FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (June 18, 2009) - Spc. David Hydro and his partner Baggie left for Baghdad, Iraq, last week and will spend a year there together in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Hydro, of the 500th Military Police Detachment, Special Troops Battalion, and Baggie, a military working dog, will be part of a combat tracker team.

Hydro and Baggie have been working together since April, and before leaving for Iraq, they conducted one last training session June 11 near Hunt Lodge.

"He's one of the quickest learning dogs I've ever had," Hydro said of Baggie, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois. "Most of the other dogs we work with are dual purpose - this one is strictly patrol and tracking."

Hydro said combat tracking is about taking the fight back to the enemy; for example, tracking insurgents back to their hiding place after they planted an improvised explosive device, and tracking escaped detainees or other enemy who hide or flee the battlefield. He said combat tracker teams can also be helpful in search and rescue.

"A lot of people think they can trick these dogs, but there's so many things they can pick up on, it's crazy," Hydro said.

Hydro said Baggie can smell skin cells, bacteria and fear-scent odors a couple days after a person has been in an area, and he can track for four or five miles at a time. He said Baggie is hyper and full of energy, a characteristic of the Belgian Malinois breed.

Baggie demonstrated his skills during the training session, successfully tracking the scent trail another military policeman had left through a field next to Hunt Lodge. Baggie found his tennis ball at the end of the trail and was rewarded with some playtime.

Hydro returned from Iraq last October where he supported the XVIII Airborne Corps, and said he volunteered for his current mission to Iraq.

"It's a chance to further my training with military working dogs," Hydro said. "I get paid to play with a dog."