A salute to the military working dog
By:ET3 Alexander Lockman
GROTON, Conn. – There are members of the Naval Submarine Base New London Security Team who deploy with little bark but a great deal of bite. SUBASE is one of a number of bases in the Mid-Atlantic Region with a corps of canine security specialists – Military working dogs (MWD).
MWDs have been a staple in militaries throughout history and continue to provide unique services to the armed forces of today. Their keen sense of smell and hearing as well as the ability to navigate through the wild has made them an asset for whoever they serve.
Canines were first utilized by the ancient people of Persian and Assyria as actual combatants. Later, the Romans gathered dogs in columns equipped with light armor and spiked collars while the English were known to attach long spikes over their heads and have them charge forward to attack the enemy’s cavalry. French emperor Napoleon is thought to be the first leader to make use of the dog’s superior senses by chaining them to the walls of Alexandria to warn of an impending attack. In the early twentieth century, Germany was the most dominant user of dogs; training them to perform scouting duties with infantry patrols. Additionally dogs served watch dogs and were used to carry messages from front line fighters to the rear.
In the early 1940’s many breeders in the United States had formed groups in support of using dogs in the military. One of the most famous groups was “Dogs for Defense.” They were created immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor and strived to develop a large trained canine force to be used by the Army. On November 8, 1942 the 3rd Battalion, 30th Infantry, 3rd Division obtained dogs from Front Royal, Va. These would be the frontrunners of the United States canine force and were deployed during D-day. At first the dogs were gun-shy but soon proved to be more alert and responsive than their human handlers during sentry duty on the battle lines.
On the back of the canine’s success during the beginning of WWII, the first War Dog training center was established at Front Royal, Va., in August of 1942. The completion of the center allowed the training of 400 men and 900 dogs by June 1943; by July of that year over 11,000 dogs had been procured by the Army. Dogs and their handlers were sent to fight in Korea in 1951 and had logged over 400 patrols by 1953. The canines acted as forward scouts for the rest of the patrol, providing an advanced warning of approaching enemies or ambushes along their trail. The dogs now performed better around fire due to training involving gunfire, a practice that began after WWII to keep the dogs focused during intense combat. During the Vietnam Conflict over 4.500 dogs working dogs were sent to aid the war effort; primarily providing early detection for military installations, alerting soldiers of enemy infiltrators.
The North Vietnamese would not penetrate a sentry dog post undetected until December of 1966. Even then the infiltrators were spotted by the second sentry dog team. A fight ensued, leading to one handler and three dogs being killed, the first sentry dog casualties. During the struggle a dog named Nemo became a symbol of canine heroism in America when he saved the life of his injured handler after he himself was shot. Nemo would later lose his eye due to his injury.
Today dogs are mainly used for drug and bomb detection and are serving in all branches of the armed forces. The German Shepherd remains the most popular military working dog due to its intimidating size and detection abilities. Beagles and Terriers are also useful for their small size aboard ships and other small spaces. In 1999 the canine corps searched over 220 million packages and people with 11,000 drug and currency detections.
Dogs have played an important and ever evolving role in the militaries of the world. As technology advances and the battlefield changes, they prove to be adaptable and at SUBASE, MWD handlers will tell you that the dogs are irreplaceable. Deadline nears for Military Working Dog Award nominations Every year, the American Kennel Club (AKC) / DOGNY Military Working Dog Award shines the spotlight on a military working dog and handler team to acknowledge their dedication, sacrifice, and commitment to the U.S. Armed Forces and the citizens of our nation. An element of the AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE), the award is a prestigious way to pay tribute to Military Working Dogs. ACE honorees are recognized nationally and five dogs are chosen who have performed an exemplary act or series of acts in the following five categories: law enforcement, search and rescue, therapy, service, and exemplary companion dog. Nominations will be accepted until June 30, 2009; for more information about the ACE awards or to download a nomination form visit http://www.akchumanefund.org. ©The Dolphin 2009