MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Recently a mother momentarily lost her two-year-old daughter aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Thanks to Marines with Military Working Dog Platoon, Military Police Support Company, 2nd Marine Headquarters Group, the child was quickly found.
Typically Marines from this platoon use their skills with the K-9’s to sniff out improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and track insurgents, but when they received a call concerning a missing girl, they responded with the same readiness and quickness of a combat scenario.
After arriving on scene, Staff Sgt. Charles T. Rotenberry, an assistant kennel master with the platoon, received a picture of the girl and began leading his team in the search. After not immediately picking up a trail, Rotenberry explained, he was just about to redirect his search when he thought to try and think like a kid to get a clue as to where she might have taken off to.
“That’s when I looked around and was like, ‘where’s the little kid going to go.’ Most little kids don’t just walk out of a screen door and make a button hook the other way,” said Rotenberry, a father of four children under seven years old. “They tend to walk straight. So I decided to start walking where I thought the kid might walk and that’s when I saw her sitting in a blind corner of the neighbor’s porch.”
“I guess they didn’t notice the house was unsecured,” said Rotenberry, a Newark, Del., native. “She was just sitting there playing with her dolls. She saw me in uniform and she came running over looking for a hug. I think she thought I was her dad, because of the same uniform. I think her dad just came back from Afghanistan. So she was probably confused and saw a Marine in uniform and ran over.”
Rotenberry explained that the police did the same things, but believes the girl was probably in the house when they were looking and calling for her. He also added had the girl wandered into the woods, their Marines and dogs would not have stopped until they found her. Rotenberry had five separate tracker teams ready to scour the base.
This was not Rotenberry or the platoon’s first time using their resources for a search. During the course of their most recent deployment to Afghanistan, the platoon used their dogs to discover 71 improvised explosive devices.
Senior leadership such as Master Sgt. Frank A. Ginn, senior enlisted advisor for the Military Police Support Company, regarded Rotenberry as an upstanding Marine that has repeatedly contributed to their fine unit both during their deployment and in the rear.
“He definitely sets the right example. Marines can look at him and see he walks the walk and talks the talk. He’s a Purple Heart recipient from this last deployment and is currently pending a valor award for treating a double amputee and assisting with the Marine being successfully medically evacuated. He was the first one there; he applied the tourniquets. A Marine lived because of his actions.”
Ginn attributes both Rotenberry’s and the platoon’s success in both Afghanistan and stateside to their training. Ginn said, it is doing their training the right way day in and day out that gives them the confidence to shine when called upon.
“In this particular case it was Rotenberry, but ultimately it could’ve been anybody because it’s about what we do over here. Train, train, train – it’s a team concept. It’s not just the dog or the handler. Whether it’s down range looking for insurgents, IED’s, or back here locating a lost child, It’s what we do day in and out in our training that sets us up for success.”
In 2010 there was a convicted felon aboard Camp Lejeune who was wanted for shooting someone. After evading Naval Criminal Investigation Service, the shooter hid in the woods on base. The platoon was called upon for their unique tracking skills to help local authorities and NCIS hunt the male down.
“This individual had been in the tree line for an hour,” said Ginn. “We were doing our own training at the time. But we were able to come all the way over, link up and in half an hour we had the individual. It’s about doing the right thing and being consistent. If you’re doing what you need to do when an opportunity comes up, you’re going to be successful.”