PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (March 19, 2015) -- During World War I, it was not unusual for the chemical agent mustard gas to stealthily sink into American trenches, launched by German troops intending to incapacitate U.S. Service members so that the Germans could advance on their position.
Luckily, the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division, had adopted a pit bull named Stubby, who was sensitive to the smell and ran through the trenches, biting Soldiers and warning them of imminent attack.
Besides his keen sense of smell, Stubby also learned to find wounded U.S. Soldiers on the battlefield, identify German spies and salute his commanding officers, according to the Smithsonian website.
Stubby was only an honorary unit mascot, but his intelligence, loyalty and bravery, demonstrate the important role of military working dogs.
Since the military officially began the War Dog Program in World War II, thousands of Doberman pinschers, German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, and other breeds have served alongside our Service members in combat, helping to track, patrol and search for drugs and explosives.
However, for the first time, Army handlers have fully-equipped sets that help them keep the dogs healthier, safer and better able to accomplish their mission, said Frank Altamura, project officer for Product Manager Counter Explosive Hazard.
Among the responsibilities of Altamura's organization is to provide equipment for military working dogs.
The Product Manager Counter Explosive Hazard, is part of the Program Executive Office Ammunition's Project Manager Close Combat Systems.
The organization helps Service members to overcome conventional landmines and asymmetric threats such as improvised explosive devices.
In the past, units and handlers purchased their own equipment ad-hoc, Altamura said.
Now, Picatinny engineers from the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, working with their counterparts in the Tank and Automotive Command for logistics and fielding support, have delivered four different types of equipment sets to 41 active Army military police and engineer units with military working dogs across the world.
Because each piece of equipment is standardized and assigned with NATO stock numbers, or NSNs, when units need to replenish their equipment, either due to attrition or damage, they can do this easily through the Defense Logistics Agency.
It is also a program of record, so the equipment is centrally funded and units do not need to buy their own equipment.
"So there is a one-stop shopping location for them," Altamura said. "And the sets are standardized so that when a handler goes from one unit to another location, he's not going to see different equipment."
Picatinny engineers worked with the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence on Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, as well as military police, to determine what the equipment handlers needed.
There are four different sets fielded: obedience course, facility, canine first-aid and handler.
The obedience course set contains obstacle course equipment that helps the dogs, who are required to be certified for agility and stay well-trained. Items include tunnels for the dogs to run through, stairs to run up and down, platforms to run on and equipment to jump through.
The facility set includes equipment that is used to maintain the health and training of the dogs. This includes items like scales for medication and food, feeding pails, bite suits for training and other reward toys.
The dogs are kept in varying size kennels which accommodate nine, 18 or 27 dogs, depending on the number of dogs authorized for that location. The facilities were provided with a small, medium or large facility set, depending on the kennel size.
The canine first-aid set contains medical supplies for the dogs. Trained as first responders for their dogs, handlers will take the sets when they deploy, so that if the dog gets injured or needs attention, they can render first aid. This set includes items like bandages, tracheotomy kits and a flexible stretcher called a litter.
"We don't field the controlled medications," Altamura said. "When handlers and the dogs go out on a mission, the handlers go to the vet office and pick up those medications. But we've developed spaces in the pouches for those items."
Each bag is labeled with the items located in the bag.
"The handlers are trained to know what the items are and what pocket they are in," Altamura said. "All the equipment has its own designated location."
The handler set: This set contains what is needed to care for the dog: leashes, grooming equipment, collapsible feeding bowls, and harnesses.
The Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.
The research center, also known as ARDEC, is the largest organization at Picatinny Arsenal, which is a major employer in northern New Jersey. The center has acquired a reputation for quality improvement and plays a vital role in developing superior armament technology for the U.S. Army and other branches of the nation's military.
ARDEC is one of the largest employers in northern New Jersey, employing 3,378 people on site here, with an additional 377 at other locations. More than 2,481 ARDEC employees are scientists or engineers.
By designation of the Secretary of Defense and an act of Congress, Picatinny Arsenal is the Department of Defense's Joint Center of Excellence for Armaments and Munitions. Picatinny's portfolio comprises nearly 90 percent of the Army's lethality and all conventional ammunition for joint warfighters.
A 6,500-acre military installation located in Morris County, the Arsenal contributes more than $1.3 billion to New Jersey's economy.