Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 1 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Military Working Dogs: Soldiers’ Best Friend on the Battlefield.

FOB KALSU — With their strong sense of smell and their immeasurable loyalty, the highly trained military working dogs (MWD) in the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, are proving to be essential in the fight against terrorism.

Military working dogs first entered the United States armed services in March 1942. Today, the dogs are still providing support to the troops on the battlefield.

A single dog can search more area in less time than an entire company could do, said Staff Sgt. Charles Graves, a dog handler with 241st Military Police Detachment, Fort Meade, Md.

“By using the dogs, you are leaving your shooters to other aspects of the mission, rather than having them go out to start a search capacity,” Graves said.

Knowing the commands taught by the dog handler, the MWDs search for improvised explosive devices, weapon caches and other devices meant to harm Coalition forces and local citizens.

“They’re a good deterrent for any terrorist activity," Graves said. “They see the dogs out and know that (the dogs) will spot items humans won’t necessarily find on the first search or even with an in-depth search.”

While deployed in support of the war against terrorism, the dogs serve a one-year tour.

“Right now, we are the only service doing 12 months with the dogs,” said Sgt. Steven Ramil, a dog handler attached to 4th BCT, 3rd Inf. Div.

When not on missions, the dogs train daily to sustain the skills they already have.

“The dogs go through obedience, detection and protection training,” Graves said. “Patrol dogs also go through aggression training.”

Graves said that even though the dogs are trained to search and find items that could hurt fellow Soldiers, they are also a big morale booster.

“When we go out on some missions where the guys have been out in the field for three weeks with no hot water or hot chow, they will just brighten up when they see the dogs,” Graves said.

While deployed, the MWDs depend solely on their handler to take care of them.

“The handler is responsible for everything dealing with the dog,” Graves said. “The dog is like your child; you feed him, clean up after him and take care of him.”

The handler and dog team go out on missions knowing that they have each other’s back, said Graves.

“There is a never-ending loyalty with these dogs,” Graves said. “They would save my life and I would save theirs.”