Petty Officer 3rd Class
Operation Paws on the Ground
Literally and figuratively, Chaz Koch was born into the military. His father was stationed at the Naval Air Station in Keflavik, Iceland, where Chaz was born, though he grew up on the shores of Connecticut. After realizing he wanted to explore opportunities outside of college, Chaz interviewed with several military recruiters to learn which branch would suit him best. Ultimately, he found a home in the U.S. Navy like his father.
During his tenure, Chaz served as a Master-at-Arms Petty Officer, 3rd Class, in Georgia and Bahrain, and earned the prestigious rank of Expert Marksman in both the pistol and the rifle. In Kings Bay, Georgia, he was an Assistant Squad Leader and PT Coordinator. In Bahrain, he served as base security and was one of four Masters-at-Arms selected to guard the Admiral's home."[My] experience in the Navy has shaped the person I am today," Chaz says of his career, "and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to serve."
After completing his service, Chaz switched gears to focus on his other passions. He began volunteering with several different organizations for runners; adopted multiple rescue animals including turtles, rabbits, and a dog; and enrolled in real estate school. As luck would have it, one of his peers in the program was Kyle Knight, who had hosted the rescue event where Chaz found his dog. The two quickly struck up a friendship over their mutual love for animal rescue, and together they soon co-founded a new organization.
Operation Paws on the Ground is a nonprofit that rescues dogs from high-kill shelters, trains them to provide support as service animals, and pairs them with veterans in need. This organization takes their mission one step further by hiring veterans as trainers, allowing them to also experience the emotional fulfillment of working with animals while securing employment.
"By connecting the veteran and the dog, they work together to understand what the other needs," Chaz says. "Seeing that process is an incredible experience. The organization is saving one dog, one vet, and healing two hearts at the same time." He hopes to build veteran-run training facilities in every state, so that veterans across the country can know the healing bond of a loving pet.
Learn more about how Chaz and Operation Paws on the Ground are changing the lives of veterans and rescue dogs at https://operationpawsontheground.org.
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