Halton Police Officer Honours Six Canadian Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan in a Special Way
He doesn’t want you to know his name but Halton police Const. Dan Grozelle is someone you may already recognize.
The 34-year-old Burlington native is part of an elite group of officers who make up the K9 unit — possibly the best in the province, depending on who you ask.
Grozelle, ever so modest, is reluctant to shed light on his accomplishments. Ask about his four-legged partner, though, and he opens right up.
“I don’t want to brag about his operational successes but he’s had a few,” said Grozelle.
It’s more like a few dozen, to be exact: The dog has located or assisted in the arrest of 36 people between Jan. 2017 and Sept. 2017.
“It’s a partnership,” said Grozelle.
“The dog does most of the work.”
But he’s not just any general patrol dog.
Bravo, a two-year-old male German Shepherd, was named in honour of six Canadian soldiers who were killed in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan.
Bravo stands for call sign 22B (two-two bravo), a light armoured vehicle (LAV III) operating as part of the combat team in Kandahar, said Grozelle.
The bombing took place on Easter Sunday, he recalls.
April 8, 2007, at 1:30 p.m.
Grozelle was serving in the Canadian Armed Forces at the time.
The vehicle struck an improvised explosive device (IED), killing six young men: Sgt. Donald Lucas, Cpl. Aaron Williams, Cpl. Christopher Stannix, Cpl. Brent Poland, Pte. Kevin Kennedy, and Pte. David Greenslade.
“I had the opportunity to work with these soldiers domestically and operationally in Afghanistan,” said Grozelle.
“After the wounded had been extracted from the vehicle, my team was tasked with assisting in salvaging remains, stores and ammunition from the vehicle and site.”
Canada’s mission in Afghanistan began at sea in Oct. 2001, shortly after 9/11.
Soldiers joined American and British troops to topple the Taliban regime, eliminate terrorist operations and establish the basis for lasting peace, according to Veterans Affairs Canada.
There were 158 Canadian soldiers killed in the Afghanistan mission, with IEDs causing the most casualties.
Grozelle began with Halton police in 2009, joining the canine unit in fall 2016.
And so when it came time to name his furry policing partner, command was quick to approve the naming of the newest dog “in remembrance of this tragic loss,” Grozelle said.
While Bravo technically belongs to the police service, “they were really supportive of it,” he said.
Speaking of support, Grozelle has an annual ritual for Nov. 11 — one he shares with a group of friends.
“Some are close friends, some I see just on Remembrance Day,” he said.
“We’ll go to a cenotaph, go to a service, and then have lunch.”
A poppy is pinned to Grozelle’s grey uniform.
He says he’s thinking about getting one for Bravo, whose collar reads POLICE.
Grozelle’s superiors call him a solid addition to the police dog services unit.
“His policing and military experience is evident in how he works as part of a team,” said Insp. Glenn Mannella.
“He brings a perfect balance of enthusiasm and maturity that is apparent in his desire to learn and to be a successful dog handler.”
Peak physical fitness is a must in his role.
Grozelle runs a couple of kilometres per shift, and they’re constantly training.
You’re expected to maintain a certain level of fitness, he explained.
So he’s a master of self-discipline, right?
“You’d think that,” said Grozelle.
“I wouldn’t say I’m highly disciplined.”
But he is goal-oriented.
It took Grozelle two tries to make it into the canine unit.
Now that he’s there, he admits the process was “rigorous and demanding” … an extended job-specific obstacle course of sorts, with sandbag carries and wall jumps and the like.
All this talk of physical activity is enough to work up an appetite, which brings us to food.
Surely, he burns enough calories to indulge in a cheat meal every now and then?
Certainly, and all-you-can-eat sushi is his feast of choice.
“I’m not talking a few rolls and sashimi,” said Grozelle.
“I’m filling the table and being asked to leave.”
He pauses, then smiles.
Back to Bravo.
Grozelle gets him out of the cruiser and says he’ll run a few obedience drills before letting Bravo play.
Bravo’s eyes, equal parts sweet-old-soul and I’m-the-police-tough, light up when he looks at Grozelle.
“He’s so excited” to start a shift, said Grozelle.
“He’s yipping in the car the first few kilometres that I’m driving.”
Bravo is trained in tracking suspects or missing people. He’s cross-trained in the detection of guns and ammunition.
“It’s kind of my job to put the dog in the right area but after that, it’s his show,” Grozelle said.
That’s regardless of the weather, from the most sweltering summer day to an unforgivingly frigid winter night.
Grozelle knows how to recognize his partner’s needs, year-round.
“The dog’s not going to tell me it’s too hot or that he needs to quit,” said Grozelle, adding he carries first aid for himself and Bravo.
Grozelle says he’s constantly learning on the job, and teaming up with an animal comes with one big bonus.
“You’re never really alone,” said Grozelle.
“You’re not really getting judged by your singing on the radio.”
Photo courtesy of Halton Regional Police
PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE
- Grozelle joined the reserves when he was 17 and enlisted a few years later.
- He was the first in his immediate family to serve our country — a great uncle, he says, was killed in the First World War. He has uncles on both sides who served in the Air Force after the Second World War.
Grozelle visited Pte. David Greenslade’s final resting place while vacationing in New Brunswick.
- He spent time in Oakville’s Bronte area doing community policing.
- He’s now part of a team with six police dogs and six handlers.
THE AFGHANISTAN MISSION
- More than 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members served in the Afghanistan theatre of operations between 2001 and 2014. These brave men and women are eligible to receive the General Campaign Star-Southwest Asia.
- Afghanistan is a very poor country and its climate can be extreme. Summer temperatures of 50C are common, and huge dust storms can sweep across its arid deserts.
- Camp Nathan Smith was a base for Canadian operations in Kandahar for several years. It was named in honour of a soldier from Nova Scotia who was killed there in 2002.
- Operation Medusa was a September 2006 offensive in Kandahar province that involved more than 1,000 Canadian Armed Forces members, making it our country's largest combat operation in more than 50 years.
- The heavy fighting in Operation Medusa tragically saw the loss of 12 Canadians, but the Taliban were pushed from the Panjwai district.
(Source: Veterans Affairs Canada)