Man's best friend finds new mission
Cpt. Michael Bellin, veterinarian assigned to Gulf Coast District Veterinary Command, asks Spc. Zach Laker, Tactical Explosive Detection Dog handler and infantryman assigned to Alpha Company, 1-148th Infantry, 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, to escort Sassy, his TEDD, to the scales during a check-up at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Nov. 7, 2011. The 37th IBCT will be utilizing TEDDs during their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Nov. 10, 2011) -- About 90 "Strike" Soldiers with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) were the Army's first Soldiers to participate in the Tactical Explosive Detection Dogs program.

The last time they deployed to Afghanistan they had man's best friend walking beside them.

The dogs came from Vohne Liche Kennels in Indiana, which trains dogs to detect the scent of chemicals or other materials used in the manufacture of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. Dismounted IEDs pose a great risk to Soldiers deployed to Southern Afghanistan. Therefore, the brigade wanted to find new ways to combat this problem.

"My [Brigade] Commander Col. Art Kandarian stressed the importance of having every Counter-IED enabler for the 'Strike' Soldiers -- one of which are working dogs," explained Maj. Christine Lancia, former 2nd BCT provost marshal officer who now works as a training plans officer with the 101st Airborne Division, in an email.

The program created was similar to other programs in existence. The brigade also did much of the initial research by looking into the U.S. Marine Corps' military working dog programs.

"Our program is extremely similar to the 'Lucky Dog Program,' but this program and dog was ultimately named Tactical Explosive Detector Dog Program," Lancia said.

Strike sent 90 dog handlers through training, and 89 of these Soldiers completed the course. Dogs came from a K-9 training facility that specializes in providing dogs for explosive and narcotic detection.

"These dogs saved lives and limbs of Strike Soldiers," Lancia said. "Strike TEDDs (Tactical Explosive Detector Dogs) found numerous IEDs, homemade explosives and caches during 9-10 month deployment."

The dogs provided assistance for a different set of Soldiers, not just strictly Military Police.

"These Soldiers are assigned to the BCT, and their MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) is immaterial," Lancia said.

To become a dog handler, the participating Soldiers trained with their new battle buddy for eight weeks prior to deployment, with four weeks spent in Indiana and the final four in Arizona. Once deployed, the dogs' primary duties included dismounted patrols, as well as traffic control points.

"The Soldiers are trained on how to care for the dog, control the dog and learn how to recognize the signals the dog exhibits when it is on 'scent,'" Lancia said. "Some dogs sit, some stare at the location, other may walk slower or wag its tail more. That is why the length of training is critical to allow ample time for the Soldier to work with a particular dog to learn its unique behavior."

The dogs used on loan by Strike Soldiers may go on to help other Army missions, or if no longer capable, go out to be adopted.

Page last updated Mon November 14th, 2011 at 00:00