Military working dogs train for the mission
July 15, 2011
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE WARHORSE, Iraq " Traversing over mounds of dirt and broken rocks as easily as most people walk down a paved road, nose to the ground and ears alert, the large, sleek dog easily found what he was looking for " a box of explosives.
The dog’s handler, not a terrorist network, planted the explosives for training purposes, and to send a message " it’s hard to hide from a military working dog’s nose.
To help keep themselves and their dogs proficient, Sgt. Stanley Daniels, a military working dog handler with 385th Military Police Battalion out of Fort Stewart, Ga., and Spc. David Collett, a military working dog handler with 91st MP Detachment out of Fort Polk, La., both attached to 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, conducted aggression and explosives detection training at Contingency Operating Base Warhorse, Iraq, July 7.
"It’s very important that we keep the dogs up on their training,” said Collett, a Douglasville, Ga., native and the handler for Gijs, a Belgian Malinois. “That way, when we get out in the real world, we can do our job effectively."
During the aggression training, one Soldier handled a dog while the other, wearing a thick armguard for protection, played the role of a potential terrorist. After brief questioning, the role player fled. The dog chased him down, bit and held the armguard until the handler gave the dog the release command.
This training ensures the dogs can effectively slow down subjects that might attempt to flee the scene while being questioned by Soldiers, explained Daniels, a Chicago native and the handler for Bbentley, also a Malinois.
Following the aggression training, Daniels walked Bbentley to a large field where a box of explosives lay hidden. As Daniels walked, Bbentley searched in a circular pattern until he eventually came to the location of the box, and then sat down to inform Daniels he found it.
“We can search fields, open areas, buildings or vehicles,” explained Daniels.
The dogs fit in smaller spaces than Soldiers can, allowing them to search places a human might not be able to, he added.
“(Explosive) detection is very, very important,” said Collett.
When a unit requests assistance, it is often to help track down explosives and weapons caches, so handlers have to keep the dogs extremely proficient at these skills, he continued.
Daniels and Collett train with their dogs as frequently as their mission in support of Operation New Dawn allows. If the dogs do not train on a subject for a while, they might not be as accurate and attentive as handlers need them to be, explained Daniels.
“While we’re on deployment, we need the dogs as sharp as possible,” he continued. If the dogs and handlers are not trained proficiently, anyone on the mission, including the dogs, could be hurt, Daniels explained. Training ensures that our teams are mission capable whenever we are called upon, he added.
For Soldiers who have worked with the canine counterparts, the benefits of military working dogs and their handlers are clear. Between searching for explosives and halting fleeing suspects, the life of a working dog can be quite dangerous, making proper training for the dogs and their handlers all the more important.
During his last deployment, Maj. Ian Palmer, executive officer for 2nd AAB, said his unit requested assistance from military working dog teams several times per week. He said Soldiers used dogs to find weapons caches, hidden personnel and narcotics.
“They serve a lot of different purposes,” said Palmer. “Commanders want to have those capabilities.”