Veteran Ground Zero K-9 Team Helps New Orleans Search and Recovery

Capt. Morgan
Capt. Morgan

The search for people and bodies continues in New Orleans. For the past week and a half, a K-9 team from Savannah has been part of the search-and-recovery effort.

You may remember them from their heroic work at Ground Zero after the September 11 attacks. After being a part of the horrors of 9/11, the two men and their K-9 retired. They had seen and done too much. But when our nation called them to service to help with Hurricane Katrina, they couldn't say no.

Two days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, John Frank, Jason Berrang, and K-9 Capt. Morgan were called back to duty.

"We knew we could provide the service and they were desperate for the services," said Frank.

Their job was to go from house to house and search for people, dead or alive. Frank recalled the experience. "Bang on the door and say, 'Search and rescue, anyone home?' And check the windows, listen for any sounds, look for any evidence that someone might be there. And the smell, have the dog check for cadavers or lives."

After they checked a home, they marked it with spray paint.

The K-9 team was working in some very harsh conditions with the heat and the bugs. And their home was the back of a pickup truck. That is where they ate, slept and stored their equipment for 11 days.

But there wasn't a lot of time for sleep. "Get up, get Morgan, get all the supplies ready in the vehicle and head into the city," recalled Frank. "Go though many checkpoints, then back in the muck going door to door."

"The smell was awful," said Berrang. "The water level varied all over the place. That was the thing we tried to keep away from, especially with Morgan, was the water with bacteria and disease in it."

They didn't complain. They did the job they were called to do. "How many generations can say they had two major events like this in their lifetime?" asked Frank.

They hope it's a job they never have to do again.

Many people, including Morgan's handlers, were worried about how she would do with her cadaver mission. Her handlers say she did very well, and remembered all her commands. And they went out of their way to keep the K-9 safe.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com