When the Surette family prepared to relocate back to the US with the Department of Defense, they made sure to take their two dogs, Soju, a five-year old French Bulldog, and Winter, an 11-year old Old English Bulldog, with them.
However, what was meant to be the start of a new chapter for the Surette’s ended in tragedy, when they were told that Soju and Winter had not survived the military-contracted flight from Osan Air Base in South Korea to Seattle.
Anne Surette, whose husband, Timothy, is a civilian employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency, took to social media Facebook to grieve and air her frustrations over the tragic incident.
According to Surette, their journey began on August 17, 2023. They took an Air Mobility Command (AMC) flight from South Korea to Seattle. They first had a two-hour layover in Japan, where they were allowed access to the dogs from the cargo hold. Surette was then able to walk the dogs and feed them.
When the family reboarded the aircraft, they were informed that there would be a delay due to “weight issues” of the aircraft. According to Surette, during the two-hour delay the aircraft’s air conditioning was off, and that no one, including the dogs, were allowed to leave the plane.
The family was given updates by military personnel who said they had gone to check the dogs and give them water.
However, when the family reached Seattle they were informed that Winter and Soju had not survived the almost 10-hour flight.
Surette said that when her husband went to check on the two dogs, he found that Winter’s water bottle had disappeared, and that Soju’s water bottle was empty. Staff were not able to answer their questions.
“Why didn’t they take the dogs out when we had to wait in the heat for almost 2 hours? The most important question is, what happened that it was so hot for Winter and Soju to suffer and then left us?” Surette lamented in her Facebook post.
Ironically, Surette said that the reason they opted to take the Air Mobility Command-contracted flight is because it was meant to be temperature-controlled.
“While we cannot change the outcome of this unfortunate situation, AMC leadership is analyzing the circumstances of this mission and are committed to doing all they can to reduce negative outcomes while still providing pet transport for our service members,” a spokesperson from the Air Mobility Command told Military.com.
In July 2022, a 10-year-old Pomeranian mix named Kolbie owned by a Marine Corps family died from heatstroke during a Patriot Express flight in Japan. Within the same month, a French bulldog died in its travel crate at the Kadena Air Base terminal in Okinawa, according to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.