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The United States War Dogs Association

 

Trustworthy Partners

Military working dogs put it all on the line for their handlers and their country.

By Cynthia McFarland / Photos Courtesy of US War Dogs Association - Friday, October 28, 2011

Trustworthy Partners

Word on the street was that insurgents were hiding in the building. Leading the patrol in this Iraqi town was a military working dog and his handler. Before U.S. troops could enter and search the building, the handler and dog had to ensure that it wasn’t booby trapped.

Together they checked the entrance. Clear. They proceeded through the doorway into the building and checked the first room. Clear. The door leading to a second room was closed, and as the dog and handler approached it, the dog sat down and wouldn’t go forward. Explosives detection dogs are trained to sit as soon as they discover explosives, so the handler was immediately alerted. Carefully, he inspected the door, seeing nothing to cause concern. Yet when he knelt in front of the door, he spotted a piece of rope beneath the frame. He traced the rope to where it ended… attached to a small blue box packed with explosives. It was a fertilizer bomb, which would have detonated and destroyed the whole building—as well as anyone inside—if the dog hadn’t detected it.

Although this is just one instance, it’s a scenario that plays out time and time again as military working dogs do their part to keep our troops safe.

Ron Aiello and “stormy”. DANANG BASE CAMP, 1966

Ron Aiello’s best friend didn’t make it home from Vietnam. The worst part for Aiello is not knowing what happened to the partner who served with him faithfully on countless missions in the sweltering jungles of southeast Asia.

Aiello was one of the first 30 U.S. Marine Corps scout dog handlers deployed to Vietnam in March 1966. He and “Stormy,” a young female German Shepherd, went through three intense months of training before they arrived in Vietnam on a C-130 transport plane. In the first six months alone, those 30 Marine scout dog handlers were credited with at least 2,200 captured or killed Vietcong.

“It was all because of the dogs. There were thousands of miles of tunnels in Vietnam; the entrances and exits were small, but the dogs could track down the enemies hidden there,” recalls Aiello, co-founder and current president of the New Jersey-based U.S. War Dogs Association Inc.

When Aiello speaks, 45 years melt away as he remembers the physically and emotionally grueling days and nights when he trusted a four-legged partner to help keep him and his men safe. Aiello and Stormy often had to “scout out” buildings, hunting for booby-trapped explosives that could spell death in an instant. Stormy and other military working dogs became experts at finding enemy soldiers and alerting their handlers of impending ambush. Dogs and their handlers in Vietnam are estimated to have saved over 10,000 human lives.

In April 1967, Aiello’s tour of duty was up, and he returned to the States. Stormy stayed behind, and a new handler took over.

“She probably had four or five handlers after I left,” he says. “A number of years ago, I met all but one of her handlers at a reunion. As of July 1970, she was still alive and leading patrols.”

In 1973, Aiello wrote a letter to Marine Corps headquarters. He wanted to know when the military dogs were returning home because he wanted to adopt Stormy if she was still alive.

He never got a response. This troubled Aiello, who knew something was wrong, but he didn’t find out the rest of the story for many years—until 1990, to be exact.

“Roughly 4,700 to 4,900 dogs served in Vietnam and about 232 were killed, which is actually a very small number,” says Aiello. “In 1971, the military turned 1,700 dogs over to the South Vietnamese Army; in 1973, they turned over another 1,000 dogs to them. Supposedly, about 224 dogs were brought out of Vietnam, but there are no real records of where they went. The rest were either euthanized or abandoned.”

Aiello and fellow dog handlers were shocked and disturbed at this discovery.

Dogs have served in the U.S. military since World War II. Vietnam saw the largest number of handlers and dogs of any U.S. combat and remains the only war in which surviving military working dogs were never brought home.

Fortunately, times have changed. Military working dogs, which is their official description, although they’ve also been called “war dogs,” now return to the States after serving. Thanks to lobbying efforts by dedicated dog handler Vietnam veterans, Congress approved a bill, which then-president Clinton signed into law, allowing U.S. military dogs to be retired and adopted after service.

Sgt. Kelly Chambers and “Rex” taking a well-deserved break at a classified location

Most people know canines work in law enforcement, but many have no idea there are currently about 2,700 active military working dogs worldwide.

“A large number of these are working in the deployed areas, but nearly every U.S. military installation around the world has a military working dog kennel,” notes Gerry Proctor, public affairs spokesman for Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

The Department of Defense Military Working Dog School at Lackland AFB trains about 500 dogs each year; those dogs serve in all branches of the military.

“For the most part, we train all military working dogs,” says Proctor, “but Specials Ops has their own military dog school, and some very specialized mine detecting dogs are trained in other locations.”

In World War II, the military asked the general public to loan their dogs to “the cause.” Gone are the days when the military sought dogs from civilians. Today’s dogs are bred, raised and trained by the military; some are also purchased from special breeders.

Breeds typically used by the U.S military are German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois and Labrador Retrievers.

“These are the three predominant breeds, but we also have others,” says Proctor, adding that it’s more important for the dog to have good DNA as far as working ability, rather than just be a purebred.

Young dogs are raised with foster families until they enter training, which takes an average of four to six months, depending on the type of training. Explosives detection, patrol and tracking are the basic tasks for which dogs are used. Proctor adds that some dogs go through additional specialty training, and some can be “dual certified” for both patrol and explosives or narcotics detection. When trained to attack, dogs are so highly responsive that they can be called off by a command from their handler, even as they’re running to attack someone.

“For certain types of dogs, such as specialized dogs that search for explosives in the road, the handler goes through training with the dog,” says Proctor. “The handler will go through with two dogs and then pick the dog that is the best match for him. But in most cases, the dog is trained here and then sent into the field and gets a handler assigned there.”

Each dog is paired with one handler following training, and the two remain a team for at least a year or longer, although not usually for their entire careers.

As dangerous as the work can be, to a military working dog, it’s a game. For the most part, the reward for a job well done is praise from the handler, but dogs can also be rewarded with a favorite toy.

In places like Afghanistan and Iraq, enemy combatants are constantly coming up with different “ingredients” for making improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Dogs already in the field continue to train in order to detect these devices. Trained dogs can detect miniscule amounts of these substances, even in sealed containers.

“Millions of land mines were left in Afghanistan after the Soviets pulled out, so land mine detection dogs are big there,” says Aiello. “The dog walks straight out in front of the handler in a 30-inch wide 25-foot long path. If the dog detects any explosives, it is trained to sit down. The handler then tags any mines they find. It’s a very slow process because they are working inch by inch.”

Aiello adds that the military dog is sometimes at risk of attack from roaming packs of stray local dogs. An armed team member often walks behind the handler ready to shoot any marauding dogs if they try to attack the military dog.

When our Navy Seals successfully executed Operation Neptune Spear, the risky night raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound earlier this year, a military working dog was part of the team. “Cairo,” a Belgian Malinois, rappelled out of the helicopter with the Seals.

In these situations, the dog wears a special harness and is lowered from the ‘copter by cable. (Dogs wear special goggles to protect their eyes when near helicopters and from sandstorms in desert country.) His handler immediately follows and unsnaps the dog’s harness, so the canine can get to work. Aiello explains that the dog likely was wearing a ballistic vest and may also have been equipped with ear buds.

It makes sense that the handler can’t speak out loud to give commands to the dog in such a dangerous situation. It’s common to use ear buds so the handler can speak softly into a microphone on his or her own vest and tell the dog what to do. Sometimes a dog is equipped with a night vision camera mounted on his back. This comes in handy when the dog is sent ahead of the team as the handler carries a monitor and can see everything the dog is seeing.

 

When a dog can no longer perform full duty in the field, it returns to Lackland AFB to work as a training or demonstration dog. Most dogs work for an average of 10 years total.

According to Lackland AFB, about 300 dogs are retired each year. There’s no fee to adopt a retired dog, but qualified adopters must travel to pick up the dog in person and most are adopted out of the Lackland facility.

Military working dogs are currently classified as “equipment” by the U.S. military. One of the goals of the U.S. War Dogs Association is to see that retired dogs are classified as “veterans.”

Look through photos of military canines currently deployed overseas and the dedication and focused energy of these four-legged service members is obvious. Although they may not communicate in words, they share a powerful bond with their handlers and their devotion is complete. “Man’s best friend” may actually be our country’s best friend, thanks to their faithful service..

Adopting a Hero

If you’re interested in providing a final forever home to one of these four-legged service members, you can review the requirements and download an adoption application at

uswardogs.org

Recognition for Military Working Dogs

In 2000, Ron Aiello and four other military dog handler veterans launched U.S. War Dogs Association Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about military working dogs and helping with adoptions for retired dogs.

“Awareness of war dogs is the biggest priority in our chapter,” says Barbara Snow of Bronson, who heads up the Florida Chapter of U.S. War Dogs. “Because of the privacy of the military, these dogs aren’t as well known as law enforcement dogs. One fights the war on crime; the other fights the war for freedom. They keep us safe, secure and free.”

Snow is currently working on a bill that will give veterinary benefits to retired military and law enforcement dogs in Florida.

“Many of these dogs come down with cancers, likely because of the substances they’ve come in contact with, and treatment can cost thousands of dollars,” says Aiello. “We’re trying to get veterinary care for the retired dogs, just like retired human veterans receive.”

“We have a sponsor for this in the Florida Senate but not yet in the House,” says Snow. “Once we get a sponsor in the House, I can go out and get the support from veterans’ groups and the general public.”

Snow says people can help by volunteering at events, putting up displays about war dogs at local libraries and schools, and by signing petitions to get a War Dogs stamp created for the United States Postal Service.

To donate or learn more:

U.S. War Dogs Association, Inc.

(609) 747-9340 / uswardogs.org

Florida Chapter:

(352) 213-8958 / email: k9mwds@directv.net


 

 

 

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Strong Bonds Link Military Dogs, Handlers

HEIDELBERG, Germany -- He was a go-getter, an athletic, high-speed soldier with an incredible drive. Young, dark and handsome, he was often playful and humorous.

So when an insurgent's bullet found him on the Fourth of July, his closest friend decided there was no way he'd let him die.

"I have to get on that medevac!" Spc. Marc Whittaker yelled when the shooting stopped, as he hunkered down in a mud hut where he'd carried his wounded comrade.

The shooting in Logar province, Afghanistan, during a route-clearance mission, showed Whittaker, a 23-year-old military policeman, how strong his bond was with his wounded friend, Anax, a 3-year-old bomb-sniffing German Shepherd, one of thousands of military working dogs, called MWDs, that have increasingly been used in Iraq and, especially, Afghanistan.

It highlighted the complex emotional trade-offs required of the dogs' handlers, who live with the dogs as their closest companions, but are expected to consider them expendable.

"Everybody tells us we have to look at our military working dogs as equipment. But it's hard. I got really attached. I realized how attached when he got hurt," Whittaker said. "He's like a son to me."

The aftermath of the dog's shooting showed how the military has changed the way it cares for its MWDs -- from battlefield medevacs and life-saving surgery to adoption when a dog can't perform its military job, instead of what 20 years ago was routine euthanasia.

"Everything we do is just like in people," said Col. Kelly Mann, director of the MWD Veterinary Service at Lackland Air Force Base. "Trying to help them return to duty."

But this is also a story of one soldier's devotion to his dog.

From the time Anax was shot in Afghanistan until he awoke from surgery three days later in the U.S. Army veterinary hospital in Germany, Whittaker never left his side. He didn't eat, and he slept on a pad beside the dog's kennel.

That's where his Heidelberg-based company commander found them napping together -- and welled up. "Just to see that level of care from a soldier," said Capt. Aaron Kravitz, Whittaker's company commander at the 529th MP Company, from which Whittaker and Anax deployed as individual augmentees.  "Never leave a fallen comrade behind. Words to live by."

Hazardous duty

Anax is among the MWDs trained at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. The dogs, mostly German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois, are used for protection, pursuit, tracking, search and rescue and, increasingly, sniffing out the homemade bombs that cause the most casualties in Afghanistan.

The U.S. military has about 2,700 dogs on active duty. A month ago, according to the Army Times, CENTCOM said about 40 dogs were deployed in Iraq and 685 were deployed to Afghanistan.

"Many people are surprised to hear what MWDs contribute to national security," said Gerry Proctor, spokesman for Lackland's training programs. "There is no man-made technology that comes anywhere close to what a MWD can do."

The dogs excel at the work they were trained for, although some turn out to be too anxious on the battlefield and some have diagnosed with canine PTSD, according to military vets and CENTCOM.

But even the best war dog isn't conscious of potential consequences.

"They have no idea the thing they're trying to find can blow up," Whittaker said.

U.S. Marines in 2007 brought nine Labrador retrievers to find IEDs in Afghanistan. Now the Marines have about 200 dogs in theater, said Lt. Col. Kenneth Burger, manager for the Marines' bomb-detection dog program.

"They're effective," Berger said, although quantifying that success is difficult. "There's bombs and IEDS being found but I'm hard-pressed to say they're successful [a certain] percentage of the time."

But more dogs in combat means more dogs hurt or killed.

"In the military working dog program, the canine is expendable; that's why it's there," Lt. Col. Richard Vargas, CENTCOM's chief of law enforcement branch, told the Military Times last month.

Getting casualty numbers for war dogs is difficult, but published reports suggest that several dozen dogs have been killed since 2007, including nearly three dozen from special operations forces alone. "It's a hazardous job for the dog," said Mike Dougherty at American K-9 Interdiction, which contracts with the Marines to provide about half its Labs.

Whittaker wanted to be a dog handler to "make a difference in the deployment environment and find the explosives before they found our troops."

But as the months passed and the bond with Anax grew, so did Whittaker's apprehension. He attached medals of St. Michael -- patron saint of law enforcement -- to his gear and to Anax's harness.

"Any time I sent Anax to search for something, I prayed and I hoped nothing would happen to him," Whittaker said.  "The whole time I was like, ‘Please don't find anything.' Because you don't know if it's a pressure plate or a command wire or remote control. You're just scared."

A bad feeling

Whittaker and Anax had been in Afghanistan for about five months, loaned out to various units that wanted their bomb-sleuthing capabilities. The July Fourth mission was to clear the route to a combat outpost before logistics resupplied it. Whittaker and Anax, along with some U.S. infantry soldiers and engineers and a group of Czech explosives specialists -- about 30 men and one dog -- left while it was still dark.

"Before the mission, I had a bad feeling," Whittaker said. "You still have to do it. I'm a soldier and I have to drive on."

They arrived at the post without incident after a few hours, with the convoy following. After checking out a report of unexploded ordnance in a nearby town, the group returned to take up position above the first town, to provide cover as the logistics team unloaded on the road.  Suddenly, insurgents launched a rocket-propelled grenade, followed by small-arms fire directed at the logisitics team.

Whittaker and the others were ordered to flanking positions.

"The mission changed to engage the enemy," Whittaker said. "We're running, we're jumping over walls, we're running through alleys and fields."

Anax was on a retractable leash attached to Whittaker's belt. Bullets were cracking overhead, Whittaker said, and there was no cover.

"I thought, ‘I have to protect Anax,'" Whittaker said. "He doesn't have body armor."

Anax doesn't wear body armor because it's too heavy when walking in the heat.

Man and dog jumped to the road, and Whittaker shielded the dog with his own armor-clad body, with his back to the fire.

Anax was whining, Whittaker said, and bit Whittaker's hand as he tried to cover him, although Whittaker said he doesn't remember it. In the confusion, the soldier didn't know the dog had been hit.

Whittaker saw an empty mud structure and started heading for it.

"But I realize Anax isn't beside me," Whittaker said. "He's almost always ahead of me, so I know something's wrong."

Whittaker went back, grabbed Anax by the collar and dragged him to the building.

"I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is not happening," Whittaker said.

Anax was whining and had blood coming from both hind legs. Whittaker started treating the left leg first, where the most blood was. It turned out that was just a flesh wound. The femur in Anax's right leg, where the blood had clotted, was shattered.

Whittaker yelled for the medic. The medic gave Whittaker bandages and an IV, but left with half the platoon to free an injured civilian trapped in a vehicle.  By then, the shooting had stopped.

Whittaker applied pressure bandages to the dog's wounds and tried to start an intravenous line, but couldn't get the IV in. Anax was becoming glassy-eyed and lethargic.

Whittaker worried that he and Anax might not get a spot on the medevac that was arriving about a mile away. He wanted the dog on the helicopter, even if he couldn't go along.

"I was determined," he said.

He picked Anax up and started walking to the medevac site. But it was six hours into an exhausting mission, and the 75-pound dog was dead weight.

"I probably made it 10 meters," Whittaker said.

The Czech soldiers stepped up to help.

In the middle of the combat zone, Whittaker said, a Czech soldier stripped off his shirt to use as a litter but that didn't work.

An Afghan drove up in a truck, and the Czechs persuaded him to let them use his truck to take the dog to the medevac site.

Anax and Whittaker flew from there to Bagram Air Base, and on to Dog Center Europe, the Army veterinary hospital in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Anax's right leg was shattered too close to the hip to be saved, and after a five-hour operation, the dog became one of the wars' amputees -- and eligible to retire.

"I'm happy the only thing he lost was just a leg," Whittaker said. "It could have been a lot worse."

Allowing MWDs to be adopted into civilian life is relatively new. During the Vietnam War, for instance, more than 4,000 dogs were used by the U.S.; only 200 or so survived the war and most were left behind or euthanized, according to the United States War Dogs Association.

President Bill Clinton in 2000 signed legislation allowing adoption of MWDs. For the past several years, the dogs' last handlers have been given first right of refusal. Proctor, at Lackland, said about 300 MWDs are adopted annually.

Anax's shooting and the care he received made Whittaker decide he wants to stay in the Army, if he can train as a veterinary technician.

"I got to see what they do and how they were able to make him better," Whittaker said. "I love MWDs, and I don't want to leave that part of my life."

If he's turned down, he'll get out of the Army, he said. Redeploying as a dog handler is out of he question, he said.

"I can't go through what I did," he said. "What happened to Anax was devastating to me."

Whittaker said he was able to find a silver lining of sorts.

"If he wasn't hurt, he'd stay here [in Germany] and I would move on to another duty station." Instead, Whittaker plans to adopt Anax and take him home to Texas.

"I'll be his caregiver for the rest of his life," he said. "He'll retire fat and happy on my couch."

 
©

 This article is provided courtesy of Stars and Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

Stars and Stripes has one of the widest distribution ranges of any newspaper in the world. Between the Pacific and European editions, Stars and Stripes services over 50 countries where there are bases, posts, service members, ships, or embassies.
 

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MP dogs, handlers prepare for deployment 

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan  — Marines from Military Police Support Company, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF, worked together to familiarize five military working dogs with the CH-46 Sea Knight while static and in flight Oct. 15.

"The primary purpose of this training is to familiarize the MWDs with the helicopter and to allow the handlers to see how the MWDs react to the noise and disturbances of the aircraft," said Gunnery Sgt. Greg A. Ashby, kennel master with Military Working Dog Platoon, MP Spt. Co. "Additionally, it is to teach the handlers and MWDs how to safely and properly enter and exit the aircraft in preparation for future combat operations."

The training was accomplished in baby steps: entering and exiting a static CH-46, entering and exiting a CH-46 that was spinning up, flying a couple circuits around the base, and flying to points all over the island and having the dogs disembark and then re-embark.

During the training the dogs were introduced to hover landings, no hover landings, running landings, steep approaches, zoom climbs, spiral departures, running take-offs and obstacle departures, said Capt. Kenneth Zebley, aircraft commander during the training with HMM-265.

"It went very well," he said. "Now the handlers know how the dogs will react, and all the dogs did really well."

Of the five dogs, only Cherry had been in a helicopter prior to the training. Cherry is a 5-year-old combat tracker with MWD Platoon who has stayed with his handler, Cpl. Gary Rowan, throughout his handler's military career because of the specialized training the two have gone through together.

The other dogs include Rroger, Zak, Eiko and Johny.

Rroger is a 3-year-old combat tracker, meaning he tracks people, said his handler, Cpl. Sky Bryson.

Zak is a 2-year-old drug detection dog; dogs with this designation stay with their kennel throughout their careers instead of staying with their handler. For the time being, Zak's handler is Cpl. Ryan Jones.

Eiko is a 2-year-old patrol and explosive detection dog handled by Cpl. Christopher Baez.

Johny will be 2 years old on Nov. 27. He is a patrol and explosive detection dog handled by Lance Cpl. Charles Sicklesteel.

The only dog who was a little nervous after a few flights was Rroger, said Bryson.

"But he definitely improved and is more comfortable with the helicopter," he said.

"I wish I would have had this training before deploying with Cherry (the first time)," said Rowan. "In combat, I had (my rifle and packs) and Cherry pulling me. It would have been less stress for the dog and less stress for me" if Cherry had been familiar with helicopters.

"Now, Cherry is a lot more confident," he added. "He knows what's going on."

MP Spt. Co. plans to train four more MWDs before their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan next year.

______________________________________________________________

Military Working Dogs prepare for deployment 

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.  — Amidst the booming sound of Marines firing multiple machine guns was a noise that is often not heard in a combat situation. It was the joyful bark of military working dogs.

Approximately 60 Marines and 22 Military Working Dogs from Military Police Support Company, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, conducted a live fire training exercise at a multi-purpose machine gun range aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Aug. 26-28, 2010. The Marines fired an array of weapons including the M1014 shotgun, Mossberg 500 shotgun, M240B medium machine gun and the M2 .50-caliber machine gun.

The exercise was designed to help the Marines of General Support Platoon, MP Support Co., sustain their proficiency in loading, firing and maintaining the different weapons they’ll be operating during their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. It also served to familiarize the K-9s of Military Working Dog Platoon, MP Support Co. to the sound of gunfire.

“It’s getting back to the basics,” said 1st Sgt. Jason Gillespie, first sergeant of MP Support Co. “Numerous after-action reports state: being proficient at the basics has saved lives downrange.”

The Military Working Dogs, used primarily for detecting the enemy and explosives, were also maintaining the basic skills that will help them survive in combat.

“For the Military Working Dog Platoon, it’s a simulation of a walking patrol in which Marines take fire from an enemy, and the handler coordinates getting the dog to take cover in a Humvee,” said Staff Sgt. Brian N. Burgess, training chief for military working dogs in MP Support Co. “It’s designed to acclimate both the dog and the handler to the fog of war. It also prepares the Marines of General Support Platoon to be able to operate alongside a four-legged animal during combat.”  

The dogs remained calm as the Marines of GS Platoon fired round after round from heavy machine guns.  

Cpl. Arturo Flores, a military working dog handler with MWD Plt., says the dogs’ reactions are not based on their environment, but on the bearing of their handlers.

“The dog can tell when you’re calm, scared or angry based on the tone of your voice and by your mannerisms,” said Flores. “It all travels down leash.”

The Marines of MP Support Company will conduct at least one field exercise a month until their deployment to Afghanistan, which is slated for this winter. 

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Devil Dogs work hard to maintain working dogs 



 
It can be tough work owning a dog. There’s the bathing, cleaning, feeding, barking and the constant need for attention.

But for military working dog handlers, it’s all in the job description.

Not only are the Marines challenged with training man’s best friend for saving lives, but they are tasked with being its primary care giver.

“Being a military working dog handler is a 24/7 job,” said Cpl. Joseph S. Singleton, dog handler and native of Mt. Pleasant, N.C. “Just because you are working normal hours doesn’t mean your job stops. We are always on call.”

“Our dog’s health is our responsibility. We have to make sure he is capable of accomplishing the mission,” added Singleton.

Every work day begins with kennel care. Kennel care consists of a doggy potty break, a cage spray down and dog chow.
      
“We are training these dogs to save lives,” said Lance Cpl. Shaun B. Dockrill, dog handler and native of Stow, Ohio. “I think 30 minutes in the morning and at night for kennel care is a small price to pay.”

After kennel care is complete, the Marines head to different training sites throughout the Station to conduct detection training or patrolling.

“We don’t want the training to become repetitive and have the dog get bored,” said Singleton. “So we switch up the training everyday between either detection or patrolling.”
      
Throughout the day’s training evolution, the Marines are constantly conducting health check points.

“When we conduct health check points, we check for new cuts and lumps,” said Cpl. Alfred C. Nieto, dog handler and native of San Antonio. “We also check the dog’s eyes, nose, pads, paw and teeth.”

Even though it’s part of the leathernecks’ job to take care of the dog, many form strong bonds with their animals.

“Where else in the Marine Corps can you go to work everyday and no matter what mood you are in, that dog is always happy to see you,” said Singleton. “It is a loyalty issue; if you build rapport with the dog he will do anything for you and be your best friend.”

But once the dog gets too old, which is usually around 8 to 12 years old, the dog has to be either euthanized or adopted out. If the dog has sociable behavior or can socially adapt to people, he will be adopted out.

For 12-year-old Alan, Singleton’s dog, he is on his last chapter in the Marine Corps.

“I have been Alan’s handler for two years, added Singleton. “Once you have been with an animal that long you share a bond with each other. Alan is more than just a pet to me, he is my guardian.”

“Alan has done his time; he has served more time in the Marine Corps than most Marines,” smiled Singleton. “In June, I plan on adopting him. I want him to live his last few years as a normal dog and enjoy his retirement.”

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Dogs take a lead in Iraq’s terror war

 
By Aamer Madhani - USA Today
Posted : Tuesday Mar 23, 2010 8:28:31 EDT

BAGHDAD — Iraqis aren’t what you would call dog people.

The streets of the capital are filled with mangy canines, and dog owners are few.

But in a country where bombs and explosives are an everyday threat, Iraqis may start learning to love man’s best friend.

The Iraqi police force hopes to introduce 1,000 bomb-sniffing dogs and their handlers on the streets of Iraq within five years. That’s not a lot of dogs for a country of 29 million people, but in Iraq it is.

“Iraqis are not fully comfortable with dogs yet,” says Brig. Gen. Mohammad Mesheb Hajea, who is in charge of the Interior Ministry’s fledgling K-9 unit. “But the people are coming to love them because they realize what they can do to keep us safe.”

Twenty-five dogs and their human handlers graduated on Saturday from Baghdad Police College’s newly created K-9 course. And 120 more bomb-sniffing German shepherds, Malinois and Labradors are scheduled to be incorporated into Iraq’s police force by the end of this year.

As in many Muslim countries, Iraqis generally see dogs as unclean animals. Some of the religiously devout point to the teachings of the prophet Mohammed that prohibited believers from keeping the animals in their homes.

But Hajea says Iraqis now recognize that dogs’ keen sense of smell makes them invaluable weapons in thwarting terrorists whose calling cards are roadside bombs and explosively rigged vehicles.

“There is no better investment to countering the threats of bombs and explosives,” said Col. Randy Twitchell, chief U.S. military adviser to the Baghdad Police College. “The Iraqi security forces are recognizing how useful a role that dogs can play in securing the country.”

Beefed up units

The recent embrace by Iraqi security officials has been welcomed by the U.S. military, which is paying $12,000 for each dog.

For years, U.S. military commanders have been urging the Iraqi forces to incorporate more dogs into their security program. The Iraqi security forces first formed a K-9 unit in the 1970s, but it was scarcely used.

“We were there, but we only had a few dogs and we did little more than train,” said Hajea, who joined the police in 1986 after being trained as a veterinarian.

The American advice to bulk up the K-9 units was initially met with resistance. Instead of using dogs, Iraq’s Interior Ministry instead invested tens of millions of dollars in the ADE-651, a British-manufactured bomb detection device that is ubiquitous at checkpoints throughout the country.

Earlier this year the British government banned the sale of the device, which looks like a staple gun with a TV antenna attached to it, after a BBC investigation found they did not work.

Iraqis say the ADE-651s are useful and have helped police catch assailants. But Maj. Gen. Richard Rowe, the U.S. commander who oversees police training in Iraq, says the gadgets do not work. He has urged Iraqis to invest more money in dogs and other proven bomb-detection devices.

Despite the difference of opinions on the ADE-651, both Twitchell and Hajea say they are pleased that dogs are starting to become embraced by top Interior Ministry officials as U.S. troops begin their drawdown, scheduled for completion by the end of next year.

Plenty of volunteers

The vast majority of bomb-sniffing dogs being used at Iraq’s airports are owned by foreign contractors. Over time, those contractors will be phased out and replaced by Iraqi government-owned dogs and their police handlers, Hajea said.

Twitchell said that there was some concern before starting the program that there wouldn’t be enough police officers interested in training as dog handlers.

“In the end, we had some 60 volunteers for 25 spots,” Twitchell said.

At one of the final exams for the dogs last week, police officers guided their dogs through a row of luggage that had been set out on the hot asphalt of a parking lot at the police college. One bag, a dusty green duffle, was stuffed with explosives.

One of the last to go through the test was a cream-colored Labrador named Buddy and his nervous handler, Yusuf Hasib Qudair.

Buddy slowly sniffed each bag until he came to the suspect sack, which he sat on — the dogs’ way of indicating to handlers that they’ve found the suspect material.

Qudair broke into a grin and bounced a tennis ball for Buddy to chase, the reward for a job well done. Qudair said he’s never owned a dog and he wouldn’t consider keeping one in his home. But over the course of his training, he has bonded with Buddy.

“Buddy and I have been with each other every day for the last six weeks and we’ve gotten to know each other well,” said Qudair, 30. “Most important, I think together we can do our part to help the security situation.”


 

 

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Helping man’s best friend

Helping man’s best friend
{Submitted photo}
Stationed in Iraq, Reggie, the accompanying dog of Airman Aaron Lee, has received several treats and necessities thanks to a local youth group’s involvement with Operation Military Care K-9.
 

Woodbridge, Va.—With a fox hound, coon hound and a German short-haired pointer in the house, you could say Alex Hundley is an animal lover.

Hundley also has military roots, with his grandfather retiring as a colonel from the U.S. Marine Corps.

So when his mother told him about Operation Military Care K-9, which provides both essential items and toys for soldiers and their canine partners, it seemed like a good fit for the 17-year-old Fauquier County resident and Liberty High School student.

After his family adopted dogs in Afghanistan and Korea, Hundley brought the idea up to his youth group at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Woodbridge.

They agreed and decided to adopt Reggie, a German shepherd accompanying Airman Aaron Lee in Iraq. On Friday, the youth group hosted a lock-in at the church where they baked dog biscuits for Reggie.

The youth group has already sent the Reggie a box filled with dog biscuits, tennis balls and dog rope chew toys. Before sending out a second box, they will be purchasing more expensive items such as doggles (goggles for dogs) and cooling packs, said Hundley.

Hundley said if they do not find any of the items in a local store, they will purchase them online.

Before he did his research on the project, Hundley believed that these dogs would be well equipped for their jobs, which often times involves sniffing out bombs or other explosive devices.

"These dogs seem to be second in line for receiving the necessary tools to get the job done—which is why they need our help to get these items to them," Hundley stated in an e-mail this week.

The youth group will also be asking for donations and collecting items to fill a box in the church entrance. Items such as non-perishable foods, toiletries, games and books and dog supplies are needed.

Good Shepherd is located at 15695 Blackburn Road.

Staff writer Kipp Hanley can be reached at 703-878-8062.

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Military working dogs; unsung heroes saving lives since 1942

November 10, 2009 ,1:40 PMJackson Pet Health ExaminerClare Sanders

 

Tomorrow marks Veteran's day. A day we pause to remember the fallen and thank those who offer the ultimate sacrifice to protect our homes, families and way of life. We say today what should be said every day...thank you. "May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door." -an Irish toast

World War I saw the formation of the Army K-9 Corp in 1942. Originally all breeds were accepted but as time progressed, German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers became favored. Most references refer to their usage as trench rat removers during the great war of attrition.

World war II saw numbers of greater than 10,000 canine troops with approximately 436 being used as scouts, the remainder as messengers and mine detectors. Canine troops you may ask? That's right, since its' formation every canine has been issued a military service record.

The Korean war saw greater than 1500 canines used primarily as guard patrol.

The real surge in canine use began with the Vietnam war. Numbers vary between 3747 and 4900 canines used in service with only 204 canines exiting the campaign. Those lucky few either remained in the Pacific under South Vietnamese control or returned to military service stateside. Handler estimates reached 10,000 and canines served with distinction in all branches (65% Army, 26% Air Force, 7% Marine and 2% Navy-www.uswardogs.org). Two hundred and eighty one are officially listed as killed in action. Canines served as infantry scouts, led combat tracker teams, performed sentry duty (their motto-"detect, detain, destroy"-www.uswardogs,org), and served as mine/booby/tunnel sweepers.

Today's military working dog serves a variety of functions. Several hundred (the numbers increase daily) serve patrol and detection (explosive and drug). Estimates of nearly 2,000 canines serve similar functions at military bases worldwide. The Belgian Malinois is now breed exclusively through the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Program as the preferred breed by the 341st training squadron at Lackland Air Force base in Texas. This specialized squadron is responsible for all aspects of military dog breeding, health care and training of both canine and handler, including kennel-masters and specialized team members. An approximately 13 million dollar veterinary facility provides daily care as specialized staff in combination with foster families, begin training up to 40 hours a week once pups reach six months of age. The initial focus being play drive then the addition of scent and trained aggression skills. The entrance exam for formal training comes at one year of age. The squadron provides over 100 dogs a year for military service (Department of Defense Military Working Dog Program; North American Police Work Dog Association, www.napwda.com).

And what of the injured soldier and their return to civilian life? Dogs are waiting to provide service and support. Canine provide guide, service, combat stress relief and military therapy roles. Vets Helping Heroes was created to match canines with special needs soldiers and provides a service dog for life for our veterans.

How can you help on veterans day? How can you express your thanks? With a waiting list and a greater than $50,000 investment over the lifetime of a veteran (the average lifespan of most canines being 7-10 years and replacements are free) the Vets Helping Heroes organization (http://vetshelpingheroes.org) could use some support. 

Money tight for the upcoming holidays? Canines in service in Iraq and Afghanistan could be helped with a small donation of pet care products; visit  http://http://www.uswardogs.org/id40.html  for a list of needs. Help create a care package for canines whose unfailing service returns safely to us so many beloved military men and women. Provide an example of the true spirit of Christmas, send care packages in honor of  family members, the military or beloved pets, or consider providing for a military canine as a family this season.

The canine soldier: if the borrowing of mottoes is excused, always faithful, always vigilante, always ready to serve, protect and defend their fellow soldier.

Spread the word and help our troops, forward this to dog lovers.

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CV Marine, K-9 Companion Help Keep Troops Out of Harm’s Way

 
Top Story Image
Cpl. Jon Stevens and Chyna share a moment away from duty.
 

By : Jeff Torres : 1/30/07

For Jon Stevens, the phrase “man’s best friend” takes on a whole new meaning.

Stevens, a 2002 graduate of Castro Valley High School, serves with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force K-9 Section in Iraq, where he saw plenty of action during a seven-month period last year.

With his dog, Chyna, Stevens helped save many of the men in his battalion and uncovered an enormous cache of weapons that undoubtedly saved many more lives.


“We were a team,” Stevens said of Chyna, a seven-year-old Belgian shepherd, one of the dogs he handled.

Stevens has earned himself one of the most dangerous jobs in Iraq. During his first tour of duty, he learned that dog-handlers are second only to officers and military radio operators as key targets for snipers.

Stevens and his dogs had the difficult task of finding improvised explosive devices—the so-called IEDs—that have caused the death and wounding of so many troops in Iraq.

When combat soldiers seek out insurgents they often find themselves walking down streets and going door-to-door to find the bad guys. Often, traps are set to trigger explosive devices while patrols are walking by.

“The idea is to have the dog discover an IED before the infantry does,” said Stevens.

The dogs, in great demand,are trained to detect 17 types of explosives and to attack and bite to protect their handlers.

The military uses three types of dogs, but the Belgian shepherd is considered the best breed for use in the Iraqi climate.

The need is so great that the handlers and their dogs are usually shipped out after only six months of training and find themselves deployed right after school.

Stevens and his dog Chyna were together for nine months. They were attached to the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines Kilo company out of Hawaii and were stationed in Haditha, Iraq.

Together they detected five live explosives—buried artillery rounds, mortars and commercial explosives. They also uncovered four weapons caches, one of them half the size of a football field.

“The explosives and weapons had U.S., Yemen, Chinese and Russian markings—anything they can get their hands on,” said Stevens, who said he felt rewarded anytime he found explosives or ordnance.

He described times when he and a patrol would be walking down the street and feel eyes on them, waiting for them to come back.

“We knew something was up when we’d be walking back to base and the people would clear the streets,” said Stevens.

That’s when he and his dog would go to work. The dog would be set loose to sniff out the explosives. The bomb squad would then be called in to diffuse the IED.

“Kids would watch and wait for the patrols to return and blow up the IEDs,” said Stevens. Sometimes insurgents would start a fire-fight with the patrols as an ambush. Stevens tells of his scariest moment last year was when he was in Haditha and involved in a fire-fight that lasted for more than 30 minutes. He was pinned down and took fire from all sides and had nowhere to go. “Luckily no-one was hurt,” said Stevens.

Stevens got into the military after two years of college. He originally wanted to be a police officer and went into the military to become an MP (military police officer). His assignment to the K-9 program was unexpected.

“I kinda fell into it,” said Stevens. “It’s not the job I want-ed but now I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Stevens says his parent were “a little freaked out” when he told them he had gone into the K-9 program.

His family has been supportive and proud of both his decisions and his service. He is also grateful for their support.

“Thanks to my Mom, Dad and sister Cheryl, Jeff, and Jenna Stevens for supporting me through this last deployment and the next ones to come,” said Stevens.

On Feb. 1, Stevens will be deployed overseas once again. He will be assigned to an unnamed country where he will stay for eight months training dogs, then it will be back to Iraq.

After his active duty, he hopes to return to Iraq as a civilian contractor doing the same type of job. He says most of the people he met in Iraq were friendly. He often lived and fought with Iraqis who were assigned to his base.

“The military is a good experience,” said Stevens, who believes there couldn’t be a more important job than handling a dog that can save lives.

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A special bond between soldiers in IraqBomb detected

Some dog handlers have asked to be buried with their four-legged partners -- who may outrank them -- if they are killed together.

By Tina Susman
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

February 25, 2008

Minari Village, Iraq

Staff Sgt. Iron quakes with fear at the sound of explosions. He brawls with other soldiers. He whines when he doesn't get his way and slows others down when he stops to relieve himself during patrols through hostile territory.

But nobody complains, because when it's time to enter a building that might be rigged to explode, or cross a pasture that could conceal a minefield, Iron is at the front of the line, making sure it's safe for those who follow.

If it's not, Iron will bear the brunt of the blast, along with his best friend, Sgt. Joshua T. Rose, who ranks one level below him. It's an honor Iron enjoys for the dangerous job he does. It also ensures that charges could be filed against Rose in the unlikely event he ever mistreated Iron -- an 80-pound German shepherd.

Rose and Iron are one of about 200 canine teams deployed in Iraq, where the bond between soldiers and their dogs is so deep that some handlers have asked to be buried with their canine partners if they are killed together.

On frigid winter nights in the Iraqi desert, Rose shares his cot and sometimes his sleeping bag with Iron to keep him warm. In the scorching summer heat, he makes sure Iron has enough water before taking his own share. If the heat is too much for Iron, who has a thick coat of glossy black fur, Rose lets him rest, no matter what the platoon leader might want.

Whenever he goes on a mission, Rose tucks a copy of an ode to police and military dogs into his front pocket. It reads in part: "Trust in me, my friend, for I am your comrade. I will protect you with my last breath. When all others have left you and the loneliness of the night closes in, I will be at your side."

"These dogs are like our children. I'm closer to my dog than I am to anyone other than my wife," said Staff Sgt. Charles W. Graves, the kennel master at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, about 20 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Graves works with Udo, a yellow Labrador retriever who holds the rank of sergeant 1st class, one higher than Graves. He is the fifth dog Graves has been teamed with.

Graves adopted his first dog after it retired from active duty. The dog died at age 16, from a heart attack while chasing a cat.

His fourth dog was aggressive and liked to bite, nothing like Udo, who is a specialized search dog. That means he isn't aggressive and can run off his leash, wearing a vest that holds a radio through which Graves issues commands.

"If something ever happened to him, I'd never work canine again," Graves said as Udo did a practice run across a field dotted with remnants of once-lethal explosives and other weapons.

Handlers are expected to keep their dogs "on odor" by putting them through such training every month, to ensure they don't lose the ability to detect TNT, C4, AK-47s, wires, metal and the other threats that insurgents have planted across Iraq.

"If they took him out, I'd kinda wish they'd take me out too," Graves, a former police officer from Oroville, Calif., said as Udo loped nearby. With each successful find, Udo was rewarded with a toss of his favorite toy, a rubber cone.

"It's a helluva thing, owing your life to a dog," Graves said.

Before each deployment, troops are asked to update their wills. Graves included a request to be buried with Udo should they die together. It has happened before. Last July, Cpl. Kory D. Wiens, 20, and his Labrador retriever, Cooper, became the first soldier-dog team killed since Vietnam. They were buried side by side in Wiens' hometown of Dallas, Ore.

If you spend time with the soldier-dog teams, it becomes clear that the key to being a successful canine handler is to love dogs and to adapt to their childlike needs.

"If you deal well with kids, you'll deal well with dogs," said Rose, who has a husky and a dachshund back home in Kansas. "You're working with about a 3-year-old mentality."

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Blake T. Soller knows that all too well. Last April, his 4-year-old dog, Pluto, couldn't resist leaping over the side of a cargo ship into New York Harbor, 60 feet below. Soller jumped in after Pluto and stayed with the 87-pound Belgian Malinois until a Navy boat picked them up. Neither was injured.

The U.S. military has used dogs in combat zones since World War II and deployed about 4,300 to Vietnam between 1965 and 1973.

According to the military, 281 died in the line of duty there, but hundreds more died after the war ended and U.S. troops departed. Back then, there were no provisions for military dogs to be adopted when their careers were over. Most were euthanized or left behind to uncertain fates.

That changed in 2000, with a law allowing retired military dogs to be put up for adoption at the Military Working Dog center at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. They range from small breeds such as beagles to hulking hounds.

Since the start of the Iraq war, about 1,000 dogs have passed through the combat zone, and three, including Cooper, have been killed in action.

Handlers say dogs are crucial for sniffing out the roadside bombs that are responsible for most soldier casualties, and for smelling wires that indicate booby-trapped buildings. They also search for drugs and illegal weapons at border crossings and checkpoints, chase down suspected insurgents and hunt for human remains.

And for the first time, the military has sent dogs into a war zone to serve as therapy for troops. Last month, two black Labradors arrived in Iraq to work with stressed-out soldiers.

A canine doesn't have to be a therapy dog to be therapeutic, though.

On a chilly winter's day, as troops prepared for a mission in southern Arab Jabour, southeast of Baghdad, attention was focused on Pluto and Iron, not on the dangers ahead. Rose scratched Iron's ears. Pluto stood on his hind legs and leaned into Soller's chest, like a dance partner. Other soldiers stood around in full battle gear, talking about their own dogs back home.

Until several weeks ago, the region was in the hands of Sunni Muslim extremists loyal to Al Qaeda in Iraq. A U.S. bombing campaign drove many of them out, but they left behind roads and buildings laden with explosives, and orchards littered with buried ordnance and weapons.

"I've had people say, 'It's a good thing you're in the Navy, because that means you're not on the front lines,' " said Soller as he and Pluto led the way down an eerily quiet dirt road lined with houses tucked back among high grass and fruit trees. "It doesn't get any more front line than this. My job is to clear the way so the rest of the guys can get there."

Soller, who used to train hunting dogs in Indiana, was tapped to attend canine handling school as a reward for exemplary service in the Navy. Rose, whose father was a police canine handler back home in Virginia, asked to attend the school after earning high marks from a platoon sergeant.

The biggest mistake handlers make is being impatient, Rose said as Iron veered to the side of the road and lifted his leg. The rest of the patrol slowed to avoid getting ahead of the canine team.

Visits to two homes, including a lavish villa overlooking the reedy banks of the Tigris River, showed how having dogs in the mix can alter an otherwise tense situation.

A grinning adolescent boy used hand signals and broken English to jokingly offer a trade: lean, amber-eyed Pluto for one of his sheep, which stood in a silent, fluffy flock staring at the dogs. In the garden, two women presented the troops with pizza-sized slabs of hot, freshly baked flatbread. Then the boy explained through an interpreter that there were weapons stashed in the wooded area across the road.

Soon, Rose and Iron and Soller and Pluto were pushing through a dense thicket. Within minutes, Rose spotted a subtle change in Iron's behavior as he nosed around some palm fronds. The 7-year-old dog calmly sat down, a sign he had found something. A metal detector and shovel proved him right. A pipe bomb wrapped in a green sack was buried in the dirt.

By the end of the mission, Iron had made a second find.

After each discovery, Rose rewarded Iron with tosses of a red rubber cone -- as with Udo, Iron's favorite treat.

The dogs are bought from breeders in Europe and the United States and then trained at the military's dog school at Lackland Air Force Base.

Iron washed out of two training courses, and his future in the military looked bleak until Rose met him in December 2005.

Rose determined that the problem was not Iron's nose. It was the fake rawhide bone being used as his reward. It wasn't appetizing enough to make the dog work hard. When Rose tried the rubber cone, Iron began picking up scents.

Each dog is different. Pluto's favorite toy is attached to a rope, because he likes playing tug of war with Soller. The petty officer remembers one dog who was satisfied only with a toy steak that squeaked when bitten.

Should dogs be wounded or fall ill, they are given immediate care. Handlers are trained to provide basic treatment until the dog can be taken to a military veterinarian.

When Iron broke a canine, a critical tooth for a dog who sometimes must chase down suspects and hold them, he was given a root canal to save the tooth the same day.

Severe cases are flown to Germany. This happened with Rose's last dog, Rex. In 2005, Rose and Rex were providing security at the Baghdad trial of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. One day, Rex wouldn't eat. Rose knew that when his 105-pound German shepherd didn't eat, something was wrong.

He had him checked by a military veterinarian in Baghdad. The diagnosis was cancer. Rex was dying. He was flown to Germany and euthanized.

But Rex's memory lives on at Ft. Riley, Kan., home to the Army's 1st Infantry Division and Rose's home base. At the base, dogs have a place to play. It's called Rex's Bark Park.

tina.susman@latimes.com
 

 

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Man's Best Friend' saves lives in Diyala

By Spc. Ryan Stroud
Man's Best Friend' saves lives in Diyala

By Spc. Ryan Stroud

Staff Sgt. Zeb Miller, 7th Security Forces, U.S. Air Force, attached to 6-9 Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pets his military working dog, Nero. Nero specializes in locating explosives and helping Soldiers before they enter a building by "sniffing it out" before the Soldiers breach the door on missions. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ryan Stroud, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs)

A group of Soldiers need to clear a tall, dark building, possibly housing terrorists in the city of Muqdadiya, just north of Baqouba, Iraq. The Soldiers have received reports of booby-traps in the area and are unsure if the building itself is a trap. What are they to do?

This is where the Soldier's four-legged friend, Nero, comes in.

Nero is a military working dog serving with Staff Sgt. Zeb Miller, his handler, at Forward Operating Base Normandy, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08. Nero's job - search the building, its doorway and the surrounding area, making sure no explosives are around to harm the Soldiers trying to clear the building.

With Nero's efforts, and the efforts of many other military working dogs serving in Iraq, Soldiers' lives are being saved everyday.

"Our job out here in Iraq is mainly searching for explosives," said Miller, a member of the 7th Security Forces, U.S. Air Force, attached to 6-9 Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

"Our job is to make a Soldier's job go faster," Miller, a native of Johnson City, Texas, said.

"A dog can search for explosives ten times faster than we can because he can smell it," he said. "Plus, if the dog smells the explosives, it could save a Soldier's life."

Miller started working with Nero in March after he volunteered to serve in Iraq. Once arriving, the two became close, inseparable friends.

Staff Sgt. Zeb Miller, 7th Security Forces, U.S. Air Force, attached to 6-9 Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pets his military working dog, Nero. Nero specializes in locating explosives and helping Soldiers before they enter a building by "sniffing it out" before the Soldiers breach the door on missions. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ryan Stroud, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs)



"I've had Nero since March when I volunteered to come to Iraq," said Miller. "This was a nice change being out here at FOB Normandy with the Army because the Air Force is more force protection. Out here with the Army, I get to go out on missions and take part in the war."

But before the duo can take part in missions, Nero has to exercise and train to stay on top of his game.

"On a normal day, we try to train the dogs to keep them [prepared for missions]," Miller said. "I will take explosives out and train the dog in searching and finding. We also have a dog obstacle course that we take the dogs out to keep them [healthy] and active.

"At night, I'll take Nero out and we'll walk around fenced areas so he can sniff around; simple things to keep the dogs ready," he continued.

These training techniques keep Nero fresh and ready to go when he's need for a mission into the heart of danger, something Miller and Nero are used too.

"Our big thing is palm grove searches and weapons cache searches," Miller said. "That's really big for us; those are the main things we look for on missions - buried weapons.

"Nero will also search doorways and buildings before Soldiers will breach it," Miller continued. "[Insurgents] try to booby-trap doors and Nero can search the door to find any explosives waiting."

Staff Sgt. Zeb Miller, 7th Security Forces, U.S. Air Force, attached to 6-9 Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pets his military working dog, Nero. Nero trains for missions by completing a dog obstacle course and by training to find explosives. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ryan Stroud, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs)

But Nero can also be used for other tasks to help out the units in 6-9 ARS.

"Nero is also trained to find people," said Miller. "One mission, we went searching for IEDs and also searching through houses. Nero just took off running behind one of the houses and into the palm groves.

"What we guess happened is he smelled someone who had just left the house but [was gone]," Miller continued. "We found fresh tracks in the ground, so someone might have been there waiting until they heard Nero coming."

With Nero on a mission, Soldiers can trust him to smell and sense things they couldn't imagine. Nero becomes a living weapon, just like the Soldiers, ready to quickly "get his prize."

"They say one dog is worth about ten Soldiers, not in their capabilities, but in their senses," said Miller about the importance of military digs during a mission.

"These dogs, while searching for explosives and other weapons, can turn a [several] hour job into one hour worth of work," he said.

But what also makes Nero an interesting military dog, is unlike some, Nero is extremely friendly, something Miller is happy with.

"The first thing [trainers] tell you is this is not a dog, it's a piece of equipment," Miller explained. "But it comes down to each handler in how they treat their dog.

"The way I see it, if I love the dog, he will love me; and in return, he will work for me and possibly save me when I need it," he said.

"You're not supposed to let others pet the dog either because it's a bond challenger," continued Miller. "But, I'd rather let the Soldiers pet and play with him so they are comfortable around Nero when we go out on missions.

"I also think this helps Nero in case something was to happen to me out here; another Soldier could take him and he would be okay without me around to guide him," he said.

But Miller has no worries at all about Nero. Miller says Nero knows who his owner is and will listen when called upon.

"I know Nero will listen to me even with others around," said Miller. "Once you spend every day together, he knows who I am; he will listen to me if I tell him to do something."

Though Nero is a calm, mannered dog, Miller said he has commands for Nero which will instantly switch Nero from the polite dog he is into an attack-mode destroyer.

"They're two words I could use to have him immediately start barking at you and if you show any fear, you would get bit," he said. "These dogs are amazing; they are incredibly smart."

When the deployment is over and it's time to go home, there is a chance Nero will have to retire, though Nero himself will probably have a few years of service left before it's his time. In these cases of retirement, the hard-working military dogs will go through a series of tests to make sure they are ready for life outside the combat zone.

"The dogs have to go through a physiological evaluation," said Miller. "They test the dog with situations like neighbors fighting. They test the dog to see what he will do and to make sure he will be safe around others.

"It's hard to let go of your dogs," Miller somberly explained. "The first dog is always the hardest. But after the dog retires, there's a possibly that you can keep your dog."

Until its Nero's time to retire, he will continue to provide his services to those serving overseas with him; saving lives on each mission he partakes in.

judythpiazza@newsblaze.com
Copyright © 2007, NewsBlaze, Daily News
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Staff Sgt. Zeb Miller, 7th Security Forces, U.S. Air Force, attached to 6-9 Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pets his military working dog, Nero. Nero specializes in locating explosives and helping Soldiers before they enter a building by "sniffing it out" before the Soldiers breach the door on missions. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ryan Stroud, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs)


A group of Soldiers need to clear a tall, dark building, possibly housing terrorists in the city of Muqdadiya, just north of Baqouba, Iraq. The Soldiers have received reports of booby-traps in the area and are unsure if the building itself is a trap. What are they to do?

This is where the Soldier's four-legged friend, Nero, comes in.

Nero is a military working dog serving with Staff Sgt. Zeb Miller, his handler, at Forward Operating Base Normandy, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08. Nero's job - search the building, its doorway and the surrounding area, making sure no explosives are around to harm the Soldiers trying to clear the building.

With Nero's efforts, and the efforts of many other military working dogs serving in Iraq, Soldiers' lives are being saved everyday.

"Our job out here in Iraq is mainly searching for explosives," said Miller, a member of the 7th Security Forces, U.S. Air Force, attached to 6-9 Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

"Our job is to make a Soldier's job go faster," Miller, a native of Johnson City, Texas, said.

"A dog can search for explosives ten times faster than we can because he can smell it," he said. "Plus, if the dog smells the explosives, it could save a Soldier's life."

Miller started working with Nero in March after he volunteered to serve in Iraq. Once arriving, the two became close, inseparable friends.

Staff Sgt. Zeb Miller, 7th Security Forces, U.S. Air Force, attached to 6-9 Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pets his military working dog, Nero. Nero specializes in locating explosives and helping Soldiers before they enter a building by "sniffing it out" before the Soldiers breach the door on missions. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ryan Stroud, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs)


"I've had Nero since March when I volunteered to come to Iraq," said Miller. "This was a nice change being out here at FOB Normandy with the Army because the Air Force is more force protection. Out here with the Army, I get to go out on missions and take part in the war."

But before the duo can take part in missions, Nero has to exercise and train to stay on top of his game.

"On a normal day, we try to train the dogs to keep them [prepared for missions]," Miller said. "I will take explosives out and train the dog in searching and finding. We also have a dog obstacle course that we take the dogs out to keep them [healthy] and active.

"At night, I'll take Nero out and we'll walk around fenced areas so he can sniff around; simple things to keep the dogs ready," he continued.

These training techniques keep Nero fresh and ready to go when he's need for a mission into the heart of danger, something Miller and Nero are used too.

"Our big thing is palm grove searches and weapons cache searches," Miller said. "That's really big for us; those are the main things we look for on missions - buried weapons.

"Nero will also search doorways and buildings before Soldiers will breach it," Miller continued. "[Insurgents] try to booby-trap doors and Nero can search the door to find any explosives waiting."

Staff Sgt. Zeb Miller, 7th Security Forces, U.S. Air Force, attached to 6-9 Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pets his military working dog, Nero. Nero trains for missions by completing a dog obstacle course and by training to find explosives. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ryan Stroud, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs)



But Nero can also be used for other tasks to help out the units in 6-9 ARS.

"Nero is also trained to find people," said Miller. "One mission, we went searching for IEDs and also searching through houses. Nero just took off running behind one of the houses and into the palm groves.

"What we guess happened is he smelled someone who had just left the house but [was gone]," Miller continued. "We found fresh tracks in the ground, so someone might have been there waiting until they heard Nero coming."

With Nero on a mission, Soldiers can trust him to smell and sense things they couldn't imagine. Nero becomes a living weapon, just like the Soldiers, ready to quickly "get his prize."

"They say one dog is worth about ten Soldiers, not in their capabilities, but in their senses," said Miller about the importance of military digs during a mission.

"These dogs, while searching for explosives and other weapons, can turn a [several] hour job into one hour worth of work," he said.

But what also makes Nero an interesting military dog, is unlike some, Nero is extremely friendly, something Miller is happy with.

"The first thing [trainers] tell you is this is not a dog, it's a piece of equipment," Miller explained. "But it comes down to each handler in how they treat their dog.

"The way I see it, if I love the dog, he will love me; and in return, he will work for me and possibly save me when I need it," he said.

"You're not supposed to let others pet the dog either because it's a bond challenger," continued Miller. "But, I'd rather let the Soldiers pet and play with him so they are comfortable around Nero when we go out on missions.

"I also think this helps Nero in case something was to happen to me out here; another Soldier could take him and he would be okay without me around to guide him," he said.

But Miller has no worries at all about Nero. Miller says Nero knows who his owner is and will listen when called upon.

"I know Nero will listen to me even with others around," said Miller. "Once you spend every day together, he knows who I am; he will listen to me if I tell him to do something."

Though Nero is a calm, mannered dog, Miller said he has commands for Nero which will instantly switch Nero from the polite dog he is into an attack-mode destroyer.

"They're two words I could use to have him immediately start barking at you and if you show any fear, you would get bit," he said. "These dogs are amazing; they are incredibly smart."

When the deployment is over and it's time to go home, there is a chance Nero will have to retire, though Nero himself will probably have a few years of service left before it's his time. In these cases of retirement, the hard-working military dogs will go through a series of tests to make sure they are ready for life outside the combat zone.

"The dogs have to go through a physiological evaluation," said Miller. "They test the dog with situations like neighbors fighting. They test the dog to see what he will do and to make sure he will be safe around others.

"It's hard to let go of your dogs," Miller somberly explained. "The first dog is always the hardest. But after the dog retires, there's a possibly that you can keep your dog."

Until its Nero's time to retire, he will continue to provide his services to those serving overseas with him; saving lives on each mission he partakes in.

judythpiazza@newsblaze.com
Copyright © 2007, NewsBlaze, Daily News
Tags: World, ,

 

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Military working dog dies defending freedom

 

by Holly Birchfield
78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

10/19/2007 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- When Staff Sgt. Marcus Reaves, a military working dog handler in the 78th Security Forces Squadron's Military Working Dog Section here, deployed with his canine partner, Arras, he never imagined he'd come home without the dog.

Arras, a 5-year-old Dutch Sheppard explosives detector and patrol dog temporarily assigned to the 447th Expeditionary SFS and Joint Operations, Sather Air Base, Iraq, was killed Sept. 25 when he touched a location that was electrified by power cables during a search for weapons and explosives in a building.

A memorial service was held in honor of Arras in the deployed location Oct. 19, and officials at Robins AFB plan to host a memorial service for Arras later this year.

Sergeant Reaves, who had worked with Arras for six months out of 18 months the dog served with his unit, said the fateful day started like most days, with a fun-loving game of tug-of-war with his K-9 partner.

"Before I did anything with him, I petted him on top of his head and asked him if he was ready to go to work, and he gave me this look like, 'Let's do it," Sergeant Reaves said. "So, I sent him off to work and we were going through clearing buildings. One building we got to was fairly dark so I didn't want to send him in to the point where I couldn't see him."

As the military working dog handler bent down to pick up his flashlight, his faithful partner entered what would be his last mission. Sergeant Reaves was knocked unconscious by the explosion and thrown nearly 30 feet from the site. But, his partner was in a much worse condition.

"I didn't know what was going on," Sergeant Reaves said. "When I came to, as a handler, my first instinct was, 'Where's my dog?" I looked all around. I knew the medics were talking to me, but I was just like, 'I don't care what y'all are talking about right now. I just need to find my dog."

Arras died in the explosion. Sergeant Reaves sustained minor injuries and has since recovered.

When faced with the realization that Arras was gone, Sergeant Reaves said it was more than he could handle.

"It was like my world had stopped then and there," he said.

Sergeant Reaves said Arras was more than a means for finding danger. He was a comfort in the midst of danger.

"The military likes to consider these dogs (as) equipment, and we as handlers try to stay in that mentality," he said. "Yeah, they're equipment and anything could happen at any time. But, when we deploy, those dogs stay with us. We feed them, water them and bring them out to play. When we don't have anyone to talk to, the dog is always right there."

The feeling of loss was also shared by many other 78th SFS members. Staff Sgt. Edward Canell, the 78th SFS trainer who trained with Arras, said losing Arras was like losing a human member of the squadron.

"It's just like losing an Airman for us," he said. "You've got to remember, these dogs don't ask for anything in return. Just a little bit of love and companionship and they'll work for you. They never ask you why or ask you questions. They're always there for you. So, it was hard when we heard we lost him."

Sergeant Canell said Arras was a unique part of his military family.

"There's certain stuff that we can't do physically, where a dog's nose can smell something that we can't even come close to," he said. "So, they're very valuable and there are only a certain number of them. To lose one is a really big loss for us."

Tech. Sgt. David Barber, kennel master in the 78th SFS' Military Working Dog Section, said Arras was just as much a source of protection stateside as he was in the deployed location.

From conducting bomb sweeps at local schools and businesses to supporting the president, vice president, and former president Jimmy Carter, Arras left paw prints on many areas, in the military and civilian community alike, Sergeant Barber said.

Sergeant Canell said he hopes others will see the importance of dogs like Arras.

"I hope that when people read this that they understand these aren't just dogs or animals," he said. "They're members of our military force. They go out and put their lives on the line every day, not just in deployed locations, but also stateside. Everyone that works on base can have a safe feeling because these dogs are at the gate utilizing their noses and sniffing everything that comes through the gate like in a deployed location."

Sergeant Reaves said he'll always remember his four-legged partner as courageous and dedicated.

"Arras was our best dog," he said. "He loved his job. Whoever handled that leash, he loved them. He loved to work and when he was done, he wanted love for it. After he was done working, he was one of those dogs that would come back to you, lick you, wanted you to pet him, and wouldn't leave you alone until you did. I wake up in the morning and of course I thank God for my still being around without being seriously injured. But, he's always in my thoughts."

 

_________________________________________________________________

Military working dogMilitary working dogs train with local law enforcement
 
 
by Amanda Creel
78th ABW/PA


1/5/2007 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- For many who visited the Robins lemon lot Dec. 20, their curiosity was aroused as members of both the 78th Security Forces Squadron and the Warner Robins Police Department joined forces to test the noses of their K-9 officers.

The training on the resale lot consisted of hiding different types of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines on the exteriors of the vehicles and then allowing the dogs to take turns attempting to sniff out the scent and locate the narcotics.
The joint training exercise is a great way to see the difference between training for K-9s in the civilian and military sectors, said Tech. Sgt. D.J. Ellison, kennel master for the 78th SFS.

"It is also a great way to develop a relationship with the community," Sergeant Ellison said. "If anything happens on base or is carried off base, we have a relationship and someone there to back you up."

Senior Airman Marcus Reaves, a handler with the 78th SFS and his K-9, Torca, were the first to try out the training course. Torca would circle the vehicles checking around the tires and underneath the gas tank covers. Torca was able to locate all four of the drugs hidden in the 10-car area, including a cigarette case filled with heroine on the windshield of a vehicle. As Torca located the heroine, he was rewarded with a Kong ball, which is a large plastic chew toy attached to a stick.

For the K-9s, the training may resemble a game, but the skills are invaluable when the dogs are called into action. Handlers from both law enforcement agencies said having the chance to train side-by-side with one another allows them and the K-9s to be better prepared in the line of duty.

"It can provide us with a wider array of opportunities to train in an environment such as a lot where we can limit access," said Wayne Fisher, officer with the Warner Robins PD.

The base officers benefit from the ability to test their narcotic dogs' noses against drugs actually confiscated on the streets surrounding the base by the Warner Robins PD. "We are using their stuff today so our dogs can get accustomed to what comes off the street," Sergeant Ellison said.

After spending their morning working on narcotic detection, the handlers and the dogs switched gears and spent their afternoon working at the 78th SFS Kennel, where the K-9s tested their skills on the confidence course and practiced their attack or bite skills.

"The confidence course builds the dogs ability to jump over obstacles, such as jumping through windows, and to be able to travel narrow crossings," said Staff Sgt. Chris McCleskey, handler with 78th SFS. "It helps them build confidence so if they come across it, they'll be ready."

The bite training teaches the dog to attack on command. If their handler instructs them, they will bite and hold a subject until called upon by their handler to release the subject.

"If you don't fight them, they are just going to hold you, but if you fight they are going to bite harder and harder until you stop fighting," Sergeant McCleskey said.

The groups attempt to train together several times each quarter to help broaden their dogs' abilities. Some of the other training the law enforcers partner on is working to identify explosives or narcotics in warehouse settings and other areas on base.

"Anywhere we can get into, we will do training in. We want to use the places the dog will actually be working in," Sergeant Ellison said.

The Warner Robins PD doesn't maintain explosives for training their K-9s, but on base the K-9s are able to interact with explosives while training with their military peers, Mr. Fisher said.

He added their weapons dogs are used for crime scene processing and their main objective is to be able to locate items that would be found in crime scenes, but having experience with explosives helps them be prepared for other situations where explosive detection might be necessary.

Another benefit for the off-base officers has been learning some of the military scouting or tracking techniques from Robins military working dogs and their handlers.

"We have integrated a lot of the scouting principles and other means of scent detection in crime scene or contaminated areas," Mr. Fisher said.

One of the benefits of the joint training effort between the civilian and non-civilian forces is they are exposed to new human scents when training for scouting or tracking instead of only be exposed to the same handlers they work with each day.

"It gives greater diversity for the dogs and the teams to work with," Mr. Fisher said.

Along with training with the Warner Robins PD, the military working dog unit also trains with the Gray Police Department, the Houston County Sheriff Department and many other law enforcement agencies throughout the year.
 


 

 

_________________________________________________________

'Man's Best Friend' saves lives in Diyala

By Spc. Ryan Stroud

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ryan Stroud, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs)

A group of Soldiers need to clear a tall, dark building, possibly housing terrorists in the city of Muqdadiya, just north of Baqouba, Iraq. The Soldiers have received reports of booby-traps in the area and are unsure if the building itself is a trap. What are they to do?

This is where the Soldier's four-legged friend, Nero, comes in.

Nero is a military working dog serving with Staff Sgt. Zeb Miller, his handler, at Forward Operating Base Normandy, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08. Nero's job - search the building, its doorway and the surrounding area, making sure no explosives are around to harm the Soldiers trying to clear the building.

With Nero's efforts, and the efforts of many other military working dogs serving in Iraq, Soldiers' lives are being saved everyday.

"Our job out here in Iraq is mainly searching for explosives," said Miller, a member of the 7th Security Forces, U.S. Air Force, attached to 6-9 Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

"Our job is to make a Soldier's job go faster," Miller, a native of Johnson City, Texas, said.

"A dog can search for explosives ten times faster than we can because he can smell it," he said. "Plus, if the dog smells the explosives, it could save a Soldier's life."

Miller started working with Nero in March after he volunteered to serve in Iraq. Once arriving, the two became close, inseparable friends.

"I've had Nero since March when I volunteered to come to Iraq," said Miller. "This was a nice change being out here at FOB Normandy with the Army because the Air Force is more force protection. Out here with the Army, I get to go out on missions and take part in the war."

But before the duo can take part in missions, Nero has to exercise and train to stay on top of his game.

"On a normal day, we try to train the dogs to keep them [prepared for missions]," Miller said. "I will take explosives out and train the dog in searching and finding. We also have a dog obstacle course that we take the dogs out to keep them [healthy] and active.

"At night, I'll take Nero out and we'll walk around fenced areas so he can sniff around; simple things to keep the dogs ready," he continued.

These training techniques keep Nero fresh and ready to go when he's need for a mission into the heart of danger, something Miller and Nero are used too.

"Our big thing is palm grove searches and weapons cache searches," Miller said. "That's really big for us; those are the main things we look for on missions - buried weapons.

"Nero will also search doorways and buildings before Soldiers will breach it," Miller continued. "[Insurgents] try to booby-trap doors and Nero can search the door to find any explosives waiting."

But Nero can also be used for other tasks to help out the units in 6-9 ARS.

"Nero is also trained to find people," said Miller. "One mission, we went searching for IEDs and also searching through houses. Nero just took off running behind one of the houses and into the palm groves.

"What we guess happened is he smelled someone who had just left the house but [was gone]," Miller continued. "We found fresh tracks in the ground, so someone might have been there waiting until they heard Nero coming."

With Nero on a mission, Soldiers can trust him to smell and sense things they couldn't imagine. Nero becomes a living weapon, just like the Soldiers, ready to quickly "get his prize."

"They say one dog is worth about ten Soldiers, not in their capabilities, but in their senses," said Miller about the importance of military digs during a mission.

"These dogs, while searching for explosives and other weapons, can turn a [several] hour job into one hour worth of work," he said.

But what also makes Nero an interesting military dog, is unlike some, Nero is extremely friendly, something Miller is happy with.

"The first thing [trainers] tell you is this is not a dog, it's a piece of equipment," Miller explained. "But it comes down to each handler in how they treat their dog.

"The way I see it, if I love the dog, he will love me; and in return, he will work for me and possibly save me when I need it," he said.

"You're not supposed to let others pet the dog either because it's a bond challenger," continued Miller. "But, I'd rather let the Soldiers pet and play with him so they are comfortable around Nero when we go out on missions.

"I also think this helps Nero in case something was to happen to me out here; another Soldier could take him and he would be okay without me around to guide him," he said.

But Miller has no worries at all about Nero. Miller says Nero knows who his owner is and will listen when called upon.

"I know Nero will listen to me even with others around," said Miller. "Once you spend every day together, he knows who I am; he will listen to me if I tell him to do something."

Though Nero is a calm, mannered dog, Miller said he has commands for Nero which will instantly switch Nero from the polite dog he is into an attack-mode destroyer.

"They're two words I could use to have him immediately start barking at you and if you show any fear, you would get bit," he said. "These dogs are amazing; they are incredibly smart."

When the deployment is over and it's time to go home, there is a chance Nero will have to retire, though Nero himself will probably have a few years of service left before it's his time. In these cases of retirement, the hard-working military dogs will go through a series of tests to make sure they are ready for life outside the combat zone.

"The dogs have to go through a physiological evaluation," said Miller. "They test the dog with situations like neighbors fighting. They test the dog to see what he will do and to make sure he will be safe around others.

"It's hard to let go of your dogs," Miller somberly explained. "The first dog is always the hardest. But after the dog retires, there's a possibly that you can keep your dog."

Until its Nero's time to retire, he will continue to provide his services to those serving overseas with him; saving lives on each mission he partakes in.

 

 

______________________________________________________

In Iraq & Elsewhere, Bomb-Sniffing Dogs Soldier On

Trained to Sniff Out Roadside Bombs, Canines Are Often Soldiers' Best Friend

By Jeff Donn

Associated Press
Sunday, August 12, 2007; Page D02

SAN ANTONIO -- When he came to, the Marine's arm hung lamely. It was broken by ball bearings hurled so hard from a suicide bomb that they embedded themselves in his gun as well as his body. Yet Brendan Poelaert's thoughts quickly turned to his patrol dog.

The powerful Belgian Malinois named Flapoor had served him as partner and protector for the past four months in Iraq. Now the dog staggered a few steps along the Ramadi street, then stared blankly. Blood poured from his chest.

"I didn't care about my injuries, my arm," his handler says. "I'm telling the medic, 'I got to get my dog to the vet!' "

About 2,000 of these working dogs confront danger alongside U.S. soldiers, largely in the Middle East. Able to detect scents up to a third of a mile away, many sniff for explosives in Iraq. Their numbers have been growing about 20 percent a year since the terrorist attacks of 2001, says Air Force Capt. Jeffrey McKamey, who helps run the program.

In doing their jobs, dozens of these dogs have also become war wounded -- scorched by the desert, slashed by broken glass, hit by stray bullets, pounded by roadside bombs.

Their services are so valued that wounded dogs are treated much like wounded troops. "They are cared for as well as any soldier," says Senior Airman Ronald A. Harden, a dog handler in Iraq.

Their first aid comes out of doggy field kits bearing everything from medicine to syringes. Some are evacuated to military veterinary centers hundreds of miles away, or even to Germany or the United States for rehabilitation. Many recover and return to duty.

On the day of the Ramadi blast in January 2006, Poelaert, trained in veterinary first aid, began care as soon as he and Flapoor were loaded into an SUV. He pressed his finger to the dog's chest to slow the bleeding. .

When they reached the base camp, a medic with veterinary training took over, starting Flapoor on an IV. Poelaert departed reluctantly for his own surgery.

Flapoor would eventually go to Baghdad, where he received additional treatment for his punctured lung and stomach wounds. He would later rejoin his handler and fly in a cargo plane to the United States for physical rehab.

Healing under the California sun at Camp Pendleton, Flapoor is pretty much back to normal: fast, friendly, eager to please. But some things have changed. "He's really jumpy around loud noises now," Poelaert says.

Dogs take their basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where they learn to tolerate the crack of gunfire and sputter of helicopters. They are trained to sniff for explosives on command, freezing and staring at suspicious objects.

 

Merely baring their teeth, they can intimidate a crowd. Commanded to strike, they can flatten a big man with one leap, flying like a 50-pound sandbag tossed from a truck.

Smart and strong Malinois and German shepherds predominate, but other breeds are trained, too. Even small dogs are occasionally taught to detect explosives in submarines and other close quarters.

In Iraq, the demand for explosives-hunting dogs has increased. The dogs lead patrols with their handlers in tow, sniffing bags and other objects along the way.

The bombs have bulked up in past months, putting dogs and handlers at increased risk. To protect handlers, some dogs are trained to wear backpacks with radios and respond to remote voice commands.

"As much as I love these dogs, their job is to take a bullet for me," says trainer Sgt. Douglas Timberlake.

The military estimates spending six months and $25,000 to buy, feed, train and care for the average dog. The dogs are tended by 440 Army veterinarians worldwide. They have two physical exams each year. They get blood tests, X-rays and electrocardiograms.

When dogs break teeth, military veterinarians sometimes do root canals. "Here we treat them, because that's part of that dog's equipment: to use his teeth," says Lorraine Linn, a dog surgeon at Lackland.

Dogs have been weapons of war since ancient times. Thousands were enlisted by the United States in World Wars I and II and in Vietnam. Dogs cannot be awarded medals under military protocol, but commanders sometimes honor them unofficially.

Care for wounded military dogs was limited in earlier wars, and the end of a dog's working days usually meant the end of its life. But that, too, is changing.

Since 2000, a law allows many dogs to be adopted by police departments, former handlers and others if the dogs' temperaments are suitable.

Tech. Sgt. Jamie Dana's German shepherd Rex was plenty friendly, but also young and healthy. The military didn't want to let him go.

Rex ended up on an Iraqi roadway when a bomb blew the door off the Humvee he was riding in with Dana in June 2005. His injuries were minor, but Dana nearly died with collapsed lungs, a fractured spine and brain trauma.

When Rex visited her a couple of weeks later at the hospital, she whistled for him and he jumped on her bed. Dana's days as a soldier were over, but she missed her pal.

Friends and family petitioned Congress, and a law was finally signed to allow still-able dogs to be adopted in certain cases. Now Rex lives on a farm in Smethport, Pa., with Dana, who believes the dog wasn't really meant for a soldier's life.

"He loves everybody," she says. "He sleeps beside my bed."

Other dogs in the war zone aren't so lucky. Though no careful count is kept, Army veterinarian Lt. Col. Michael Lagutchik, who supervises care at Lackland, believes about 10 dogs have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Injuries are common among the dogs. They are cut or scraped, often on their paws. They are bitten by spiders or stung by scorpions. Their eyes and ears are irritated by blowing sand.

The most common injury is overheating in the desert sun, and it can sometimes spur a dangerous stomach condition called bloat.

Handler Jason Cannon, now a Tennessee state patrolman, knew something was wrong when his dog started to act skittish while searching people crossing into Iraq from Syria. He and his dog were flown back to the base, where a veterinarian suspected dehydration and prescribed two weeks of rest for the dog. "We went out and played ball, pretty much hung out," Cannon says. "Mainly, we didn't do any work at all. 'Vacation' is a good word for it."

Less often, dogs on a mission get shot or bombed. Lackland trainer Trapanger Stephens, who served in Iraq, remembers seeing a veterinarian treat a gunshot-wounded dog with a breathing tube right in the field. The veterinarian did surgery then and there.

Cpl. Megan Leavey and her dog ended up back at Camp Pendleton, Calif., when a homemade bomb exploded in Ramadi. She suffered a concussion, and the dog injured one shoulder. The dog underwent a regimen familiar to athletes: icing, heating, stretching and motion exercises.

Dogs may wear bulletproof vests or booties to cushion their paws. They sometimes wear dog goggles -- called "doggles" -- to keep out sand.

Regardless of the dangers, the dogs are fearless. For them, checking a road for bombs means a fun walk, their handlers say. "They like what they do," says Poelaert, who has returned to Exeter, N.H.

These days, he's trying to move beyond memories of the Ramadi explosion, which killed dozens of people, including his best friend, fellow handler Adam Cann.

One image still inspires him, though: the sight of Cann's wounded dog stretched over his body, as if to protect him.

 

Marine Corps News

Devil Dogs take a bite out of Anbar insurgency

May 11, 2007; Submitted on: 05/11/2007 01:18:26 AM ; Story ID#: 200751111826

By Cpl. Zachary Dyer, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD)
 


 

Lance Cpl. Melissa Losacker, a military working dog handler, and her canine partner, Karo, search recently vacated cans aboard Al Asad, April 23. The service members and their dogs at the Al Asad Military Working Dog kennel assist in making sure no drugs or explosives are brought onto the base. Photo by: Cpl. Zachary Dyer
Lance Cpl. Melissa Losacker, a military working dog handler, and her canine partner, Karo, search recently vacated cans aboard Al Asad, April 23. The service members and their dogs at the Al Asad Military Working Dog kennel assist in making sure no drugs or explosives are brought onto the base.
Cpl. Tara Parrish, a military working dog handler, motivates her dog, Paco, during aggression training outside the Al Asad MWD kennel, April 23. Photo by: Cpl. Zachary Dyer
Cpl. Tara Parrish, a military working dog handler, motivates her dog, Paco, during aggression training outside the Al Asad MWD kennel, April 23.
Paco, a military working dog, attacks the bite sleeve on the arm of Lance Cpl. Kyle Smith, a MWD handler, during aggression training outside the Al Asad MWD kennel. The training helps teach dogs to respond to verbal commands from their handler. Photo by: Cpl. Zachary Dyer
Paco, a military working dog, attacks the bite sleeve on the arm of Lance Cpl. Kyle Smith, a MWD handler, during aggression training outside the Al Asad MWD kennel. The training helps teach dogs to respond to verbal commands from their handler.
Karo, a military working dog, looks out the window of a vehicle while waiting to begin a search on the Al Asad flight line, April 23. The handlers and canines of the MWD section search incoming baggage to ensure that dangerous materials are not brought onto the base. Photo by: Cpl. Zachary Dyer
Karo, a military working dog, looks out the window of a vehicle while waiting to begin a search on the Al Asad flight line, April 23. The handlers and canines of the MWD section search incoming baggage to ensure that dangerous materials are not brought onto the base.
Lance Cpl. Melissa Losacker, a military working dog handler, and her four-legged co-worker, Karo, search incoming baggage on the Al Asad flight line, April 23. Photo by: Cpl. Zachary Dyer
Lance Cpl. Melissa Losacker, a military working dog handler, and her four-legged co-worker, Karo, search incoming baggage on the Al Asad flight line, April 23.
Lance Cpl. Jose Sierrarivera, a military working dog handler, and his MWD, Gris, search through recently vacated cans aboard Al Asad, April 23. The handlers and their dogs routinely search areas of the base to make sure no narcotics or explosives are brought on base. Photo by: Cpl. Zachary Dyer
Lance Cpl. Jose Sierrarivera, a military working dog handler, and his MWD, Gris, search through recently vacated cans aboard Al Asad, April 23. The handlers and their dogs routinely search areas of the base to make sure no narcotics or explosives are brought on base.
Lance Cpl. Kyle Smith, a military working dog handler, guides his MWD, Zzane, through the obstacle course outside the Al Asad MWD kennel, April 23. Photo by: Cpl. Zachary Dyer
Lance Cpl. Kyle Smith, a military working dog handler, guides his MWD, Zzane, through the obstacle course outside the Al Asad MWD kennel, April 23.


AL ASAD, Iraq (May 11, 2007) -- In the states, McGruff the crime dog is responsible for taking a bite out of crime. In the Al Anbar Province, more specifically Al Asad, it is the four-legged Marines at the Military Working Dog Kennel taking a bite out of insurgency.

The dogs and their handlers make sure that the service members aboard Al Asad and those they accompany outside the wire, are kept safe from improvised explosive devices and other dangers.

The military working dogs and their handlers at Al Asad and the rest of Multi-National Forces-West fall under Task Force Military Police, controlled by 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment. Through TFMP, the handlers and their canine partners support all the units in Al Anbar Province, helping with everything from foot patrols to Entry Control Point searches.

“The (Explosive Ordnance Disposal team) from this base works with us, and we work hand in hand with them,” said Cpl. Tara Parrish, a military working dog handler from MCAS Miramar. “But the important part is getting the dogs out there with the different battalions and the platoons that are marching out and actually searching and doing foot patrols, that way we can protect them.”

The number of dogs and handlers at the kennel changes from week to week because Al Asad is the starting point for handlers and their dogs before moving to different areas of operation, according to Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Trambulo, the Al Asad kennel master.

“This is the hub for all the handlers,” said Trambulo. “We all have to start from Al Asad to do the in-country briefs and (the battlesight zero) range. Plus, the veterinarian is here.”

After checking in at Al Asad, the handlers and their dogs will move to other bases and outposts throughout MNF-W to be closer to the units they will support.

The Marines at the Al Asad kennel come from different bases throughout the Marine Corps, from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., on the West Coast to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., on the East Coast.

The handlers and their canine counterparts have an important mission to accomplish, both on and off base, according to Parrish, who works with an MWD named Paco.

“We go with Special Forces, we go with Recon, we go with whatever group needs us,” said Parrish, a Columbus, Wis., native. “We search all the vehicles coming into the ECP’s. We’ll go to the flight line and search baggage coming in, to make sure there’s no explosives or narcotics coming onto the base.”

The units that handlers and their dogs attach to often welcome them with open arms, because the Marines know that having a dog with them increases their chances of finding weapons caches or capturing insurgents, according to Cpl. James Riepe, a handler from Camp Lejeune who works with MWD Caro.

“When you’re out on a long mission, when you have a dog, it helps the Marines,” said Riepe, a Sussex County, N.J., native.

Riepe said the Marines get excited when dogs are attached to their units. They know they have a chance to see a dog in action.

The relationship between the dog and their handler is critical to the mission. The Marines must stay alert. A handler that is not paying attention can miss the signals that his dog is sending, according to Lance Cpl. Matthew Blackburn, a handler from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C, who works with MWD Bancuk.

“It can be a challenge at times,” said Blackburn, a Wadsworth, Ohio, native. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. We make it sound like its fun and its easy, and that all we do is cache sweeps. But you’re really out there looking for an explosive that can kill four people in a Humvee, and you’re on foot with a dog. You have to be on your toes, you can’t get complacent as a dog handler. If you do, you’ll overlook your dog’s change and what your dog’s trying to tell you.”

The tight relationship between handlers and their dogs means the Marines have to stay upbeat and excited when they are on a mission. Handlers control the drive of their dog. If they get tired or start to slack off, their dog will sense it and do the same thing. The emotions of the handler travel down the leash to the dog, according to Blackburn.

Despite the stressful situations they sometimes encounter, the handlers are having a good time on their deployment. They all agree that they have the best job in the Marine Corps.

“Just imagine, part of my job is to play with my dog anytime I want to,” said Trambulo. “How cool is that?”

Being deployed to Iraq provides the Marines with a rare opportunity. Handlers, who are with their dogs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, build a relationship with their MWD that is rare back in the states. While deployed, handlers have complete control over their dogs, whereas in the states, responsibility for the dogs is shared by all the Marines in the kennel.

“That rapport, and that bond, is really strong with you and the dog,” said Parrish. “It’s a really good way, since your with them so much, to get a new understanding of how they (the dogs) work. A new understanding of what they do when they find odors, or what they do when they are sniffing other stuff.

“It’s really hard to give them back when you have to,” added Parrish. “They’re always with you, and they’re always loyal to you.”

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K9 Team Brings Special Skills to Iraq
Army News Service | Spc. Amanda Morrissey | June 04, 2007

SHUKRAN, Iraq  - For nearly every cordon and search operation in Iraq, a special two-Soldier team provides an extra sense to the efforts to find anti-Iraqi forces and hidden weapons.

One of those teams at Forward Operating Base Q-West is Staff Sgt. Chuck Shuck and his dog, Sgt. 1st Class Gabe, both with 178th Military Police Detachment, 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade.

"The dog has a nose like no human has, that's just a given," Staff Sgt. Shuck said. "A dog is able to smell stuff that humans can't smell because they can pick up on residue and stuff like that. Even if Soldiers miss something, 95 percent of the time the dog is going to pick up on it."

In the eight and a half months Staff Sgt. Shuck and Gabe have been in Iraq, they have worked primarily with Soldiers in the 82nd Field Artillery Regiment's Battery A, 5th Battalion. They have conducted approximately 140 searches both on and off the base, and have been on more than 90 combat missions off the FOB. To date, one of their biggest finds was 36 122 mm rounds last October.

Gabe and Staff Sgt. Shuck have also seen their fair share of action in theater.

"Last month, we were on a raid with Alpha Battery, 5th Bn, 82th FA, and a guy started shooting through the door. Gabe and I were right there in the thick of things with them, and it was pretty amazing," Staff Sgt. Shuck said. "Gabe actually got put in for a Combat Action Badge."

Such skills take a lot of training - for both the dog and his handler. They go through a five-month training course at Lackland Air Force Base, where dogs receive obedience and detection training. Soldiers learn how to work with the dogs and how to care for the health of their canine partners. At the end of the course, the dog and the handler certify as a team and graduate together.

"These dogs are trained to clear open areas, buildings, routes and vehicles, and they're able to work off leash," Staff Sgt. Shuck said. "We also train with the dogs in school to react to gunfire, so that pretty much doesn't faze them."

Gabe is unique because he is a specialized search dog, meaning he will respond to the commands of his handler without the guidance of a leash. He is one of approximately 300 dogs with such training in all branches of the military.

Graduation from the schoolhouse doesn't mark the end of training for these teams. Each month, they conduct 16 hours of mandatory detection training to keep the dogs proficient in their skills, as well as daily exercises, said Staff Sgt. Shuck.

However, Gabe is more than just an extra-sensitive nose to the Soldiers he works with.

"I can see from working with the units here just having the presence of the dog there is a morale booster for Soldiers," Staff Sgt. Shuck said. "Gabe is like the mascot of the battalion, and everybody knows him."

Gabe is also a morale booster for his partner. While in Iraq, Staff Sgt. Shuck and Gabe are roommates and constant companions, going almost everywhere together.

"The dogs really do become you're best friend, your partner," Staff Sgt. Shuck said. "Gabe is loyal, and he's trustworthy. You always have a companion in the dog. If I'm having a bad day, he turns it into a good day. Nothing beats having a dog as a partner."

(Spc. Amanda Morrissey writes for the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Woman's best friend: Hanscom welcomes first female K-9 handler in two decades
 
Woman's best friend -- Hanscom welcomes first female K-9 handler in two decades
 
Staff Sergeant Jeanette Reichel, 66th Security Forces Squadron, poses with her Military Working Dog, Petya, a 6-year old German Sheppard, tattoo F-028. Sergeant Reichel entered the Hanscom history books on March 21 as the first female dog handler here in the past two decades after successfully completing her handler certification. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)
 

 
 Department of Defense Military Working Dogs
 


by 1st Lt. Martha Petersante-Gioia
66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs


3/22/2007 - Hanscom AFB -- Editor's Note: This is the second article in a series highlighting Hanscom women and their accomplishments during National Women's History Month.

The U.S. military has utilized the various skills of working dogs since World War II and throughout the years Airman, Sailor, Soldier and Marine K-9 handlers have found solace in knowing their work protects fellow servicemembers.

For one Hanscom staff sergeant this reality has come true as she joined the ranks of the military working dog community.

Jeanette Reichel, with the assistance of her Military Working Dog Petya, a 6-year-old German Sheppard, tattoo F-028, entered the base history books March 21 as the first certified female dog handler here in two decades.

"Sergeant Reichel is an example of the dedicated, professional people we have in the Air Force and at Hanscom," said Col. Robert Boyles, 66th Mission Support Group commander. "This team will greatly enhance our security forces mission here, and through their presence, combat and deter crime."

After completing a rigorous three-month training program and passing the official certification, Sergeant Reichel and Petya now can be seen patrolling the streets of Hanscom.

Humbled by the thought of being a role model for fellow Airmen and younger women, the sergeant credits her accomplishments to the teamwork among the staff at the kennels.

"This is new to me [being a handler] and I had to get used to a new manner and way of thinking," she said. "They [the kennel staff here] have been patient and guided me through my training.

Both her colleagues and supervisors agree that there are unique challenges facing every new K-9 handler. "Handlers [who enter the career field as senior airmen] traditionally have both Air Force and dog handler-specific mentoring when they come out of school at their local units. [Sergeant Reichel] was able to pull from her past security forces experience and operational knowledge and progress through the training in about three months," said Tech. Sgt. Lawrence Gray, 66 SFS kennel master, who oversees the entire Hanscom K-9 program, including paperwork and documentation, coordination of training and training aids.

One of the first steps in Sergeant Reichel's training was rapport. The sergeant and Petya spent hours just walking. "The dog sits in the kennel all day hoping to see her face around the corner to take him out," Sergeant Gray said. After the handler and dog bond is formed the next step is obedience training followed by specialized training in the dog's area of expertise.

But before she could wake up, report to work, and be greeted with Petya's enthusiastic good-morning bark and wagging tail, the sergeant had to prove herself with some doggie veterans. The Air Force K-9 Handler 10-week training course, which is run out of Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, consists of two major parts: patrol and aggression work and detection work with seasoned veterans of the canine force. Sergeant Reichel made her journey to Lackland in June and upon graduation, she returned to Hanscom and was teamed with Petya.

However, the opportunity to become a handler may not have come to fruition if Sergeant Reichel had not entered the service through a unique set of circumstances.

"While searching online [in 1994] for information about occupational therapy employment [her college major at the time], I discovered a forum about the military on a career Web site. Within the more than 1,000 posts, people described their various jobs openly and honestly and also why joining the military was such a good thing. The next day I walked into the recruiting office to sign up," she said.

She soon discovered a passion for law enforcement, which has driven her throughout her security forces career thus far. Additionally, being the "first" in her career field isn't new to this sergeant either; while stationed at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, she served as the first female Air Base Defense Instructor there.

"I trained both the base populace and the security forces personnel on weapons familiarization, SALUTE reports, and other base defense processes and procedures," she said.

Looking at her career, Sergeant Reichel doesn't credit just one person as a mentor. "Different people make you who you are," the sergeant said. "Throughout my career different people have influenced me and they weren't necessarily older than me. I've had troops who've inspired me by reminding me where I've come from."

One of the best experiences she's had within the Air Force is watching and teaching new troops to learn and grow. She hopes to do some learning and growing too during her time working with Petya.

Part of the uniqueness of the K-9 field is that you watch development of the dog from beginning to end, Sergeant Gray said.

"Every job I've had has had its unique challenges and I appreciate every opportunity to work in those areas," Sergeant Reichel said. "They allowed me to see how all aspects of the security forces world interact. K-9 is completely different than any other job I've had. I have never had another job with just one partner; it's great to know that Petya is right there with me," she said.

The sergeant offers a small piece of advice for those entering the career field, and the Air Force. "After you get through that first year, nothing can get you down," she said. "Your expectations change; manning the base gate when the temperature is minus 10 degrees and folks drive up saying 'it's so cold,' and the cold doesn't even faze you. It takes a certain type of individual -- a truly driven individual -- to become a cop."


 

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The nose knows: four-legged 'troops' sniff out explosives
 
The nose knows
Staff Sgt. Russell McLaughlin (right) and Army Pfc. Samuel Medrano load up materials for making improvised explosive devices found in the village of Tall Qabb, Kirkuk Province. Many Air Force military working dogs and handlers are attached to Army units supporting operatins in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sergeant McLauglin is a K-9 dog handler attached to the 25th Infantry Division. Private Medrano is from Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Samuel Bendet)
 
Download HiRes
 

by Staff Sgt. W. Wayne Marlow
2nd BCT, 2nd Inf. Div. Public Affairs


1/15/2007 - FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq (AFNEWS) -- Two of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team's most valuable assets never talk about work, preferring to let the results speak for themselves. Even with their quiet demeanor, they have uncovered numerous weapons caches and explosives, and have become two of the most popular members of the unit. They are the unit's two military working dogs, Blacky and Frisko.

Blacky, a 2-year-old German shepherd with a dark chocolate coat and handled by Air Force Tech Sgt. Michael Jones. Jones, from Kingswood, W. Va. Frisko, a 6-year-old black-and-brown German shepherd and handler Senior Airman Adam La Barr of Rome, N.Y. Both teams are attached to the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment.

The dogs are trained to sniff out explosives and chase down insurgents. Getting them ready for those essential tasks is up to their handlers. The initial training takes about 90 days. The first step is getting the handler and dog comfortable with each other. Handlers bathe and groom the dogs and learn each other's personalities. Next, the dogs are drilled in obedience, and they begin sniffing for explosives.

The time and training pays off on the battlefield, Sergeant Jones said. Merely having a dog along pays dividends against insurgents.

"Just seeing a dog deters them from running away or trying to pass weapons and explosives through," he said.

But the intimidation and heightened senses would be useless without human input.

"The dog and handler are a team," Sergeant Jones said. "One can't work without the other."

Part of the handler's role is to point out areas for the dogs to search. Handlers base the dog's training plan around areas the dog needs to improve.

"Blacky is not as good at finding things high up...so in training, I make it where he would want to go up high. I put a couple of training aids up, to show him, sometimes, it's up there," Sergeant Jones said.

In the real world, though, the trainer wouldn't know where the bomb is placed. This is where the dog's nose comes in handy, and the handler has to understand the dog. When Blacky comes upon a suspected explosive, he reacts passively.

"He won't be aggressive, he won't paw at it," Sergeant Jones said. "We don't want that, if there's a bomb in there.

Instead, Blacky sits by the suspected explosive or lies down, if it is lower. Sometimes the response can be even more subtle.

"I look for changes in his behavior, to see when he's curious about something," Sergeant Jones said.

Frisko reacts in a similar way, but each dog has his own method, Airman La Barr said.

The dogs have found multiple weapons caches and explosives in recent months. When they find something, the dogs get a treat, of sorts. Their handlers break out a misshapen lump of rubber that vaguely resembles a beehive. Blacky and Frisko get to play with the object as the reward for making a find.

"They know if they find something, they're going to get that one toy and they're excited," La Barr said.

While people naturally gravitate to the dogs, handlers stress it's important to remember they are not pets.

"Everyone thinks they can play with them. That might soften them up, or it could be seen by the dog as an attack," Airman La Barr said. "They are trained to be handler-protective. He's still an animal."

As such, the handlers never allow anyone to pet the dogs.

The dogs teams' workload is intelligence-driven, but they usually go on about five missions each week. While the basic job is always the same, it's an ever-changing game.

"We adapt our techniques to what the enemy would be using," Sergeant Jones said.
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FOB McHenry benefits from ‘sniff support’

By Spc. Barbara Ospina

Zeko, an explosive detection canine, takes a breather, after his handler puts his specially made balistic

Zeko, an explosive detection canine, takes a breather, after his handler puts his specially made balistic "doggles" on for his daily training at the newly built training course at Forward Operating Base McHenry, Iraq.
Spc. Barbara Ospina
 
KIRKUK, Iraq (Army News Service, March 15, 2006) -- With a modified ballistic vest, a Screaming Eagle combat patch and a Combat Action Badge, Zeko still may not look like the average Soldier, but he has become a valuable asset to the troops of Forward Operating Base McHenry.

The explosive detection dog has found improvised bombs buried several feet in the hard desert ground.

Zeko has brought new meaning to the phrase “man’s best friend,” said Bastogne Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, stationed at FOB McHenry.

“He’s got a good rapport with the Soldiers,” said Staff Sgt. David Silberman, Zeko’s kennel master and partner for nearly two and a half years now.

“Our missions are really broad; we support everything,” Silberman reflected. “Every day we are learning something different for us to do.”

When it comes to his job, Zeko may be at the top of his game, but Silberman says he trains on a regular basis, just like Soldiers.

Silberman said it takes on average two and a half years to get an explosive dog certified, but it does not end there; each dog must also go through an annual certification. Each dog must have a minimum 95-percent success rate on explosive detection or the dog is decertified.

“Explosive dogs are trained in nine different explosive odors,” Silberman stated confidently, while petting his partner. “He’s got to find every single one; he can’t miss them.”

Although Zeko is currently tested at 98.7 percent, and trained in desert warfare, Silberman takes it upon himself to keep their team up to the task by training everyday.

Using a newly built training course, Zeko practices many different obstacles.

Zeko warms up, walking through a small jump, followed by stairs and tunnels.

The real workout starts when shouts echo through the air, followed by yelping. Silberman holds Zeko tightly, while a volunteer Soldier wearing a protective sleeve runs. Then, at the right moment, Silberman releases the now vicious dog. Zeko sprints after the man, leaping into the air and locking his jaw on the Soldier’s protected arm.

Attempts to shake him off fail as Zeko just bites harder. Then with a single command from his handler, Zeko releases the Soldier and returns to sit next to Silberman. A few seconds later, Zeko is rewarded with playful hugs and praises.

Not only does this furry four-legged Soldier pull his weight in the fight against improvised explosive devices, he has become very protective of his new Bastogne comrades.
“We get to spend a lot of time with [Soldiers], he’s really close, and really protective of them,” Silberman said. “When we are taking rounds, he’s watching and really alert of his Soldiers, so he’s got a pretty good rapport with those guys.”

(Editor’s note: Spc. Barbara Ospina serves with 1st BCT Public Affairs, 101st Airborne Division.)
_________________________________________________________________

BAGHDAD - Lt. Col. Randall Thompson knows his life has gone to the dogs. But that's probably a good thing for the Army, the canine corps and for him.
By Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

One of only six clinical veterinary surgeons in the U.S. military, Thompson works to save the lives of some of the military's most valued assets: bombsniffing dogs that have been severely wounded in combat. He arrived here in October to open Iraq's first urgent surgical care ward for canines.

Before Thompson's arrival, injured dogs were shipped to a U.S. base in Germany or to the United States for emergency medical treatment. At best, seriously wounded dogs were out of commission for weeks; at worst, they died during transport to a faraway veterinary facility.

The dogs' talent for sniffing out hidden explosive devices has become crucial to the war effort, so the command changed policy.

"It reached a buildup of dogs here and a concern level that said we had to do something to support these animals the best way possible," said Thompson, 46, a native of Savannah, Ga. Quicker medical care means the dogs return to duty sooner, he said. "Every day that we can keep a dog out on the line working is another day that a soldier or Marine is going to live because the dog was doing its job."

By uncovering tons of explosives that insurgents could otherwise use against coalition soldiers, the dogs have saved countless lives, said Col. Arnaldo Claudio, who as 18th Airborne Corps provost marshal commands all military police and dog handlers in Iraq. He declined to disclose the precise number of war dogs here.

"The dogs weren't needed as much when [the war] started. But the threat has changed," he said, referring to insurgents' increasing use of hidden, remote-controlled bombs often fashioned from mortar and artillery shells and detonated by cellphones and pagers. The bombs cause the majority of casualties suffered by U.S.-led forces in Iraq.

Claudio said a bomb-sniffing dog probably saved his life in August when it alerted him and a handler to a roadside bomb at a traffic stop in northern Baghdad.

"We got out of there and the bomb exploded a few minutes later," Claudio said.
But the dogs and their handlers sometimes pay a steep price. Four-year-old Flapeur was receiving treatment at Thompson's clinic last month. The Belgian Malinois had taken a piece of shrapnel through the chest in a suicide bombing in the Sunni Triangle city of Ramadi days before. He was on crowd-control duty with two other dogs and their handlers when the bomber struck a line of police recruits.

Flapeur's handler, a Marine whom the military declined to identify, was also seriously wounded, as was a second handler. Both were airlifted to Germany for medical treatment. The third handler, Marine Sgt. Adam Cann, was killed in the bombing.

Flapeur and the other injured dogs were taken by helicopter to Baghdad's combat support hospital, just as severely wounded soldiers or Marines would be.

"We would never fly a dog in front of a human casualty. But when there isn't someone ahead of them, we'll fly them," Thompson said.

He and other vets narrowly saved Flapeur, the most severely wounded of the three canines, from dying of shock, blood loss and a collapsed lung. Had the bombing happened before Thompson's arrival, Flapeur almost certainly would have died.

Although the wound left a nasty-looking hole in his chest, Flapeur was alert and friendly after his treatment. He is expected to be back on duty in three months, as is his handler.

Cann's dog, Bruno, will go through training again with a new handler. The third dog, Kevin, is expected back on duty as soon as his handler recovers.

A professed dog lover, Thompson says caring for man's best friend is one of the military's best jobs. "How many of your other friends listen to you attentively, don't talk back and are always glad to be in your company?" Thompson said. He has owned dogs, mostly German shepherds, since he can remember, he said. He and his wife have a Labrador retriever and a Cairn terrier.

Most of the dogs used in bomb-detection operations are either German shepherds or Belgian Malinois; they have been trained to detect explosives and to chase down and detain suspects, Thompson said. Just the sight of them usually deters unruly crowds, however.

"It's the only weapon system we have that you can change your mind on after squeezing the trigger," Thompson said.
The military dogs here were bought almost exclusively in Europe, where the canines are bred for detection and tracking skills. Then they are sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for training. Each dog goes through a six-month course to learn how to sense a dozen or more explosives and weapon
________________________________________________

Security forces military dog section honors one of its own

Technical Sgt. Gregory Jones (left), 95th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog section kennel master, gives a eulogy during a military working dog funeral Sept. 1 at Edwards Air Force Base. (Air Force photo by Mark McCoy)

Blackanthem.com, EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., September 13, 2005

 

Since the initiation of the first U.S. sentry dog training branch at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in 1958, military working dogs in the United States and abroad have been honored for playing an active role in the Air Force mission.

That honor was once again passed down Sept. 1 during a Military Working Dog funeral at the Edwards MWD facility for Berry, a 95th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, who died Aug. 15.

"When looking at what we do as a military working dog section, people don't often realize how essential these dogs are to Air Force safety, so when we lose a partner and dog like Berry it is felt throughout the MWD section," said Tech. Sgt. Gregory Jones, 95th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog section kennel master.

Just like any Airman, military working dogs arrive to their first duty station already trained, but are in continuous training throughout the remainder of their military career.

And, like any other Airman, working dogs spend their careers as a vital part of the Air Force mission, both at home station and while deployed.

After being certified in April 1995 as a patrol and narcotic detector dog from Lackland, Berry arrived at Edwards for duty May 16, 1995. While at Edwards, Berry had 25 drug finds that helped confiscate various amounts of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines from the streets, Sergeant Jones said. Over a 10-year span, Berry was able to accumulate almost 1,100 hours of search time and 47 drug finds.

"During deployments, military working dogs are usually positioned in Entry Control Points in camps and bases in the Middle East," Sergeant Jones said. "Some are also attached to Marine units in order to search for explosives."

While on a temporary deployment to U.S. Customs Service in El Paso, Texas, Berry had 22 drug finds that netted more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana and cocaine.

"After looking at Berry's career, it just goes to show that military working dogs continue to contribute to the Air Force and the safety of their handlers," Sergeant Jones said.


By Senior Airman Jet Fabara
95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

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Canine Units in Afghanistan Issued New Protective Vests

http://nyjtimes.com/cover/03-08-05/AfghanCanineUnitsIssueNewVests.htm

By Spc. Cheryl Ransford
Special to AFPS

Army Sgt. Danny Rogers, a dog handler with the 25th Military Police Company, is "attacked" by Jordon, a military working dog, during a training exercise at the military-operations-in-urban-terrain training site at Bagram Air Base.

Photo by Spc. Cheryl Ransford, USA / DoD Photo

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan -- When canine handlers of the 25th Military Police Company conduct extraction missions and area searches in Afghanistan, their highly trained dogs often serve as the main tool for finding weapons and people in hiding.

To counteract the added dangers these dogs face in the line of duty, their ballistic vest equipment has been upgraded.

"These new vests are an upgrade from the current vests the dogs have been using," said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Thomas, assistant kennel master for the 25th MP Co. "Before, the vests were only stab proof, which worked well for missions in the states. However, with the additional dangers these dogs are facing during this deployment, they are now wearing vests that are not only stab proof, but also bullet proof."

Although the new vests are slightly heavier than the vests the dogs previously used, neither their mobility nor their mission has been hindered by their use. "When the dogs are conducting missions that require them to use the new vests, they are in areas that could possibly cause them to be injured or killed," said Thomas. "They are the first one into the area looking for people or weapons. They help us find the things we can't see."

The vests are currently being used by the K-9 units at Bagram Air Base and Kandahar Airfield, said Sgt. 1st Class Erika Gordon, kennel master for the 25th MP Co. "Even though we only have a few vests at the moment, we are working to get vests for every dog in Afghanistan," she said. "These vests are the dogs' only means of protection. They go in before their handler. It is a matter of 'get them before they get you.' That's why these vests are so important."

The vests are also able to carry all of the dogs' gear, which includes heating or cooling packs. "These vests make us more versatile in what we can do with the dogs," said Gordon.

"Many people may say, 'They're just dogs, why do they need that kind of equipment?' But these dogs are a part of a team and need to be protected just as much as every member of every other team in country," said Thomas.

"These dogs are our partners," he said. "We travel with them, sleep with them and live with them. They are our best friends. Every dog handler will agree that there is nothing we won't do to protect our dogs."


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NAS Fallon's 4-legged 'sailor' now on Middle East combat duty

http://www.lahontanvalleynews.com/

My Turn
David C. Henley
Publisher Emeritus

February 11, 2005


Nearly 200,000 U.S. military personnel are serving under battlefield conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and among these warriors is a fellow named "Lion" whose most recent assignment was NAS Fallon.

Although the Navy cannot reveal to which location Lion has been sent, it can say that he is serving with distinction.

Lion has no last name and wears no uniform. And other than being provided room, board and the love and respect of his fellow Navy men, he draws no pay or allowances. In fact, he's not even human. He's a two-year old Navy dog, a member of the Belgian Malinois breed, who formerly was attached to NAS Fallon's Security Department before being sent overseas on his current temporary duty assignment.

Lion, says NAS Fallon Security team member and dog handler Master at Arms 2 Alan G. Gennette, is one of several Navy dogs serving on temporary duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and is among hundreds of canines on duty around the world with the Navy.

Navy dogs, says Gennette, 31, are like sailors inasmuch as they are required to undergo basic training before they are sent on assignments in the field. Basic training for military dogs of all the services is held at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

There, the dogs, most often Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds, Labradors and even Beagles, undergo rigorous "boot camp" training where they learn how to follow orders from their human handlers, sniff out explosives and drugs, track and capture criminal suspects, and master the arts of crowd control, on-base street patrol and other security requirements.

Dog handlers are required to participate in special training with animals, also conducted at Lackland AFB, as well as graduating from Navy security school before they are issued the master at arms rating.

Learning "dog psychology" is of particular importance to Navy dog handlers, said Gennette, who told me during my visit to the NAS Fallon kennels that military dogs, like human sailors, must show "drive and enthusiasm" before being sent out on assignment.

Dog handlers, in addition to training and working with their animals, also must show constant awareness of their dogs' health and fitness. NAS Fallon's current security dog population of four is regularly examined and treated by Fallon veterinarian Dr. Raymond R. Cooper, a former Army veterinary officer, Gennette said.

During my visit this week at the NAS Fallon kennels, which is adjacent to the base Security Dept., I toured the training yard at the rear of the kennels to observe the Fallon dogs training there.

The spacious facility includes an obstacle course, catwalk, high rise stairs and tunnel where the base's dogs are regularly trained by their handlers. As readers can see from the photo accompanying this story, dogs are required to wiggle through long concrete pipes during training just like human military personnel.

In this photo are seen Gennette and his dog, "Ringo," a five and a half year-old Belgian Malinois who is spending an hour training in the obstacle course before being sent out on security patrol with Gennette.

"Ringo" and the other dogs, "Tosca," "Paco," and "Deni" occupy immaculately clean and attractive one-man (I mean one-dog) "rooms" inside the kennels and are fed a diet of dry "Science Diet" dog food.

Unlike their human Navy companions, they have no worries about car and house payments, promotion exams, family separations and the like. Oh, for the life of a dog!

Dogs, I have learned, have been used by militaries of the world since the late 1800s, when they were initially introduced in Europe. During World War I, the U.S. and its allies as well as the enemy forces in Germany utilized dogs for patrol and other related policing assignments.

At the beginning of the Second World War, the U.S. had only 40 military dogs, all assigned to the Army. Not long after Pearl Harbor, however, the American Kennel Assn. in conjunction with the Army launched a "Dogs for Defense" program in which American dog owners were urged to donate their animals to the defense effort.

Soon, thousands of dogs were available for training as sentry, messenger, patrol and mine detection dogs and were sent overseas to serve in combat. The Navy and Marine Corps also began developing their own dog training programs, and procurement and training centers were opened in Nebraska, Montana, California, Mississippi and North Carolina.

Even the Coast Guard launched a dog program to help that service guard U.S. beaches and ports.

War dogs became popular in the U.S. during World War II, and the Walt Disney Co. in 1993 produced a TV movie named "Chips the War Dog" which told the story of "Chips," an Army scout dog, who won a Silver Star for attacking a German pillbox in Sicily, causing the enemy machine gun crew to surrender as well as capturing several German soldiers.

During The Vietnam War, military dogs also were pressed into service, and the Navy established special K-9 sentry units there in 1967 to assist SEAL teams and jeep patrols.

Today, dogs from all the services are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, on patrol, on sentry duty and on mine, bomb and drug-detection assignments.

For security reasons, the Navy cannot tell us where its dogs, just like its human sailors, are assigned in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But I know that "Lion," the NAS Fallon dog now serving on active duty in one of those two locations, is doing his utmost for a just cause.

And I know that the people of Fallon and Churchill County wish Godspeed to Lion and his handlers as they go about their hazardous duty in the Middle East.

____________________________________________________________


Sunday, December 5, 2004
New homes for 2nd ID's canine pals


By Seth Robson, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Monday, November 29, 2004



Seth Robson / S&S
Capt. Srinivasan Saiprasad, commander of the 82nd Engineer Company, poses with Bruno, one of the last two U.S. Army mascots to live at Camp Edwards, South Korea. Saiprasad is looking after Bruno until the dog travels to the United States to join his adoptive family. Bruno is so large, his plane ticket costs more than it would cost to fly a person there.

CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Some furry friends are headed for the United States to welcome Strike Force (the 2nd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team) soldiers when they return from Iraq.

Area I veterinarian Capt. Michelle Jefferson said last week that several Strike Force mascots will be transported to the States in the coming months, and some will rejoin the unit when it moves to Fort Carson, Colo., next year.

Area I is home to numerous official and unofficial mascots. Some are strays at Camp Casey and, until recently, there were as many as 30 dogs living in the Joint Security Area, a tiny base in the heart of the demilitarized zone, she said.

Fourteen official Strike Force mascots, all dogs, were left behind when Strike Force deployed to Iraq in August. Eight of the mascots are still in Area I being cared for by the rear detachments of units serving in Iraq, she said.

Four mascots already have been transported to the States. Another has been adopted by a Strike Force soldier’s family and is awaiting transport, Jefferson said.

“Units will send some dogs back to the States to meet with the units at Fort Carson and some soldiers are going to adopt the mascots when they PCS (permanent change of station) from here,” she said.

The Strike Force mascots have been exempted from the normal adoption fee, which equates to paying for the dog’s medical bills for the 24 months prior to adoption, she said.

A soldier’s family in Tennessee has adopted Anthrax, a large mixed-breed dog that was the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment mascot, she said.

When a soldier wants to take a dog home from South Korea, the dog normally gets to fly space-available, free of charge, from Osan, Jefferson said.

However, because Anthrax, who weighs 207 pounds, was too big to fly back to the States, the family who adopted him hired a special shipping container, she said.

Three Strike Force mascots were sent to the adoption clinic at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, Jefferson said.

A veterinarian working at Yongsan adopted a large Saint Bernard named Crigg that was the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment mascot, she said.

“This dog is a sweet dog. Crigg was found during (an exercise) in August. One of the dog handlers brought him to us.

“Basically he just walked up to him. There were only two Saint Bernards in Area I so we know who it was. From what I heard he was at Camp Hovey where the soldiers used to live. His demeanor was fine, so somebody was taking care of him,” Jefferson said.

Capt. Srinivasan Saiprasad, commander of the 82nd Engineer Company, is looking after Bruno, another large former Strike Force mascot, who belonged to Charlie Company, 44th Engineers.

Saiprasad, who served with the 44th on a previous posting to South Korea, was quick to volunteer to care for Bruno when he heard the dog needed a home. He even knows Bruno’s lineage, which relates him to another famous 2nd ID mascot named MRE.

“We found out two days prior to C Company getting on the bus. He has got a lot of friends here (at the 82nd),” he said.

While with the 82nd, Bruno has been hanging out with Cadence, a golden retriever that is the unit’s official mascot.

“The dogs go running with us when we do PT on post. Before Cadence got clipped by a car she used to do six-mile road marches with us,” Saiprasad said.

Bruno has been adopted by a soldier’s family and will be sent back to the United States, he said. But because the dog is so large, its plane ticket costs more than it would cost a person to fly there, he added.

_________________________________________________________

Airman, dog provide security for Afghanistan

 


by Senior Airman Catharine Schmidt
Combined Forces Command -- Afghanistan Public Affairs


11/30/2004 - KABUL COMPOUND, Afghanistan (AFPN)  -- In August, Staff Sgt. David Yepsen had to do everything all Airmen do when they deploy, from updating training to getting medically cleared. He also had one more thing to worry about -- his military working dog deploying alongside him.

Sergeant Yepsen and his dog, Dax, from the 43rd Security Forces Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., are both deployed here with the Army’s 58th Military Police Company. They are the only Air Force canine team in Afghanistan. During their six-month tour, when the pair is not providing security at nearby Bagram Air Base, they are providing security here.

Anywhere from 30 to 60 vehicles come onto the compound daily and each is searched by a canine team, said Army Capt. Lorenzo Fiorentino, provost marshal and anti-terrorism force protection officer here.

“A dog can find things a person can’t,” Sergeant Yepsen said. “A dog’s nose is probably 1,000 times (more sensitive) than a human’s nose. So it makes it easier for the dogs to find things that are hidden that (we) can’t find with the naked eye.”

The majority of the vehicles they search, such as septic and construction trucks, are driven by contractors. The team is always on call.

“We search under the hood, inside the car, (in the) wheel wells. Anywhere you could think of to put an explosive is where we look, hoping he doesn’t respond,” Sergeant Yepsen said.

“You have to be able to read your dog, because (it will) have a change of behavior when (it) catches a scent,” he said. “For instance, Dax will put his tail up in the air, his nose will go up, he’ll get real excited, and then start pacing back and forth until he gets to the strongest point of the odor. Once he pinpoints the scent, he’ll sit and wait for me to reward him.”

Besides searching vehicles entering the compound, they search buildings and areas that are going to be used by visiting dignitaries.

“We did a mission for the protective services team,” Sergeant Yepsen said. “We searched a restaurant, the surrounding area and the vehicles in that vicinity to make sure it was safe.”

Not only are they the only Air Force canine team around, Sergeant Yepsen is the only security forces Airman here. He said working with the Army has been a great opportunity, and the Soldiers said he is doing a great job here.

“Staff Sergeant Yepsen exemplifies the true meaning of professionalism and flexibility,” Captain Fiorentino said. “His integration into our operations was practically seamless.”

Since this is Sergeant Yepsen’s first deployment, he said it was nice to deploy with Dax, who has been on numerous deployments.

“Everyone at Pope said that if they had to deploy with a canine ... they would want Dax,” Sergeant Yepsen said.

It could be because of Dax’s mellow temperament or his detection accuracy. But whatever the case, Sergeant Yepsen said he is glad to have him here.

“I miss my dogs at home, and I miss my wife, but it makes it a little easier to have somebody I know here with me,” he said. “He’s a good listener, but he doesn’t talk much.”

Even though the team is on call at all times, they find time to have some fun together, whether it is taking a walk outside, hanging out in their room or shopping at the bazaar.

From work to play, this deployment has strengthened their bond making them an unstoppable team, Sergeant Yepsen said.

___________________________________________________


A case of Semper Fi-do - New gravestones for Marine mascots
 
By Matt Carroll, Globe Staff  |  November 18, 2004
 
HINGHAM -- Semper Fi. Always faithful. It's the Marine Corps motto. So when
the gravestones of two veterans became worn to the point of illegibility,
some local vets responded quickly to a financial appeal to replace the
markers.
 
The Hingham American Legion Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Marine
Corps League each donated $200 to the cause. Michael Cunningham, director of
Hingham's Veterans Services Department, is trying to raise the rest of the
$2,000 needed to pay for and install the new headstones, which have already
been carved with the veterans' names -- Bismark and Butch.
 
Two dogs.
 
Bismark, who died about 1939, was apparently a mixed breed. Butch, who died
in 1950, was an English bulldog.
 
Veterans say it doesn't matter that they were dogs; only that they served in
the Marines.
 
''They're one of us," said Jack Ryan, a former gunnery sergeant and now an
official with the Marine Corps League, an association for active and retired
Marines. ''If you're a Marine -- even if you're a mascot -- you're still a
Marine. If we go to battle stations, the dogs go with us."
 
Butch was buried with full military honors, according to old photographs
that show an honor guard wearing full dress blues and firing a salute over
his grave.
 
The dogs are buried on the site of the former US Naval Ammunition Depot off
Fort Hill Street, at Bare Cove Park in Hingham. Only a few concrete
buildings and foundations remain of what was once a bustling operation that
supplied ammunition to Navy ships during World War I, World War II, and the
Korean War. The installation closed in 1962.
 
The concrete markers over the dogs' graves still stand tall, but their
painted letters have faded so that only dark shapes remain. They are near
the site of a long-gone barracks, said David W. Sturgis, 73, a Marine
veteran whose stepfather, Leonard D. Curcey, was a master sergeant at the
depot.
 
Sturgis said he knew Butch well -- he was the dog's original owner. In about
1945, Sturgis said, his stepfather mentioned the Marines needed a mascot,
and the teen volunteered his pet for duty.
 
Sturgis still visits the grave every afternoon with his two dogs, Sadie, a
Boston terrier, and Sam, a Doberman mix. On a recent trip to the site,
Sturgis showed off Butch's metal-studded leather collar, which he had in the
back of his pickup truck.
 
Butch grew so accustomed to accompanying Marines on train rides to Boston
that he would sometimes hop on a train to South Station by himself and nose
around for hamburgers and hot dogs, said Sturgis.
 
The dog died at about 11 years old, while Sturgis was serving in Korea with
the Marines.
 
Fred E. Zumbahlen of Weymouth, a former Marine whose service during World
War II included two years at the Hingham depot, said another bulldog mascot,
Gregory, accompanied the Marines everywhere.
 
''Those fellows thought a lot about those dogs," he said. ''They were like
little pals to us." He said he does not know what happened to Gregory.
 
The tradition of keeping English bulldogs as unofficial mascots dates to
World War I, said Gunnery Sergeant Kristine Scarber, a Marine spokeswoman in
Washington, D.C.
 
Jon Cutler, owner of the Hingham-based Cutler Stoneworks, arranged for the
work on the stones, which will be installed by Revival Stoneworks of
Hingham. Four granite pillars will surround the display. No date has been
set for placing the stones, but it is expected to be soon, said Cunningham.
 
In addition to the dogs' individual headstones, a third stone is engraved
with the depiction of a bulldog wearing a helmet. An inscription reads,
''Here lies two US Marines buried with military honors. Semper Fidelis."
 
__________________________________________________
 

From Stubby to Private Hammer: mascots boost morale for military




Associated Press

When Air Force pilot Russ Steber was air-dropping food and supplies to the blockaded residents of Berlin in 1948, his pet boxer dog roamed around the cockpit.

When word got back to Gen. Curtis LeMay, commander of the Berlin Airlift, Steber was summoned to the general's office.

"I thought, 'Oh boy, I'm in trouble,'" Steber recalled thinking.

LeMay surprised him.

"He said, 'This is one of the best morale builders I've had on the airlift, and I would like to have a parachute made for the dog,'" said Steber, 86, of Melbourne, Fla.

A new exhibit at the U.S. Air Force Museum pays tribute to the boxer, among animal mascots that historians say have played an important role in boosting soldiers' spirits throughout the history of the U.S. military.

"It just goes so far to increase morale - that somebody else, something else is sharing their experience with that level of tail-wagging and enthusiasm," said Terry Aitken, the museum's senior curator. "It takes you away from life-and-death issues."

Steber outfitted the dog with a small cargo parachute that would automatically open if the crew had to bail out.

And, at LeMay's suggestion, Steber changed the name of the dog from Bjorn Von Mulenthal to Vittles after Operation Vittles, code name for the airlift launched by Britain, France and the United States after the Soviet Union cut off all land and water routes to West Berlin in an attempt to starve the western powers out.

Vittles flew in 131 missions with Steber - and more with other crews - and never had to use the parachute.

Having mascots in combat situations is not without risk. Vittles' curiosity in the cockpit is one example.

"One time he stuck his nose in an electrical outlet and liked to wreck the airplane," Steber recalled.

Aitken said lion cubs were adopted by American volunteer pilots who flew with the French Air Force during World War I. But he said the cubs didn't work out because when they got larger they became too hard to handle.

Some mascots were an advantage on the battlefield.

Stubby, a boxer-terrier, was the mascot of a Connecticut-based infantry unit stationed in Europe during World War I. The dog's keen sense of smell alerted the troops to German gas attacks.

Union troops adopted an eagle named Old Abe to scout out Confederate troops, which put a bounty on the bird's head. The eagle was wounded twice in 36 battles, but survived the war.

The Army's 101st Airborne Division bears the nickname Screaming Eagles after Old Abe.

In the early days of the U.S. Navy, cats were commonly adopted to rid ships of rats, said Jack Green, historian at the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C. Dogs and monkeys obtained by sailors during shore leave later showed up on ships, he said.

Mascots often became a symbol of a unit and served as something to rally around, Green said. The animals often were allowed to stay on board if the crew took care of them and they didn't get in the way, he said.

"It tended to be what the commanding officer would put up with," Green said.

Springer Spaniels became so popular as mascots in the 1950s that the Navy produced a recruiting poster with one of the dogs sitting next to a sailor, he said.

Exotic animals also have served as mascots.

Big John, a 12-foot-long alligator, was used as a swamp-training aid for Army Rangers at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida for four decades before dying in 2000.

Private Hammer, a tabby cat, was adopted last year by a U.S. Army unit stationed in Iraq. The soldiers would tuck the cat under their body armor during artillery attacks.

Ron Aiello, a Marines scout-dog handler in the Vietnam War, said his German Shepherd was a stress buster for him in the high-stress environment.

"It made a world of difference," said Aiello, president of the U.S. War Dogs Association. "I had companionship all the time there."

ON THE NET

U.S. Air Force Museum: http://www.wpafb.af.mil/museum/

Naval Historical Center: http://www.history.navy.mil/

U.S. War Dogs Association: http://www.uswardogs.org/

___________________________________________________

Belvoir military police K-9 team deploys to Iraq

September 23, 2004

By Jennifer Brennan
Staff writer


Sgt. Brian Legger left for Iraq Saturday with a four-legged companion by his side.

The Fort Belvoir 212th Military Police Detachment military working dog handler left with his assigned partner – a 3-year-old German shepherd.


Photo by Quentin Hunstad
Military police officer Sgt. Brian Legger with his explosives detection dog, Vendy.

Legger volunteered to assist in force protection in Iraq about three weeks ago after a task force requested a dog for force protection.

Military working dogs are needed in Iraq to sniff out explosive devices, said Staff Sgt. Jimmy Blankenship, Fort Belvoir kennel master.

Legger is uncertain what he’ll be doing while in Iraq but said it could be “a variety of things.”

Legger’s dog, Vendy is trained to search for explosive devices.
Although it is uncertain what Legger’s duties are, one thing that remains certain is Legger and Vendy’s companionship.

Legger brought Vendy to the post Veterinary Clinic Sept. 16 for a final check-up, one of many things left to do before he departed from his home in Woodbridge. In the clinic parking lot, Legger leaned against a military police vehicle marked “K-9 Military Working Dogs” while Vendy stayed in the car awaiting her checkup.

In the past six months, Legger and Vendy have worked together during patrol missions, security and gate checks and searching vehicles for explosives.

Legger knows he can count on Vendy to keep him alert.

“She’s hyper,” Legger said. “She’s still a puppy.”

He finds comfort in having his four-legged partner deploying to Iraq at his side.

“At least you’ve got somebody there, somebody to watch your back,” he said.

The duration of the deployment is unknown, yet Legger said he doesn’t think it will be longer than a year. He assumes it will be time to come home when someone comes to replace him or the mission is over, he said.

Legger leaves behind a sister in Woodbridge, brother and father in New York and mother in Maryland.

Legger, who described himself as shy and conservative around people he barely knows, shared mixed feelings toward leaving.

“I’m kinda’ excited and worried at the same time,” Legger said.

His reasons for worrying are shared by his family, he said.

“Well, shoot, I might not come back,” Legger said.

He’s watched the news and seen the fate of others in Iraq.

His family also has reservations.

“They hate it,” he said. “Because they know what could happen over
there.”

But his family also supports him, he said.

“They knew what I was getting into when I enlisted. It’s part of the job,” he said.

_________________________________________________________

003.jpg

Security forces say farewell to four-legged partner
 
by 1st Lt. Nathan Broshear
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs


7/30/2004 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- Staff Sgt. Pablo Martinez's best friend retired from active duty July 27. Instead of bringing him a plaque or other token, Sergeant Martinez threw him a rubber ball attached to a nylon rope. It was the perfect gift.

Dolfy, a military working dog for the 82nd Security Forces Squadron here, received all the honors and accolades one might expect for a retiring human security forces troop, including a Meritorious Service Certificate and retirement papers.

Tech. Sgt. Buffie Verhagen, the squadron's kennel master, said the picture-perfect long-haired shepherd's presence on the force will be missed.

"He's an amazing dog ... gentle and obedient, but he's all business when it comes to explosive detection and patrol duty," she said. "If he did not have these medical ailments, I know he'd gladly work for the rest of his life as a military working dog."

Dolfy was medically retired from active duty because of a degenerative back disorder which hinders him from performing patrol duty and other tasks. Although his condition causes him a significant amount of pain, Sergeant Martinez said Dolfy’s duty always overrode the discomfort.

"Dolfy will work all day for a few minutes of playing with his ball or a good scratch," he said. "There's no slowing him down, but searching high and low all day will certainly hurt him. This retirement is the most humane thing to do."

The dog is headed for a life of rest and relaxation – with the Martinez family.

"He's going from being a military working dog, to being just a normal family dog," Sergeant Martinez said. "We're going to spoil him rotten."

Sergeant Martinez and his wife are looking forward to the newest addition to their home. Until 2000, working dog handlers could not adopt dogs that were retired from active duty. But under a program that screens retiring working dogs, Sergeant Martinez was able to bring home this companion and protector for his family.

During his five and a half years of military service -- 38 and a half in dog years -- Dolfy has served in a variety of deployed locations including Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Austin, Texas.

Dolfy has searched vehicles, luggage, packages and buildings for some of the most high-profile leaders in government.

"In Austin, Dolfy helped to enhance the safety of (first lady Laura Bush during her) visit to the city," the sergeant said, "and he's been directly involved with several visits by the president and vice president of the United States."

One particular mission was of special importance. During the Unity of the Americas Conference in Mexico, Dolfy helped protect the site for the presidents from every country in North and South America.

"We were responsible for securing President Bush's vehicle and the buildings, and checking gifts that were presented to dignitaries such as (Mexico) President Vicente Fox," Sergeant Martinez said. "Dolfy seemed to understand that his job was important, and he gave 100 percent every day."

At Dolfy's retirement ceremony, Sergeant Martinez said that human military members work for their country and monetary compensation. Military working dogs, however, devote their service for their favorite toy and compassion from their handlers.

"I used to reward Dolfy for detection duty with this rubber ball only after he completed his tasks. Now he can play all he wants," Sergeant Martinez said during Dolfy's retirement ceremony.

With that, Sergeant Martinez presented Dolfy with the white rubber ball used to motivate him to protect countless men and women from harm.

"Thank you my friend," he said. "The U.S. Air Force and the United States of America thanks you." (Courtesy of Air Education and Training Command News Service)
 
___________________________________________________

Transient troops get a place for pets


By Franklin Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Thursday, July 8, 2004

When soldiers arrive for duty in Taegu, South Korea, chances are they’re jet-lagged and ready for a good night’s sleep.

If their pets made the flight over with them, no doubt they’re worn out, too, especially after being cooped up for hours in the air.

But now, those new arrivals can put their dogs or cats in a clean, safe, self-help kennel right at Camp Walker, only yards from the Walker Army Lodge, where most transients stay, and next door to the post’s veterinary clinic.

The one-story, cement-block structure is set up with three 25-foot kennels for big dogs and six cages for smaller dogs and cats. Owners can bathe their pets in a large tub or small sink, and use hoses for spray-down cleaning. The building also is equipped with a ventilation system to reduce pet odors, and with year-round temperature control — heat in cold weather, air conditioning when it’s hot.

“So everyone’s pet will be cozy even in the hottest of Taegu’s summers and in the coldest of winters,” said Kevin B. Jackson, a spokesman for Area IV Support Activity at Camp Henry in Taegu.

The free kennel, available to active-duty soldiers and Defense Department civilians, operates on a first-come, first-served basis, Jackson said in a telephone interview.

“When we arrived we brought a dog and a cat from Virginia,” Army Col. James M. “Mike” Joyner, the Area IV Support Activity commander, said in a news release. “We were told you can’t keep pets in Army Lodging, so that creates a dilemma. When your pets are part of the family, what do you do with them in a situation like that?”

Joyner ends his two-year Taegu tour Thursday and will leave for a new assignment.

Construction of the $52,000 kennel began in May, said Jackson. It opened July 1. The Area IV Support Activity funded the project out of the $500,000 cash award it received after being chosen the Department of the Army Communities of Excellence 2003 silver finalist.

“We looked at different ideas and decided on a self-help pet care center near the lodge where people can be nearby to walk, feed, water and wash their pets,” Joyner said. “It will be much more convenient than having to go downtown when you have transportation and language barriers, not to mention the expense of kenneling a pet.”

Pet owners wanting to use the kennel can pick up keys at the Walker Army Lodge. They’ll be given keys to the building and to their pet’s cage.

The building has enough room for more cages to be added later, according to James Hamilton, Area IV interim director of public works.

“The building is designed for ease of cleaning and has room to grow if usage warrants,” Hamilton said in the news release. “All pet owners need to do is bring their own pet food and shampoo. Since it is self-help, people will have to make sure to keep the facility clean.”

“In all of my travels,” said Joyner, “I’ve never seen a place where self-help pet care was available. This should provide a great service to the community.”

__________________________________________________________




When Sgt. Rex, a military working dog, is around everyone wants to ask questions of Cpl. Michael C. Dowling, a military dog handler with 1st Marine Division.  The 25-year-old from Richmond, Calif., uses Rex to help the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment during their missions to help sniff out explosives and to deter would-be attackers.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes)  Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes
Long days rough on Lejeune battalion's shortest Marine
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 2004725515
Story by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes



CAMP MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq(June 30, 2004) -- Its easy to see why some might be annoyed by Sgt. Rex. He's not what you'd call a typical Marine.

His hair is pushing the three-inch limit and he's always talking out of turn. He's also always sticking his nose into everybody's business, which is exactly why the Marines from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment love him.

From sun-up to sundown, the three-year old German Shepherd, a military working dog, trots alongside his handler. He's a veteran of two firefights and his nearest medical care is an hour away. Still, Rex plods along on his four paws, carrying out his duties to the Corps.

"It's a shepherd's mentality to love to work," said Cpl. Michael C. Dowling, a 25-year-old Richmond, Calif., dog handler attached to the battalion. "He loves doing his job, even when his reward is a rubber ball he can play with."

Dowling said Rex has earned the respect of the Marines, none of whom seem to doubt he's earned his stripes. He's on call every day, works through the heat with a single ambition to protect Marines.

"Rex has the title of sergeant because we're always taught to treat our dogs like they were one rank higher - with respect," Dowling explained. "He's earned it. Rex has been through two major firefights and acted great. Loud noises don't bother him at all."

The working dog is kept busy because the services Rex offers are in such high demand.

On June 29, Rex was called out to sweep a council building to make sure it was safe for the military officials to go inside later that day. He quickly went to work sniffing through every room with his handler close behind.

When Rex had checked every room and the yard of the building, he waited with his handler by their Humvee. The local Iraqis gave Rex a lot of space - they are mostly afraid of dogs and Rex doesn't help to change that image.

"He'll bark at Iraqis no matter who they are or what they're doing," Dowling said. "He's very protective of the Marines here."

Still, that doesn't mean Rex isn't cool under fire. He's never been one to tuck his tail.

The police station next door to the council building was attacked with small arms and rocket fire earlier that morning. The Iraqi police were taking the wounded to an ambulance. The activity was drawing a large crowd of onlookers, blocking the ambulance from leaving.

Police responded by shooting an AK-47 in the air, which caused the Marines to all aim in on the policeman. As shouts of "It's friendly fire!" echoed in the air and rifles were lowered, Rex remained undisturbed the whole time.

"He's used to the gunfire and won't react unless he's told to," Dowling said.

From the council building Rex and his handler rode back to the forward operating base where they soaked up the air conditioning.

"Rex has this thick coat of fur on him. It's twice as hot for him as it is for us," Dowling said, petting Rex's side. "The only way he can cool off is through the pads of his feet or his mouth, so when it's hot outside it really does a number on him."

Rex enjoys laying inside his kennel or on Dowling's rack. The kennel is like Rex's "den" Dowling explained.

"In the wild, canines make their homes inside of cool dark places, so in the heat his kennel is one of the best spots for him to relax," he said.

The team received word that they would be needed to help search a group of buildings for explosives. Marines believed the buildings were used for building vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. The handler and dog were used to this kind of work. In fact, it's the mission for which they're trained.

"Military dogs are trained from a young age at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas," Dowling said. "Rex picked up on the training very quickly and then moved to Camp Pendleton where he worked until arriving with me in Iraq in March."

Dowling explained Rex was trained to sniff for explosives like C-4 and other plastic explosives.

Rex moved his way in and out of all the buildings, sniffing carefully in, around and under everything he crossed. Still, even the full day's duty in the heat of Iraq wore on him. As the afternoon heat began to subside, Rex was dog-tired. Eventually, Dowling had to call it a day.

"Rex has taken a lot of heat today," he said. "He's just too tired right now to do his job as well as he could."

Dowling took Rex back to the vehicles and made sure he had as much cold water as he wanted to drink. The dog's sides moved in and out quickly as his tongue dripped saliva onto the ground. The heat was still strong enough to soak every Marine underneath their flak jackets but because of Rex's body, he couldn't expel heat so easily.

Eventually the cool water and small piece of shade he had claimed cooled him enough to stop panting. Marines continued to search the buildings until all of them were cleared.

After loading up, the Marines spun the vehicles around and headed back to their camp. Rex laid down in between the feet of the warriors, his head resting on Dowling's boot.

"Rex is worn out for the day," Dowling said with a smile. "But he did a good job, didn't you boy?" he said as he scratched the dog's head.

"When we get back, Rex's needs aren't different from the rest of the Marines here," Dowling said. "He just wants chow and sleep."

___________________________________________________

The Iraqi heat takes its toll on many Marines, especially those wearing fur.  For Sgt. Rex, a military working dog, braving the same temperatures - and dangers - of Marines is just a normal day.  The German Shepherd aides the Marines by sniffing out explosives and acting as a psychological deterrent against enemy forces.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes)  Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

PhotoID: 20047251028
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Operation/Exercise/Event:
Operation Iraqi Freedom II


Caption:
The Iraqi heat takes its toll on many Marines, especially those wearing fur. For Sgt. Rex, a military working dog, braving the same temperatures - and dangers - of Marines is just a normal day. The German Shepherd aides the Marines by sniffing out explosives and acting as a psychological deterrent against enemy forces.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes)

Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes


Read Story Associated with this photo



Date the Photo was taken:06/30/2004
This Image has been cleared for release.
__________________________________________________

The job of military working dog Sgt. Rex doesn't stop when he's not sniffing out explosives. The three- year-old German Shepherd wards off curious Iraqis with his presence, helping keep Marines that much safer.                 
(USMC photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes) Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

PhotoID: 20047251835
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Operation/Exercise/Event:
Operation Iraqi Freedom II


Caption:
The job of military working dog Sgt. Rex doesn't stop when he's not sniffing out explosives. The three- year-old German Shepherd wards off curious Iraqis with his presence, helping keep Marines that much safer.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes)

Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes


Read Story Associated with this photo



Date the Photo was taken:06/30/2004
This Image has been cleared for release.

__________________________________________________


When Sgt. Rex, a military working dog, is around everyone wants to ask questions of Cpl. Michael C. Dowling, a military dog handler with 1st Marine Division.  The 25-year-old from Richmond, Calif., uses Rex to help the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment during their missions to help sniff out explosives and to deter would-be attackers.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes)  Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

PhotoID: 2004725822
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Operation/Exercise/Event:
Operation Iraqi Freedom II


Caption:

When Sgt. Rex, a military working dog, is around everyone wants to ask questions of Cpl. Michael C. Dowling, a military dog handler with 1st Marine Division. The 25-year-old from Richmond, Calif., uses Rex to help the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment during their missions to help sniff out explosives and to deter would-be attackers.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes)

Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes


Read Story Associated with this photo



Date the Photo was taken:06/30/2004

This Image has been cleared for release.

___________________________________________________________________

Military working dog retires after 12 years with Air Force in Japan


By Megan Mouch, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Spending 12 years working in Air Force security was a dog’s life but at least when Rex relinquishes his badge Thursday, he’s to get full military honors.

Not to mention a cushy retirement job as a family pet.

Rex, a military working dog, is to be given an official retirement ceremony at Yokota Air Base in Japan.

A Belgian Malinois, he was born in 1992 and started his training in 1994 as a narcotics detector dog. He arrived at Yokota in March 1995 to work for the 374th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog Section.

And he became the first certified dog in the Pacific region to detect the drug Ecstasy, said Tech. Sgt. Jean LeBlanc, who works in the squadron.

Rex has had several handlers, said Tech. Sgt. Gerald Dion; the most recent one rotated out of Yokota more than a year ago.

Rex was not assigned another handler after that because it was time to begin his transition out of the military.

Thursday’s ceremony will be conducted in the same fashion as ceremonies for humans who leave the military, Dion said, including the posting of the flags, the playing of the national anthem and a reading of Rex’s biography.

The ceremony also will feature a change of duty between Rex and his replacement, Elra.

Elra will be given Rex’s badge, signifying that Rex’s military service officially is complete.

Elra is a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois who came to Yokota in March and will be one of seven dogs assigned to the security squadron.

Dion will be Rex’s handler for the ceremony. Elra’s handler is Staff Sgt. Matthew Claxton. The ceremony is to take place at 2:30 p.m. at the Yokota Base Theater.

Once retired, Rex will remain in Japan in his new role as house pet, thanks to a Yokota family who has adopted him, LeBlanc said

_________________________________________________________

MP K-9s enhance force protection efforts   Army News Service

By Staff Sgt. Monica R. Garreau

Sgt. Grady Bentley, 58th MP Co. a dog handler, instructs Britt to search a cement truck for explosives prior to the truck entering Bagram Air
Base. The K-9s serve as an addition to the force protection efforts conducted daily by MPs. They are also trained to participate in combat patrols. Sgt. Grady Bentley, 58th MP Co. a dog handler, instructs Britt to search a cement truck for explosives prior to the truck entering Bagram Air Base. The K-9s serve as an addition to the force protection efforts conducted daily by MPs. They are also trained to participate in combat patrols.
Staff Sgt. Monica R. Garreau

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (Army News Service June 24, 2004)-- Man’s best friend is playing a new role in Operation Enduring Freedom. Several K-9s, or military working dogs, are serving in Afghanistan, adding to the force protection efforts of the military police charged with safeguarding Coalition assets.

The K-9s are trained to detect multiple types of explosives including det cord, C-4, TNT, potassium and sodium chlorate. These highly trained dogs, and their handlers, are tasked with checking for explosives on vehicles and personnel wishing to gain entrance on to Bagram Air Base.

“Anything coming through the gate is checked by the dogs,” said Staff Sgt. Orm Jenkins, kennel master and military working dog liaison for the 58th Military Police Company.

Using a series of commands, the handler and dog team thoroughly inspect each vehicle bringing supplies and services to Bagram and other parts of the country.

The dog’s play a vital role in protecting the base by searching all of the supplies entering the base.

And the Military Police who man the gates appreciate the added force protection benefit with the dogs being on site.

“The dogs are really a great addition to what we’re doing out here,” said Pfc. Bertram Johnson, a military policeman attached to the 551st MP Company. “The trucks go through the X-ray machine, but there’s always that ‘what if,’ and the dogs take away that ‘what if.’ ”

That “what if” came into play during a recent vehicle inspection when Jenkins’ dog, Wilson, responded to the scent of explosives on a dump truck. Although the explosive ordinance detachment determined the dog must have picked up on explosive residue and there were no explosives on the vehicle, still it was turned away from Bagram.

These measures prove that it is better to be safe than risk the lives of Coalition troops and the dogs are an important part of safeguarding these troops.

Although the current mission is focused on force protection, the dogs are also trained to accompany Coalition troops on combat patrols. The dogs have sniffed out weapons caches and are a form of non-lethal force useful on the battlefield, said Jenkins. There is also one dog trained specifically to search for narcotics.

These animals are the best choice for all of these types of operations because of their sensitive noses, giving them a strong sense of smell.

“(Imagine if you were to) walk into a room and smell a pot of stew cooking,” Jenkins said. “Humans, we just smell the stew. A dog smells each individual item cooking -- the carrots, the onion, the salt and pepper.”

When searching for explosives or narcotics, the dogs are very mission-focused, paying close attention to the handler’s instructions, sticking close to the intensive training they have received. But off-duty, they resemble any other dog, serving as their handler’s best friend.

“The rapport with all our handlers and dogs is real tight,” Jenkins said.

Being deployed has brought the handler/dog teams even closer, since the handlers live next to the kennels.

“Sometimes we bring the dogs in our hooches to sleep at night,” Jenkins said. “It keeps the bond closer.”

In this line of work it is important that handlers have a strong bond with their dogs, he said.

“Once you have that strong rapport, you know that dog will go through hell and high water for you.”

Although the presence of the dogs will prove invaluable if an explosive is found being smuggled on to Bagram Air Base, they continue to serve as a deterrent to would-be terrorists.

“Just with them knowing we’re here and seeing the dogs here,” said Jenkins. “It’s one more obstacle that a terrorist has to overcome.”

Satisfaction from a job well done for these handlers comes from understanding their role as deterrents.

“One of the things in the K-9 world is, in the narcotic world, you want to have finds,” said Jenkins. “In the explosive world, you hope not to have any finds.”

(Editors note: Staff Sgt. Monica R. Garreau is from 17th Public Affairs Detachment.)

___________________________________________________

DCMILITARY.COM

June 18, 2004

Military police dogs demonstrate their skill

Photos by Spc. Joshau McPhie

Spc. Timothy Harvey sends his partner Zony after radio personality Flounder during the demonstration Monday.

by Spc. Joshua McPhie
Pentagram staff writer

Fort Myer Military Police dog handlers had a chance to show off their skills as part off a morning radio show broadcast Monday.

Local station DC 101 sent Flounder, a member of its morning show, to help with the demonstration by playing the guy the dogs attack.

"I thought it was amazing," said Flounder. He had the opportunity to be attacked several times by a military police dog. He was even attacked by two and three dogs at the same time, most of it while on the air.

Military police and the radio station had been working together for several weeks to arrange the demonstration.

"We actually called them because we heard on the radio they had an interest in the dogs," said Spc. Timothy Harvey, one of the military police dog handlers who participated in the demonstration. "From hearing what they said on the radio, we knew they were more interested in the aggression part of the demo but we wanted to make sure they understood the whole concept."

Before the demonstration started, military police briefed Flounder on what would happen during the demonstration and helped him into a bite-resistant training suit. The radio personality said he became more confident once the military police trained him on what would be happening.

"Those dogs are so well trained," he said. "I'd definitely do this again."

Military police gave a basic demonstration, which mostly focused on how the dogs aid their partners in apprehending a suspect.

"It's the same stuff we do whether people are watching us or not," said Sgt. Viridiana Lavelle, a dog handler. Handlers train with their dogs almost every day, even coming in to work with their dog on their days off.

At a minimum, the handlers and their dog get four hours of aggression training and four of detection training each week, according to Harvey.

"Nine times out of ten our demonstrations are for civilians or schools," said Sgt. Eric Knapp, a dog handler. "It's fun, because other people get enjoyment out of seeing
Flounder gets a less than friendly greeting from one of the dogs during the demonstration.
what we do. People are inquisitive, they want to learn about what we do and learn about the dogs. Its fun for us to go out there and show people what we do."

All the handlers agreed working with the dogs is enjoyable.

"Its rewarding to be able to watch your dog learn off of you and you learn from your dog, the way one dog and one handler are put together like a team and the way they work together," said Lavelle. "Its interesting how much a dog can learn and how much they can do. A lot of people don't realize their capabilities."

"It's a good job if you love animals and you like law enforcement, it puts both of them together," said Sgt. Jessica Whiteknight, another dog handler.

While military police dogs may look like a pet, they don't act like it. They are trained to fiercely protect their partner.

"When [people] see us standing out at the gate, [the dog's] not a pet you come up to," Whiteknight said. She said people often want to come up and see the dog.

"Stay away from me, stay away from my dog. You cannot pet him," warns Knapp. While well-trained, the dogs are not used to being handled by untrained people.

Harvey sees the demonstration as a way to increase the public's awareness about military police dog teams.

"A lot goes on that people don't see," he said. He said he felt the demonstration was successful. "We had people stopping by to say, 'I heard you on the radio.'"

___________________________________________

 
 
 
 
 
 

Jun 30, 2004 8:46 am US/Eastern
Beaver Falls
(AP)
Vandals struck the grave of what some people call one of the heroes from World War Two.

A metal marker was bent and a number of American flags were stolen from the grave of Ginger, a German Shepherd, that pointed out snipers and other hidden enemies for U.S. soldiers.

She was wounded three times by gunfire before she returned to the states and took up residence in North Sewickley Township in Beaver County. The dog's name is engraved in bronze on a soldier's memorial in Ellwood City.

The dog was adopted by the community following the war, but she died a short time later.

A group of residents in the community are working to restore the grave site before the July 4th festivities.
___________________________________________________
 

Military dogs train hard, work harder
Associated Press
 11/15/04
 
GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Avar and Aladar traveled around the country protecting
the president. In Iraq, they searched vehicles and patrolled the perimeter
fence of an undisclosed military base.
 
No, they are not secret service agents. They are military working dogs from
Grand Forks Air Force Base.
 
Military working dogs are an essential part of security operations at home
and overseas, said Staff Sgt. Daniel Casetta, a handler for the 319th
Security Forces Squadron.
 
"Just having the dogs there is such a huge deterrent that terrorists don't
try to send anything through the base," Casetta said of bases the dogs
patrolled in Iraq.
 
As they sink their teeth into their trainer's bite jacket, it is not
difficult to see why they call them "war dogs." Salivating, fully enraged,
the dogs rip off the handler's jacket in a matter of seconds.
 
Avar and Aladar earned the distinction of war dogs in 2003 when they were
deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
 
Military working dogs are a valuable asset to the Air Force and the
Department of Defense, so keeping them in good health is a primary concern,
said Sgt. Michael Laughlin, a kennel master.
 
"Just like airmen, they have to go through a pre- and post-deployment
physical exam," Laughlin said.
 
Regular veterinary exams guarantee the dogs are in good condition but also
help detect any disease they may have caught in a remote location, he said.
 
When they are not deployed, military working dogs assist military police in
vehicle searches, base surveillance, presidential missions and bomb threats.
They also participate in local K-9 demonstrations.
 
Because of the delicate nature of their job, which includes explosive and
narcotic detection, the Defense Department buys dogs only from top breeders
in Europe. The dogs undergo strict physical and psychological evaluations in
Europe and the United States.
 
Then, they are shipped to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, a central
training and distribution location where they are tested for skills such as
drive, reflex and ability to learn.
 
"It is more difficult for a dog to enter the Air Force than it is for a
human," Casetta said.
 
At the dog academy, each dog gets a file and identification number, and it
is paired up with a handler in one of the many K-9 units around the country.
 
Continued training is the key to keeping war dogs fit. A minimum of one hour
a day every day is the rule of thumb for maintaining and sharpening their
combat skills. Basic obedience, patrol, detection and bite training are some
of the many exercises they practice on base and overseas.
 
But not everything revolves around military tactics and work, Laughlin said.
Handlers make a point to reward the dog for good behavior. They pet them,
play with them and even feed them on their days off.
 
"The dog always wins," Laughlin said. "Otherwise, they're not going to enjoy
what they do."
 
The bond between a dog and its trainer grows stronger as they go through
deployments, missions and sometimes life-threatening experiences, said Staff
Sgt. Archie Maggard, a former handler on the base.
 
He finds comfort in knowing that his dog would sacrifice its life for him
without hesitating, Maggard said.
 
During the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Maggard was patrolling the soccer
stadium with his dog, Kevin. Suddenly a bomb went off, Maggard said. People
ran away frantically, but he remained relatively calm, he said.
 
"I knew Kevin would find whatever was out there and protect me," Maggard
said.
 
The two main breeds used by the military are the German shepherd and the
Belgian malinois. The latter is preferred because it has a higher drive, and
it is faster and more agile, Casetta said.
 
Dogs that lose their ability to detect explosives or narcotics but are able
to perform bite-and-hold maneuvers on suspects are transferred to police
units, Casetta said.
 
Older dogs, especially those unable to perform any kind of security work,
are usually adopted by their trainers, Casetta said.
 
Military working dogs, like seeing-eye dogs, are service pets. Supervised,
they are allowed almost everywhere, including hotel beds and airline seats,
Maggard said.
 
"If we go on presidential missions, the hotels we stay at are the same the
president stays at," he said. "At the Market (Hotel) in Minneapolis, they
actually treated the dogs just as well as they treated us."
 
Grand Forks Air Force Base has more than 4,800 acres of land, so when it
gets cold or snows, handlers dress the dogs with sweaters and boots.
 
In Iraq, where fall daytime temperatures reach about 80 degrees, handlers
use specially designed gear to keep the dogs cool and hydrated, said Tech
Sgt. Bob Oldham.
 
"They drink the doggie version of human sports drink," he said. "They also
have special equipment that works like an ice pack to help them stay cool
when temperatures rise."
 
Deployments for dog-and-trainer teams typically last six to eight months.
And whether they are on temporary duty in another city or in a tent in the
desert, handlers appreciate the companionship of their loyal friends,
Maggard said.
 
"When you are off, it's just you and your dog hanging out, and he's pretty
much like a pet," said Maggard, who adopted the first dog put up for
adoption at Grand Forks Air Force Base.
 
"The good thing about dogs is that you can tell them about a problem that
you're having, and they're not going to tell anybody."
 
___________________________________________________
Working dog handler receives Purple Heart
 
Awarded Purple Heart
Staff Sgt. Robert Brown, 42nd Security Forces Squadron working dog handler at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., received a Purple Heart Jan. 31 for wounds he sustained when he and his military working dog Nero deployed to Iraq. While checking a field near Tahrir City, Iraq, Nero warned the sergeant to an improvised explosive device hidden in the field. The IED was then detonated by an insurgent, and Sergeant Brown suffered a concussion and a contusion to his right leg. (U.S. Air Force photo/Carl Bergquist)
 
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by Carl Bergquist
Air University Public Affairs


1/31/2007 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNEWS) -- "Today, you have an example of what a truly great NCO can be," said the 42nd Air Base Wing commander to those attending the January and February enlisted promotion ceremony at the Enlisted Club Jan. 31.

Col. Pete Costello referred to Staff Sgt. Robert Brown, a 42nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler. Sergeant Brown received a Purple Heart at the ceremony for wounds he received while he and his military working dog Nero were deployed to Iraq.

The colonel said the Purple Heart is the oldest medal in the American military, devised by Gen. George Washington to reward his troops for wounds sustained in battle, and that it was a "very special day" at Maxwell-Gunter. He said it was nice to be able to present the medal at a formal observance.

"Unlike today, many military members coming back don't receive their Purple Heart at a ceremony, but in a hospital bed," Colonel Costello said.

Sergeant Brown said it was also a special day for him, and he felt, "overwhelmed."

"I'm glad I'm back here in one piece, as it could have been a lot worse for us," he said. "I never would have thought my deployment to Iraq would result in a ceremony like this," Sergeant Brown noted.

Sergeant Brown said he was grateful for the assistance Nero gave him during the deployment, but especially on that day. He said he might have been killed if Nero had not warned him of the danger.

Sergeant Brown, who has been in the Air Force about eight years, sustained a concussion and a contusion to his right leg when an improvised explosive device exploded. He and Nero were checking a field in Tahrir City, Iraq, for hidden weapons when Nero alerted to a suspicious object. The object was detonated by a nearby insurgent, and shrapnel struck the sergeant in the head and leg.

Ginger Brown, Sergeant Brown's wife, said she is "very proud" of him and glad he returned safely back home.

"When something like this happens, it makes you reassess your priorities and value and appreciate each other a little more," she said. "I knew about deployments when I married him, and I know he will probably be going back again. And, I will be waiting for him when he returns."

Mrs. Brown said she too loves Nero and is grateful to him for his actions on that day in Iraq. She said being a working dog handler was what her husband always wanted to do in the Air Force, and he has worked with Nero since his arrival at Maxwell.

 

 

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