowrey’s) dog search a home for illegal substances on post because the residents lived in filth, and neighbors suspected they might be doing drugs.”
To become a handler, a soldier must be a military police officer for at least one year. Then after recommendations, the soldier is sent to K-9 school at Lackland Air Force Base for 11 weeks to be trained on the ramifications of releasing a hound, lawm drug aspects and testifying.
Handlers are responsible for their new partners both on and off duty, but the unit operates a specialized kennel where the dogs live.
“They have to learn basic obedience,” Lowrey said, “to listen to the handler because if you send your dog after somebody, you don’t want that suspect to be able to control your dog.”
The first animal that Lowrey trained and certified, Kino, was a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois specializing in patrol and narcotics detection. The crime-fighting partners were temporarily sent to El Paso, Texas, for a counter-drug mission with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Within three months, Kino found $1.4 million in marijuana. They worked together for two years until Lowrey had to move to Washington, D.C. Shortly after leaving, he received word that Kino passed away from cancer.
A German shepherd named Kiko became his next partner. Kiko, who specialized in patrol and explosives detection, was originally supposed to be a temporary placement because he could not pass the explosive certification.
But after creating a special bond with his new best friend, Lowrey, Kiko passed and exceeded beyond his four-legged peers.
In addition to working at the Pentagon and running security missions for the U.N., dog and man also traveled to Russia and conducted explosive sweeps for White House officials and performed attack demonstrations for schools.
“It was a great time,” Lowrey said. “I wouldn’t have done the things I did, wouldn’t have been able to travel as much, and I wouldn’t have got to meet the people I did.”
After years of traveling the world on training missions, Kiko retired in 2004, and Lowrey adopted him. He became a part of a family who loved and adored him until he passed away in 2009.
Lowrey said. “We had Kiko cremated, put into a wooden urn, and I got a plaque made for him. He has an American flag sitting behind his remains with his badge … on top of the urn.”