CAMP SHELBY, Miss. (Dec. 6, 2011) -- New trainees are currently preparing for deployment at Camp Shelby, and they don't know or understand Army Values. They're also unable to function with only two hours of sleep or work effectively when tired or stressed. These new trainees, however, are vital in countering improvised explosive device threats during overseas contingency operations.

Military working dogs, which recently arrived at Camp Shelby with their handlers, are here to train as Tactical Explosive Detection Dogs, or TEDDs, for deployment to Afghanistan. The training is unique in that it is the first time TEDDs have actually been a part of a unit's collective training prior to deployment.

"Thus far the dogs have been an underutilized asset to the Army because unit commanders did not know what they were capable of," said Barney Morris, a member of the counter-improvised explosive device, or IED, integration cell. With the unit training side by side with the dogs, leaders will better understand what the dogs can do, he said. He also believes there will be an increase in the dog's theater utilization.

Military working dogs have long been a valuable asset to the military since their first use in 1942 as the Army's K-9 corps. In today's military, they serve alongside their human counterparts, have a variety of duties, and hold military rank. Military working dogs now have an official military service record, which follows them through their careers, according to the Department of Defense military working dogs website.

Like Soldiers, military working dogs require specialized accommodations to ensure they're always ready.

"There are several requirements to train and house dogs on camp," said J.D. Kennedy, the deputy S-3 for the 177th Armored Brigade. "Kennels for the dogs to be housed at a permanent location would not be ready until December so other arrangements had to be made."

It was decided that with the short time the dogs would be at Camp Shelby it would be within Army Regulation 190-12, which covers military working dogs, to house them with their handlers in two-man barracks. This accommodation would allow the handlers to maintain constant control of the dogs and readily transport them to all of the collective training sites, according to Kennedy.

Maj. Jill Moss, the officer in charge of the 177th Armored Brigade S-4, had different challenges to face when considering housing and feeding the dogs.

"There is a national service number for ordering dog food from Army supply channels," said Moss. "Not all of the dogs' nutritional needs would be met with the one brand of food. We were prepared to meet the needs of these special animals."

In addition to housing and food considerations, medical care also had to be covered before the dogs could be trained safely on camp. To accomplish this, Navy Capt. Michael Bellin of the veterinary branch at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., came to Camp Shelby in early August to set a contract in place for any medical care the dogs would need during training.

The contract, which is with a local veterinary hospital in Hattiesburg, is open-ended and will cover any military working dogs training at Camp Shelby in the future. The hospital is located 15 minutes from CSJFTC and is equipped with 24-hour emergency care -- a critical asset for round-the-clock training.

Ultimately, each handler is responsible for the care of their dog. They work and live with their dog and should quickly recognize any sign of illness or injury. They should also be aware of any change to the dog's attitude.

"You watch your battle buddies in combat for stress and changes in attitude," explained Staff Sgt. Philip Haner, the handler for Rocky, a certified tactical explosive detection dog. "It's the same with the dogs. You get to know them and you know if they are not acting right. They can't tell you when things are bothering them like your human buddies can."

Col. Dale Kuehl, 177th Armored Brigade commander, knows the importance of the TEDDs training at Camp Shelby.

"Trained dogs have proven to be effective in detecting IEDs in Afghanistan, saving the lives of Soldiers and civilians," said Kuehl. "Integrating dogs and their handlers during collective training at Camp Shelby is essential to ensure that handlers and dogs are fully trained and to ensure commanders understand their capabilities before deploying."

With the success of this training event, improvements are currently in the works to house and train the dogs more efficiently.

First Army is looking at buying dog kennels to provide a better environment for the dogs while they train at Camp Shelby. They are also assessing the addition of canine confidence course training lanes to enhance both canine and handler physical fitness.

Along with the confidence course, building thick mud walls, like those you would see in Afghanistan, would enhance the training for the dogs to find hidden explosives, explained Morris.

"I think that these additions to the training and life support resources already in place at Camp Shelby will make Camp Shelby the premier TEDDs collective training site in the Army," said Morris.