CAMP HOVEY, South Korea--Although the name Garryowen is known across the Army, soldiers at Camp Hovey, South Korea, know it can take an unexpected form.
Garryowen is the regimental namesake for 4th Squadron, 7th U.S. Cavalry, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. It's a traditional greeting of the day to its officers, and somewhere, the famous Irish quickstep of the same name can still be heard on a regular basis. But for those familiar with the local Garryowen legends, they are probably more knowledgeable of his current legacy of defending the soldiers in the brigade.
He might not be the manliest breed anyone expects to see with hardened soldiers in a forward deployed brigade like the 1st ABCT, however, he has found his niche. A dedicated cavalry scout, he resides happily amongst his squadron brothers in the lobby of the company barracks where he has a bed that gets a little extra heat from the nearby vending machine and has a clear view of soldiers as they scurry to physical fitness training in the morning.
Command Sgt. Maj. Echo Garryowen, as he's known to some, is a mixed-breed collie perfectly suited for the cavalry lifestyle.
"He's definitely a master of reconnaissance," said Pfc. Shayne M. Kennedy, a cavalry scout for 1st Platoon, Company B. "He knows every inch of Hovey, every grid, he's scruffy...he's old school [cavalry] that's for sure. I've seen him with a Stetson on a couple of times, it looked good on him."
Kennedy is the primary caretaker for Echo, who has protected these soldiers for the last 10 years. As to the question of how old he really is, that's just another part of the legend.
1st Sgt. Michael Udell has a longer history with Echo than the average Garryowen Soldier, even though he currently serves as a first sergeant at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. He made it a point to incorporate Echo into his training more when he was serving as the first sergeant of the "Blackfoot" Soldiers of Company B.
"Soldiers who wanted to pitch in to help take care of him would," said Udell. "The caretaker role is passed on from soldier to soldier before the other PCSs. Caretakers are hand-selected; it just doesn't go to anybody. The next soldier must prove that he is worthy of such an honor."
As expected of a command sergeant major, his tastes are particular, so the final selection of the caretaker is Echo's.
"It started whenever I would walk by; I would always acknowledge him," said Kennedy. "And then, it got to the point where I could just come home for lunch and he would just be sitting outside of my door."
In the decade he has been protecting these soldiers, Echo has met hundreds of Garryowen Soldiers every few months with the rapid personnel turn over in Korea, so he's considered to be a good judge of character. But even once the caretaker is chosen, when it comes to this dog's care, it really takes a village.
"My mom sent him a bed, aunts and uncles send dog treats," said Kennedy. "As soon as I started showing an effort in taking care of him, so did my Family from 7,000 miles away. Sergeant Marc Hampton will give him a bath every now and again and there's a lieutenant who brought in a huge bag of dog food for him.
"Everybody chips in and seems to know when he needs something. People just associate him to me because we've just bonded so much."
In his younger days, Echo traveled in style with Udell.
"Echo attended every gunnery range from 2010 to 2012," said Udell. "He would ride with me in the humvee to check on the troops and to chase a few Bradleys. The soldiers' morale would sky rocket when they saw Echo jump out of the vehicle. He would walk with me 'trooping the line' saying hello to every soldier he passed."
Now, just to keep the new soldiers on their toes, soldiers call at-ease for him when Echo walks in the barracks. Other than a laugh, he also brings a sense of community; as he is not only loved, but well cared for.
Now that he's a little older, exercise is a stroll out front and chasing the occasional cab. He's even gotten his kicks by chasing the car of the 1st ABCT chaplain. He must have been forgiven though, because he is still healthy enough to waddle down the road and join soldiers for a barbeque every now and again. As a wise old dog, he also helps enforce the curfew.
"One thing he's very ornery about in his old age is his sleep," said Kennedy. "When people are coming in around curfew and he's trying to sleep, that's the only time you're going to have a problem with Echo. When people are being loud, he's known to bark and chase you back up to your room."
His legend has spread through Area I -- there are those who swear they've seen him in the Ville and there is also the rumor that he is now permanently banned from Rodriquez Live Fire Complex for some behavior issue. There have even been those who think he's a ghost.
But legends being just that, it's better to stick to the facts. A fact is that he loves beef jerky. Another is if you want to see him act like a puppy, show up with a bag of charcoal because he'll think it's time for a barbeque. Most importantly, even if it's around 4 a.m. when squadron soldiers are returning from the field with their rucksacks, Echo will be standing outside in the road welcoming them, excited to see them.
"He's so much more than a dog in the barracks; I couldn't imagine the barracks without him," said Kennedy. "He'll be one of the things that I'll really miss."
Thanks to caretakers like Kennedy, Udell and the rest of Echo's village, he has the support and title to continue to make hard working soldiers smile a little wider while so far from home.