• Jaco Kiewiet, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from Johannesburg, South Africa, directs his partner Bongo to check a vehicle for explosives during a training exercise held on Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Oct. 31, 2012.  AMK9 explosives and narcotics dogs are an important part of the force protection measures employed on the base.  The dogs and handlers train six days a week to ensure they are constantly honing their abilities.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    Canines keep soldiers safe, smiling

    Jaco Kiewiet, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from Johannesburg, South Africa, directs his partner Bongo to check a vehicle for explosives during a training exercise held on Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Oct. 31, 2012. AMK9...

  • Marina Colyn, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from Johannesburg, South Africa, directs her partner Rex, an explosives sniffing canine, to check the front of a jingle truck before allowing it to enter Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Nov. 4, 2012.  As a security measure, AMK9 dogs check all vehicles prior to entering the FOB.   (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    Canines keep soldiers safe, smiling

    Marina Colyn, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from Johannesburg, South Africa, directs her partner Rex, an explosives sniffing canine, to check the front of a jingle truck before allowing it to enter Forward Operating Base Lagman...

  • Marina Colyn, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from Johannesburg, South Africa, and her partner Rex thoroughly check all the trucks lined up outside the entry control point for explosives before they are allowed to enter Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Nov. 4, 2012.  While the AMK9 team works, a U.S. soldier provides over watch security.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    Canines keep soldiers safe, smiling

    Marina Colyn, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from Johannesburg, South Africa, and her partner Rex thoroughly check all the trucks lined up outside the entry control point for explosives before they are allowed to enter Forward Operating...

  • Marina Colyn, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from Johannesburg, South Africa, and her partner Rex check a truck for explosives before it is allowed to enter Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Nov. 4, 2012.  As a security measure, AMK9 dogs check all vehicles prior to entering the FOB.   (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    Canines keep soldiers safe, smiling

    Marina Colyn, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from Johannesburg, South Africa, and her partner Rex check a truck for explosives before it is allowed to enter Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Nov. 4, 2012. As a security measure...

  • Tapiwa Datawa, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from Harare, Zimbabwe, searches an 'assailant' while his partner Boris, an explosives sniffing canine, keeps watch during a patrol training exercise held on Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Nov. 3, 2012.   AMK9 dual purpose dogs working on the FOB are trained to detect either narcotics or explosives and are trained to chase, catch, guard and escort assailants on command.  They are an important part of the force protection measures employed on the base.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    Canines keep soldiers safe, smiling

    Tapiwa Datawa, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from Harare, Zimbabwe, searches an 'assailant' while his partner Boris, an explosives sniffing canine, keeps watch during a patrol training exercise held on Forward Operating Base Lagman...

  • Tapiwa Datawa, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from Harare, Zimbabwe, directs his partner Boris, an explosives sniffing canine, during a patrol training exercise held on Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Nov. 3, 2012.   AMK9 dual purpose dogs working on the FOB are trained to detect either narcotics or explosives and are trained to chase, catch, guard and escort assailants on command.  They are an important part of the force protection measures employed on the base.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    Canines keep soldiers safe, smiling

    Tapiwa Datawa, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from Harare, Zimbabwe, directs his partner Boris, an explosives sniffing canine, during a patrol training exercise held on Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Nov. 3, 2012. AMK9 dual...

  • Kyra, a narcotics sniffing canine with American K-9 Detection Services chases an 'assailant' during a patrol training exercise held on Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Nov. 3, 2012.   AMK9 dual purpose dogs working on the FOB are trained to detect either narcotics or explosives and are trained to chase, catch, guard and escort assailants on command.  They are an important part of the force protection measures employed on the base.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    Canines keep soldiers safe, smiling

    Kyra, a narcotics sniffing canine with American K-9 Detection Services chases an 'assailant' during a patrol training exercise held on Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Nov. 3, 2012. AMK9 dual purpose dogs working on the FOB are trained to...

  • Lando, an explosives sniffing canine with American K-9 Detection Services sits next to a construction vehicle to 'alert' his handler, Tommy Chellew, an AMK9 handler from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, during a training exercise held on Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Oct. 31, 2012.  AMK9 explosives and narcotics dogs sit when they detect a scent they are trained for. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    Canines keep soldiers safe, smiling

    Lando, an explosives sniffing canine with American K-9 Detection Services sits next to a construction vehicle to 'alert' his handler, Tommy Chellew, an AMK9 handler from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, during a training exercise held on Forward Operating...

  • Jodelet Cesar, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from La Vega, Dominican Republic, plays with his partner Kyra as a reward after she correctly indicated the presence of narcotics residue during a training exercise held on Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Oct. 31, 2012.   AMK9 explosives and narcotics dogs are an important part of the force protection measures employed on the base.  The dogs and handlers train six days a week to ensure they are constantly honing their abilities.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    Canines keep soldiers safe, smiling

    Jodelet Cesar, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from La Vega, Dominican Republic, plays with his partner Kyra as a reward after she correctly indicated the presence of narcotics residue during a training exercise held on Forward Operating...

  • Jodelet Cesar, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from La Vega, Dominican Republic, directs his partner Kyra to check a vehicle for narcotics during a training exercise held on Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Oct. 31, 2012.   AMK9 explosives and narcotics dogs are an important part of the force protection measures employed on the base.  The dogs and handlers train six days a week to ensure they are constantly honing their abilities.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    Canines keep soldiers safe, smiling

    Jodelet Cesar, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from La Vega, Dominican Republic, directs his partner Kyra to check a vehicle for narcotics during a training exercise held on Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Oct. 31, 2012. AMK9...

  • Tapiwa Datawa, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from Harare, Zimbabwe, tosses a toy to his partner Boris as a reward after Boris correctly indicated the presence of explosive residue during a training exercise held on Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Oct. 31, 2012.   AMK9 explosives and narcotics dogs are an important part of the force protection measures employed on the base.  The dogs and handlers train six days a week to ensure they are constantly honing their abilities.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    Canines keep soldiers safe, smiling

    Tapiwa Datawa, an American K-9 Detection Services handler from Harare, Zimbabwe, tosses a toy to his partner Boris as a reward after Boris correctly indicated the presence of explosive residue during a training exercise held on Forward Operating Base...

  • Boris, an explosives sniffing canine with American K-9 Detection Services takes moment to pause for the camera during a training exercise held on Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Oct. 31, 2012.   AMK9 explosives and narcotics dogs are an important part of the force protection measures employed on the base.  The dogs and handlers train six days a week to ensure they are constantly honing their abilities.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    Canines keep soldiers safe, smiling

    Boris, an explosives sniffing canine with American K-9 Detection Services takes moment to pause for the camera during a training exercise held on Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, Oct. 31, 2012. AMK9 explosives and narcotics dogs are an...

  • Tony Villalobos, an American K-9 Detection Services handler and acting trainer at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, takes his partner Basco out for play time, Nov. 4, 2012.  AMK9 explosives and narcotics dogs are an important part of the force protection measures employed on the base.  The stressful nature of the job necessitates regular down time for the dogs and their handlers to relax.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    Canines keep soldiers safe, smiling

    Tony Villalobos, an American K-9 Detection Services handler and acting trainer at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, takes his partner Basco out for play time, Nov. 4, 2012. AMK9 explosives and narcotics dogs are an important part of the...

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan - Of all the common sights on forward operating base Lagman, Afghanistan, the sight of the AMK9 dogs is one that often makes people smile.

Eight dogs and their handlers from American K-9 Detection Services LLC, live and work on FOB Lagman. While the dogs are always ready for a friendly petting and a little love from the soldiers, they are also an important part of the force protection measures employed on the base.

There are hundreds of military working dogs deployed throughout Afghanistan in every branch of the military. Serving alongside their handlers, the dogs bring noses to the fight that are said to be a thousand times more sensitive to scent than that of a human. They have the ability to detect explosives before detonation and in so doing, help save service members' lives.

But there aren't enough MWDs to be to go around and that's where AMK9 steps in.

"We're here to fill the gap," said Kyle Lindsey, FOB Lagman's AMK9 kennel master.

On FOBs like Lagman, AMK9 provides dogs able to detect explosives as well as dogs trained in narcotics detection.

The dogs, much like humans, work in eight hour shifts, employing their keen olfactory abilities to check vehicles entering the FOB, packages arriving in the mail and luggage arriving with passengers in much the same way that a customs dog might at any airport. The dogs also routinely check vehicles and buildings on the FOB and areas where people congregate.

Each dog is trained to detect just one category of odors and for good reason.

"Can you imagine, you go out as a dual trained dog out here and he alerts, you don't know if he's alerting for explosives or narcotics" said Tony Villalobos, AMK9 handler and acting trainer at FOB Lagman.

"And if it's explosives, you don't want to go poking around looking for narcotics and find a bomb," Lindsey said.

When the dogs detect a trace of the scent they're trained for, they sit and look expectantly at their handler. Sitting during a search is what the handlers call 'alerting' and lets them know that the dog has found something.

The expectant look however, means the same thing as it does with any dog, and the handlers are happy to comply. The dogs are rewarded with a toy tossed for them to catch and a lot of praise letting them know that they've done a great job.

The job of looking for explosives seven days a week is stressful, so the handlers ensure the dogs get plenty of time to blow off steam.

"They have as much down time as they have training time, spending time with the handler, enjoying themselves," Lindsey said.

"And each dog stays in our rooms, so they hang out with us," Villalobos said.

"More than once a day we get them out and just play ball with them, play with their Kong or take them on walks," Lindsey said.

It is the walks that have allowed the dogs to become endeared to many residents of the FOB who know why the dogs are here, but enjoy forgetting for a few minutes.

"I relax when I see the dogs," said Major Edward Cappellano, Lagman base closure team officer in charge with Company B 427 Brigade Support Battalion. "When I pet them, they remind me of home."

Page last updated Fri December 14th, 2012 at 10:14