Sergeant Rex

May 21, 2021
Operation Certain Death
May 21, 2021

by Mike Dowling & Damien Lewis

“In Iraq we put our lives in each other’s hands day after day. We took care of each other no matter what. Rex and I have an unbreakable bond, one that will last for the rest of our days. Semper Fidelis—always faithful—it’s the motto of the Marine Corps. And if ever there was a Marine who’s lived up to it, it’s Rex.”

Deployed to Iraq’s infamous Triangle of Death in 2004, Sergeant Mike Dowling and his Military Working Dog Rex were part of the first Marine Corps military working dog (K9) teams sent to the frontlines of combat since Vietnam. It was Rex’s job to sniff out weapons caches, suicide bombers, and IEDs, the devastating explosives that wreaked havoc on troops and civilians alike. It was Mike’s job to lead Rex into the heart of danger time and time again, always trusting Rex to bring them both back alive. No training could fully prepare them for this job. Dowling had turned 25 and Rex 3 just after they arrived in Iraq—and neither of them had any idea of what to expect. An animal lover since childhood, Dowling had fostered and trained dogs to become Guide Dogs for the Blind, and he became determined to become part of the military’s K9 unit after joining the Marines. On their first patrols in Iraq, Rex suffered a seemingly incurable fear of explosions and gunfire, but with Mike at the other end of his leash, Rex gained the courage to perform his duty.

Filled with harrowing tales of knife-edge bomb-detection work, including an extraordinary baptism by fire, Sergeant Rex is a heart-pounding, gripping account how an unbreakable human-canine bond helped Mike and Rex to stay focused on their mission and save countless lives. Dowling takes us into the searing 130-degree heat, the choking dust, and the ever-present threat of violent attack that seemed to permeate Iraq’s streets and alleys. Along with the never-ending dread of unexpected air strikes, RPG attacks, and random violent confrontations, we experience his visceral fear of walking down an IED-laden alley where dismemberment or death could come with every footstep, only his trusted partner, Rex, by his side.