Deployed Forces: Every military working dog has its day

| August 17, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo by 
Pfc. Robert M. England
2nd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division 

Sgt. Daniel Turner (left), a military working dog handler and trainer with HHOC, 3rd Inf. Div., provokes a military working dog to demonstrate how the dog will react in certain situations, while the dog’s handler, Spc. Jeffrey Michaud, also with HHOC, 3rd Inf. Div., stands ready to restrain his dog.
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARHORSE, Iraq — Sgt. 1st Class Rudder and Staff Sgt. Rochan Turner were conducting a routine route clearance mission on a sweltering, summer afternoon in Afghanistan, when Rudder indicated a potential hazard ahead in the convoy’s path.

Upon closer inspection, his observation proved correct, as two mortars rigged to an improvised explosive device were unearthed from the roadway, thus preventing 20 vehicles from suffering catastrophic damage.

The most impressive aspect of the situation was that Rudder is a Labrador retriever, trained as a specialized search dog, operating off his leash up to 100 meters away from his handler, Turner.

Turner, the kennel master, acts as advisor in using K-9 teams in the 2nd Stryker Advise and Assist Brigade, 25th Infantry Division Provost Marshal Office.

Soldiers from the 2nd SAAB assisted dog handlers and trainers conducting coalition training with Iraqi police K-9 teams on the latest U.S. Army Military Police tactics based around working dogs, July 20. The training taught basic commands and how to recognize changes in the dog’s behavior and what those changes may indicate.

“We talked about near-future goals and long-term projects the brigade could assist the IPs with,” said Capt. Maurice Mckinney, provost marshal, 2nd SAAB. “The canine manager for the Diyala Provincial Police Headquarters, mentioned needing a canine training area with obstacles, and the construction of that kind of training pen is something we would assist with.”

Laying the foundation and strengthening familiarization in core training is vital in realizing the potential of the working dog program for counterinsurgency purposes.

“Iraqi police forces have only been using K-9 teams for a few years, so it’s important we train them right,” Turner said.

Turner said a portion of the Iraqi population doesn’t like dogs and views them as dirty animals, though perception depends largely upon the region and the prominence of Western influences.

All members of the Iraqi police force who are trained to work with canines have a deep appreciation for their animals. U.S. Army dog handlers often stress the importance of developing a strong bond with the dogs.

“We teach the IPs that it’s important to love the dog, to take care of it,” he said. “The biggest reward for the dog is love. Everything the dog does is done to please the handler.”

A typical deployment for a K-9 team ranges from six to 12 months. In order to effectively augment each unit during a deployment, certain dogs have extended skill sets. Specialized search dogs can travel up to 150 meters off the leash, and handlers use voice commands and hand and arms signals to communicate with dogs. Patrol explosive dogs specialize in sniffing out a variety of materials used in the construction of explosive devices.

“We train for war every day,” Turner said. “We can get the call at any time and then move out with those orders.”

But all work and no play makes for anxious, exhausted hounds. Between missions and training exercises, handlers understand the importance of letting their dogs off the leash for some quality playtime.

“We give them breaks,” Turner said. “Before we train, we let them run around, play and just be dogs.”
Turner said the most rewarding part of his job is the constant companionship found in his loyal buddy, Rudder.

“He’s a good boy, a hard worker and he doesn’t talk back,” Turner said, with a hearty chuckle. “I love working with him.”

Category: Deployed Forces, News, Training

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