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NEWS | Sept. 21, 2023

Profiles in Professionalism: MA1 Ramiro Garcia

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Raymond Maddocks, Commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command Public Affairs

The hot sun beat down on Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Ramiro Garcia as he led the 2-8 Infantry Unit belonging to the Army Task Force Warhorse Regional Command South down a road to conduct soft knocks in a village outside of Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Garcia, a dog handler, was at the front of the group rucking down the dirt road. He and his military working dog, Don, had an important mission; detect, avoid and mark potential explosives along the way.
It was Garcia's first deployment to Afghanistan and his first as a dog handler. He was keenly aware that when Don detected explosives, he was trained to immediately sit down to warn Garcia of the presence of hidden improvised devices. As the unit rucked across the flatlands toward the mountains ahead, Garcia scanned the road searching for potential danger.
Then he saw Don sit.
The moment Garcia had trained to be prepared for finally came and, to his surprise, he felt…

“I remember in that moment I was completely confident,” said Garcia. “I felt confident in my training and in my dog’s training. There was no fear. It was just like another day of training. The dog sits, I notify the Soldiers, we mark the suspected bomb and we continue with the mission.”
It was no accident Garcia, now an MA1, found himself in Afghanistan performing that mission. In fact, it was something he had to work very hard to achieve.
“I joined as an undesignated Seaman and I quickly realized I wanted to be in a more boots on ground type of environment,” said Garcia.
He was selected to be an MA and soon realized there were only a few paths to get to where he wanted to be. His options were: work with special operations or the Seabees or to apply for dog handler school.
“Because of where I was stationed [Bahrain] dog handler seemed like my best option,” said Garcia. “I went to the Military Working Dog facility and volunteered to help them out after work and on my off days. I helped clean out the kennels and wore the bite suit whatever they needed me to do.”
Shortly after, Garcia got selected for the school and was able get into the boots on ground environment he was looking for.
Garcia said he felt drawn to the expeditionary environment out of a desire to protect his fellow service members.
“When I got to do that first deployment to Afghanistan in 2011, I felt like I was actually accomplishing my goal,” said Garcia. “I wanted to do this type of mission to help people and protect my comrades.”
After 12 years and 6 deployments (2 boots on ground and 4 at sea), Garcia decided it was time for him to settle down, but he wasn’t ready to leave the Navy behind.
“At my last active-duty station in Naval Air Station Sigonella I decided to move to San Diego and transition to the Navy Reserve,” said Garcia. “The Reserve doesn’t have a military working dog program, but I got a job as a DoD civilian as a dog handler.”
While Garcia still gets to work with dogs in his civilian job, his role in the military has changed. Garcia said it wasn’t an easy transition.
“At first, it was tough,” said Garcia. “I always had kind of a "push and grind" expeditionary mindset. When I joined the Reserve and my mission changed slightly, I wasn't able to work with younger dog handlers, it was a tough transition. It's a different type of environment.”
Garcia said just because his mission has changed doesn’t mean he doesn’t get fulfillment from his new role. He's still watching the backs of his Sailors with the same sharp vigilance he displayed on that dusty, hot day in Afghanistan.
“I'll always be looking out for my people,” said Garcia. “Looking out for my younger Sailors and helping them out by mentoring and developing them is where I get the most job satisfaction.”