FORT BENNING, Ga. (Oct. 18, 2018) - Six Vietnam War veterans, who were former members of the 60th Infantry Platoon (Scout Dog) and who were accompanied by their Family members, visited Fort Benning Oct. 17 after almost 50 years to see how military working dogs were employed today.
The group visited the 904th Military Police Detachment at the Military Working Dog Kennels at the Fort Benning Main Post and then visited the 75th Ranger Regiment dog handlers.
The platoon in 1969 had 28 Soldiers and 28 dogs. Fourteen of the dogs were trained to detect mines, booby traps and trip wires. The other 14 dogs were trained to find trip wires and camouflaged openings to tunnels, "spider holes" and cache pits. The dogs were trained to work off leash within 100 meters of their handlers. As the pilot program, the off-leash working animals were evaluated in the field, and they became the forerunners to the Army's current military working dog program.
The platoon trained at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and deployed to the Củ Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where they were attached to the 25th Infantry Division. According to a 1970 report by the Army Concept Team in Vietnam, the exercise of the concept was a success. The report recommended "a mine/tunnel dog platoon be assigned to each division in the RVN."
"What you did set the foundation of what it is we're able to do on a daily basis," said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy K. Roye, kennel master for the 904th MWD Det., who showed the group around the kennel. "It is one of the best jobs - if not the best job - that the Army has, that the military has. It's a pleasure for us to be able to show you guys what it is that we're doing."
Members of the 904th MWD Det. demonstrated for the group the teamwork between themselves and their dogs. Staff Sgt. Brandon Spears had his dog Jegs retrieve objects. Spc. Cassandra Trulock and her dog Kicsi simulated a traffic stop with Spc. Tristan Bivens portraying a driver, whom Kicsi sicced when he fled.
Ronald Boyett, 60th Infantry Platoon (Scout Dog) platoon leader, helped develop the program.
"It makes all of us proud to be part of the start of it," said Boyett. "The Army or any of the services didn't work a dog off leash until we did. We were the first unit to do that. ... Most dogs were either guard dogs or scout dogs."
John Hjerpe was a member of the 60th Infantry Platoon (Scout Dog) who visited with the group.
"They saw how important the dogs were, how smart the dogs were, and how capable they were to work 100 yards away from us," said Hjerpe. "We're honored and we're humbled. It's just a blessing to see that they're carrying on with it."