Dogs’ noses, key to security, detect explosives in Afghanistan

A Belgian Malinois awaits the next command at a competition to test dogs' noses. The event took place in September at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

This K9 awaits the next command at a competition to test dogs’ noses and obedience. The event took place in September at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (Video image by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

By Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan—These dogs’ noses save lives.

But aside from an ultra-sensitive nose, the dogs must have traits of absolute obedience, discipline and loyalty. And more smarts than can be imagined, along with the power to take down an adversary if necessary.

These are only some of the qualities the dogs here must possess in order for them to assist in the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

“All the dogs have to be certified,” says Sergeant First Class Christopher Ogle, theater military working dog program manager, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, Combined Joint Task Force 36. “I certify the contract dogs in theater to make sure they’re able to do their job.”

The breeds of the dogs at the kennel complex are German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. While Shepherds are more muscular, the Malinois does not lack for strength. Both are ideally suited for security purposes.

The dog teams—consisting of handler and dog—provide direct counter to Improvised Explosive Devices, the enemy’s weapon of choice.

Detection improves mission effectiveness and reduces IED-related casualties. A dog’s nose is the key to sniffing out bombs inside and outside the wire, Ogle said.

“There’s no machine built yet that can duplicate what a dog can do.”

“There’s no substitute for the detection of a dog,” says William Cronin, director for American K9 for Afghanistan and Mali, West Africa.

Cronin has been in his position for five years working out of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital. He was at Bagram Airfield to see some of his dogs carry out their skills in a two-day K9 competition in mid-September.

The company’s headquarters is in Moyock, North Carolina, and part of a bigger organization, Constellis. That company is a leading provider in risk management and operational support services to government and commercial customers, according to its website.

“We keep people safe,” Cronin said of AMK9. “We make the world a safer place. There’s a lot of passion in the guys that do this type of work.”

AMK9 has more than 25 years of experience in training and staffing highly qualified detection dogs and handlers with the ultimate goal of quickly implementing and sustaining K9 operations in high-threat, complex locations worldwide, the website stated. And, AMK9 has been working with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2004.

The dogs are of the highest quality with proven working dog bloodlines from European sources. In fact, less than 10 percent of the dogs screened will pass the initial evaluation and be approved for training at AMK9 facilities, according to the organization’s website.

Two-day K9 competition tests dogs’ noses and obedience

Ogle explained the competition was to build morale, sharpen the dogs’ skills, and enable better dog teams.

“This actually sharpens their skills because these teams have been preparing for a month and a half to get ready for this competition,” Ogle said.

The first day tested the teams on explosives detection. The dogs had to find two explosives placed on a possible 10 vehicles with distractors such as foods like bacon and sausage. In this timed event, most dogs averaged about two minutes to find explosives, Ogle said.

“The dog can locate it (explosives) outside the vehicle and tell you there’s something wrong. Some of the dogs can hit it up from 50 feet away,” Ogle said. “Therefore, you’re not putting people in harm’s way. The dog can go up and search the object, take the Soldier out of the aspect, reducing the risk of the handler getting hurt.”

The second day tested obedience. Situations were created to see how obedient the dog was to his handler regardless of what was going on, i.e., a man in a padded suit trying to get the dog’s attention resulting in an attack.

Top honors

In the end, handler Frank Musoli and his partner, Tina, took the most honors with the top Overall Dog Team and also received a second place in the Detection category and third in the Obedience/Controlled Aggression Category.

Dog handler Frank Musoli holds prizes from the K9 competition.
Dog handler Frank Musoli of Kampala, Uganda has 10 years’ combined experience as a dog handler in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Video image by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

Musoli is from Kampala, Uganda, and has been a dog handler serving in Iraq for five years and now in Afghanistan for five years.

“We are a team. Me and my dog are a team. So, we work hard,” Musoli said.

Asked what he thought of having a non-computer job while helping to save lives, Musoli said he recognizes how vital such a job is to the mission in Afghanistan.

“It doesn’t mean I’m only here for money. I’m here to support the U.S. Army … we are in it for peace. We make sure our people in the FOB (Forward Operating Base), stay alive,” Musoli said.

“I make sure when I’m out there at the checkpoint, I make sure I focus on what took me there. I make sure people’s lives—the generals, colonels, other guys and civilians—are safe,” he said.

So, between man and dog, IEDs do have an enemy.

“The dogs are the best resource out there that units can employ to make their units safer,” Ogle said. “The dogs detect stuff … explosives.”

Cronin put it another way: When “you go into your grandmother’s kitchen, you smell stew. The dog goes in your grandmother’s kitchen, he smells carrots, pepper, tomatoes and lettuce. I mean he smells all the ingredients.”

This article and a slide show originally appeared here. Many thanks to author Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs, for inviting MWDTSA to repost.

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MWDTSA sends quarterly care packages to military working dog teams (dog plus handler) deployed in global combat zones. We are currently collecting items for our Q4-2018 boxes, which will ship on December 1. You can contribute by visiting MWDTSA’s Amazon Wish List. It’s a quick, easy way to say thank you to these intrepid teams.

German Shepherd Dogs in the Military: A Brief Historical Overview

This photo shows a German Shepherd Dog focused on her handler, who is not pictured.
Afola, a German Shepherd Dog with the U.S. Air Force, awaits commands from her handler. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Evenson) To learn how you can support military working dogs deployed in combat zones overseas, visit MWDTSA’s home page.

By Brad Cohick, MWDTSA

Development of the German Shepherd Dog Breed and Early Trials

Between 1899 and 1914, the German Shepherd Dog (GSD) was developed by Captain Max von Stephanitz of the German Army to be a working dog. Many years of selective breeding by Stephanitz honed the traits of intelligence, loyalty, dedication, and tenacity needed for military and police applications. Eager to show the prowess of the new breed, Stephanitz loaned these new dogs to German police departments–the first K9 Corps.

During this trial period with German police, these new dogs showed great promise in areas such as obedience, tracking, and protection. Stephanitz believed these dogs could also be useful to the German military. After these early trials with German Police units, Stephanitz sought to have GSDs added to German Military units. The timing could not have been better for Stephanitz and his new German Shepherd Dogs.

German Shepherd Dog (GSD) Photo: PDPics.com

World War I

In 1914, at the beginning of World War I, German Shepherd Dogs began serving with the German Military. They performed a number of tasks on the battlefield and within the ranks of the German Army. These new dogs served as sentries, messengers, and ammunition carriers. They proved themselves especially capable in aiding wounded soldiers on the battlefield. They even led injured and blinded soldiers off the battlefield to safety and medical attention. This latter act by the new breed eventually led to the development of the first seeing eye dog, an important function the GSD still serves today.

While at first amused by the use of dogs on the battlefield, the soldiers on both sides of the conflict were quickly impressed. They saw these new dogs performing numerous heroic acts under stressful and dangerous conditions. In fact, soldiers were so impressed by the dogs’ capabilities that after the conflict, the Germans, as well as the Americans and the English, began to develop their own cadre of German Shepherd Dogs for use in the military. GSDs would prove themselves again in conflict when World War II broke out in 1939.

Photo: publicdomainclip-art.blogspot.com

World War II

During WWII, the Germans again utilized GSDs, and the U.S. began deploying them, as well. U.S. GSDs served mainly as messengers, helping soldiers to communicate on the battlefield. GSDs also acted as guards and search and rescue dogs during the war. In all of these roles, the GSDs performed well. This led to the establishment of many K-9 training camps, where GSDs began training regularly for service in the U.S. Military.

Beginning in August 1942, the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps established dog training centers at Front Royal, VA; Fort Robinson, NE; Cat Island (Gulfport), MS; Camp Rimini (Helena), MT; and San Carlos CA. The K-9 Corps initially accepted thirty-two breeds of dogs for training.

By 1944, however, the military reduced that list to seven: German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Belgian Sheep Dogs, Siberian huskies, farm collies, Eskimo dogs, and Malamutes. Today, GSDs are the only breed still trained by the U.S. Military from that original list. Modern additions include the Belgian Malinois and Labrador Retrievers now being trained and mobilized as Military Working Dogs (MWDs).

Formal training

Training for dogs at these K-9 Camps lasted between 8 and 12 weeks and consisted of “basic training” to get the dogs accustomed to military life. After this initial twelve-week training period, the dogs would go on to a specialized training course in one of four areas: Sentry Dog training; Scout or Patrol Dog training; Messenger Dog training; or Mine Detection Dog training.

After successful completion of the specialized training, the dogs and their handlers would be organized into War Dog Platoons. During the course of World War II, the military deployed fifteen War Dog Platoons to the European and Pacific Theaters of War. Seven served in the European Theater and eight in the Pacific Theater. It has been said that while on patrol in the Pacific Theater with a War Dog Platoon, no units were ever ambushed thanks to the K-9s assigned to those units. Many of the dogs trained and deployed during WWII were German Shepherd Dogs.

The Korean War

After World War II, due to lack of interest and budget issues, the military cancelled and closed most of the War Dog Programs. The 26th Scout Dog Platoon, however, stayed intact to some degree and moved from Front Royal, Virginia to Fort Riley, Kansas in 1948. On December 7th, 1951, the responsibility for dog training was transferred to the Military Police Corps. The 26th Scout Dog Platoon moved again to Fort Carson, Colorado.

The 26th Scout Dog Platoon was the only active War Dog Platoon to serve in the Korean War. It served with honor and distinction in Korea from June 12th, 1951 to June 26th, 1953. Platoon members were awarded a total of three Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars for Valor, and thirty-five Bronze Stars for meritorious service. On February 27th, 1953, the Department of the Army recognized the accomplishments of the platoon in General Order No. 21.

One Dog who proved an outstanding success with the 26th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon in Korea was Scout Dog York (011X). York completed 148 combat patrols, the last one coming the day before the Armistice was signed officially ending the war. On July 1, 1957, the War Dog Training Center was moved from Fort Carson, Colorado to Fort Benning, Georgia¹.
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¹Webpage, 47th Scout Dog Platoon, http://www.47ipsd.us/47k9hist.htm

Vietnam

During the initial phases of the Vietnam War, German Shepherds were used mainly on Air Force installations as sentry dogs. However, as the war escalated, The United States Marine Corps entered into a service agreement with the US Army to have them train German Shepherds as scout dogs. This would be the first time since World War II that the Marines had used scout dogs. Two Marine scout dog platoons were deployed to Vietnam in February 1966.

The Marines kenneled their dogs near Da Nang at Camp Kaiser, named after the first Marine scout dog to be killed in action in Vietnam. The first Army scout dog platoon was deployed to Vietnam when the 25th IPSD arrived at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in June 1966. Between late 1965 and January 1969, twenty-two Army Scout Dog Platoons (including the 47th IPSD) and Four Marine Scout Dog Platoons were deployed to Vietnam².
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²Ibid

Dogs are comrades, not equipment

Over 9,000 handlers and 4,000 dogs served in the Vietnam War. The final disposition of the dogs after the war is a sad and disgraceful episode in our military’s history, however. At the time, the dogs were viewed as equipment by the military, and disposition of the dogs after the war was done in the most economical way. The dogs were given to the reluctant South Vietnamese military if possible for an unknown disposition, and at worst, were euthanized or simply left to fend for themselves. A most despicable and shameful ending for the beautiful and heroic dogs who had served our military personnel so gallantly on the battlefield.

This sad episode led to a large public outcry. In response, the military pledged not to dispose of military working dogs in the same manner. Congress eventually passed a law that allows military dogs to have an honorable retirement. President Clinton signed a bill in November 2000 (H.R. 5314), which amended title 10 of the US Code. This allowed for the adoption of retired military working dogs to former handlers and other qualified civilians.

Now, these life-saving dogs in the military can finally look forward to a comfortable and dignified retirement.

Author’s Note:

According to a former Vietnam MWD Handler here at MWDTSA, GSDs served in Vietnam not only as Scout Dogs but also as Mine & Tunnel dogs. The advent of IHS fever helped the US military decide not to bring home GSDs, since they and most US bred dogs were subject to it. After Vietnam, all dog units except AF were disbanded. Due to the “overbreeding” of American GSDs, the AF began its favoritism toward the Malinois, including a breeding program.

German Shepherd Dogs: 9/11 and Beyond

German Shepherd Dogs have been part of the US Military’s Military Working Dog program since the end of the Vietnam war, through the Cold War years and up to today’s climate of global terrorism and asymmetric threats. According to a recent article in the New York Times, “German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are the most common breeds of dogs used by military operators, because they have the best overall combination of keen sense of smell, endurance, speed, strength, courage, intelligence, and adaptability to almost any climatic condition.”

Currently, the Army has approximately 600 dog teams, which have seen service in Iraq and Afghanistan³. The courage and loyalty of these dogs have continued to save lives and prevent injuries since creation of the K-9 Corps.

Many of the dogs on these current teams are German Shepherds, and they serve in many roles and perform many duties. Today, we can see German Shepherds performing HALO jumps with Special Operators and inserting from boats with Navy SEAL Teams. These dogs continue to be valued members of our Military and patriotic guardians of our freedom.

German Shepherd Dogs likely will have a place in our military for years to come. They have served with distinction in many theaters and in many conflicts around the world. Should you have the good fortune to meet MWD teams, please thank them for serving our country.
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³U.S. Army.mil

 

About MWDTSA

The Military Working Dog Team Support Association is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit serving MWD teams in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. With your support, we send quarterly care packages to MWD teams deployed in global combat zones. Additionally, we boost morale with stateside MWD kennel visits. We promote veteran causes and memorials, including recognition of retired MWDs. And we host education events and create content to educate the public about the jobs of MWD teams. To learn more, visit MWDTSA’s home page.

 

A powerful photo.

US Marine Corps Cpl. Brandon Mann with automatic scope and canine partner Ty.

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brandon Mann uses his automatic rifle’s scope to scan the area while providing security with his military working dog, Ty, around the villages of Sre Kala and Paygel in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on Feb. 17, 2012. Mann, a military working dog handler, and Ty, an improvised explosive device detection dog, are assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.   DoD photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez, U.S. Marine Corps. (Released)

Enyzi and his KONG toy

Military working dog Enyzi of the 101st Airborne Division, in Afghanistan

Enyzi, a 3-year-old Belgian Tervuren military working dog attached to Task Force Currahee, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, takes a break from training Jan. 31, 2011, at Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan. Military working dog handlers work with canines throughout deployments to keep their skills sharp and to maintain readiness. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Luther L. Boothe Jr./Released)

49th Mine Dog Detection Detachment in Afghanistan

U.S. Army Spc. Adam Zettel, with the 49th Mine Dog Detection Detachment, and Allan, a mine detection dog, search a compound for unexploded ordnance

U.S. Army Spc. Adam Zettel, with the 49th Mine Dog Detection Detachment, and Allan, a mine detection dog, search a compound for unexploded ordnance in Qalat, Zabul province, Afghanistan, April 18, 2011. The team was asked to perform a ground sweep of the compound prior to the start of a forward operating base (FOB) expansion project for FOB Smart, which is home to Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Brian Wagner/Released)

Avalanche in Afghanistan

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jason J. Scribner and his military working dog, Streek

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jason J. Scribner and his military working dog, Streek, attend an outdoor concert given by Avalanche, the 10th Mountain Division’s rock band, at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 28, 2011. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Terrance J. Solin Jr./Released)

Thank you Jason and Streek for your work in Helmand Province. We love this great photo.

(BTW, love the name Avalanche, how appropriate for a band from the 10th Mountain Division.)

What a great day today. Thanks to the technology of Facebook, we were able to learn that our care packages arrived in a tiny outpost in Afghanistan today. Made me smile to think that two hard working dogs will have new toys and treats today and that two hard working handlers will know they’ve been remembered. Love you guys.

10th Mountain Division

I fell in love with this photo of members of the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan. The 10th of Fort Drum NY has an interesting history of training to acclimate in the event of mountain warfare. In this photo U.S. Soldiers, from the 10th Mountain Division, a K-9 unit, alongside Soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Tream 25th Infantry Division, Focus Targeting Force, use a Military Working Dog to track down suspected insurgents, during an air assault mission to capture insurgent personnel in the Ghanzi province of Afghanistan, July 17, 2009. (US Army phoito by Spc. Matthew Freire/Released.) I can’t help but believe some of our Combat Tracker dog handlers from Vietnam will see their work as a foundation for these current tracking dogs Seek on, track on.