<b> CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq</b> - Theirs is an elite unit, full of dedicated Soldiers who continuously train to take the enemy down. Their success has gone largely unnoticed, but they have done everything from take down some of the biggest enemies of freedom to finding countless improvised explosive devices.

These Soldiers are quicker, more agile, more flexible and can accomplish a number of missions your average humans can't - because they're not human. They are the dogs of the Contingency Operating Base Speicher Canine Kennel Unit.

On Nov. 29, Soldiers with Task Force Marne volunteered to participate in weekly training for these canines - by getting bit. They put on protective suits and helped the dogs train by getting attacked while wearing the gear.

Sergeant First Class Jack, a canine with the COB Speicher canine unit, was one of the animals who took part in the required weekly training. The dogs of the kennel unit are given a higher rank than their trainer. While there is no official reason, there are many legends as to why dogs are given a higher rank. One of the most accepted is that no Soldier is supposed to strike their superior and, if a trainer mishandles a dog he, or she will be treated as if a superior was struck.

Sergeant First Class Jack eagerly attacked all of the volunteers, regardless of their rank, making himself a quicker runner and a better biter in the process. While he enjoyed the training, the volunteers got a lot out of the event as well.

"It definitely gets the adrenaline pumping," said Capt. Philip Balliet, aviation current operations officer in charge for TF Marne. "It's exciting from start to finish. When you're looking, they have you turn away and run, and you can't see the dogs coming, all you do is hear it. Then all of a sudden, the dog makes contact with you.

"When he makes contact, you're pretty much helpless. You're on the way to the ground so you're at the mercy of the dog. We have some pretty good equipment that they provided us. You just have to trust it and it protects you very well from the dog bite. I had a great time."

Captain Balliet didn't come out just to get the adrenaline rush. He came out to see something he hasn't seen while wearing the uniform.

"I came out here to experience a side of the Army I don't usually see," Captain Balliet said. "I love dogs and I thought interaction with a military working dog would allow me to see what they do on a daily basis and allow them to get their weekly exercise."

Sergeant First Class Jack's trainer, Staff Sgt. Mark Maedge, a Troy, Ill., native and the kennelmaster for COB Speicher and program manager for Task Force Marne, wanted troops to realize the sacrifices these dogs make and what they have accomplished.

"They're out there sniffing for bombs and explosives," said Staff Sgt. Maedge. "They're out there in front of the troops. When units use a military working dog, it's a combat multiplier. It's another aspect of the combat mission they didn't know they had. The dog can sniff more explosives and do more than an actual person can do. They're great at their job. A lot of the people don't know we have the dogs out there but we're here to help units."

While Staff Sgt. Maedge admires his dog on a professional level, he has become friends with his boss as well.

"A handler and his dog have a very close relationship," said Staff Sgt. Maedge. "They can almost read each other's minds in certain situations. A handler learns how to read his dog and same thing with the dog. The dog notices that something's wrong with the handler, and then the dog reacts to that."

While Staff Sgt. Maedge works hard to get his senior NCO ready for war, he appreciates his work and the dogs he trains.

"I love my job," he said. "I love working with dogs. It's a team building effort. You get to meet different people all the time. You get to learn the breakdown of dogs. You get to train dogs, different types of dogs. I'm just a dog lover."

Sergeant First Class Jack was tired after the training and immediately went to his cage to rest after the event concluded. He could not be reached for comment.

Every week, TF Marne picks a "Dog" Face Hero. This is the canine in U.S. Division-North that does an outstanding job in serving their country.

The award is to give recognition of all the four-legged Soldiers' accomplishments, alongside their two-legged battle buddies.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16