Four-legged Soldiers Sniff Out Insurgent Activities in 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team Area of Operations

30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team
Story and Photos by Capt. Richard Scoggins

BAGHDAD — The four-legged Soldiers of Forward Operating Base Falcon’s military police K-9 section working with the 30th “Old Hickory” Heavy Brigade Combat Team, are making a name for themselves by patrolling for explosives and conducting combat tracking.

The section is led by Staff Sgt. Christopher Jasper of Everett, Wash., and includes fellow handlers Sgt. Kyle Harris of Essex, Conn. and Sgt. Jeff Todoroff of Willis, Texas.
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Willis, Texas native, Sgt. Jeff Todoroff, with a military police K-9 section attached to the 30th “Old Hickory” Heavy Brigade Combat Team, walks military working dog, Kain, through Forward Operating Base Falcon, June 9. Kain is a patrol explosive dog and is responsible for helping Soldiers locate explosive material.

The group has six years of combined experience with their dog partners. Jasper’s K-9 section covers the entire 30th HBCT’s area of responsibility, and during the past eight months, has participated in almost 100 missions for two brigade combat teams.

There are three types of missions all military dogs can train for— patrol explosive, specialized search and combat tracking. The dogs are certified in a specialty, then deploy with their handlers, creating a solid bond between Soldier and animal.

The dogs at Falcon go on explosive detection missions that range from suspected weapons caches to suspected weapons or explosives smuggling operations.

“These dogs are on point every mission,” Harris said. “They are here to find explosives before humans do.”

The dogs’ jobs are very physical. Patrol explosive detector dogs can work without a leash to warn Soldiers before the Soldiers get too close. The dogs find explosive materials by scent. The dog’s sense of smell is extremely precise.

“When we smell hot stew, all we smell is the stew,” Todoroff said. “But the dog smells all of the ingredients.”

The military dogs track scents close to the ground, and can identify whether a person is running or walking, and whether that person is under stress or at ease.

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Sgt. James Harrington, with a military police K-9 section attached to the 30th “Old Hickory” Heavy Brigade Combat Team, coaxes his military working dog, Ryky, to bark on command at Forward Operating Base Falcon, June 9. Ryky is a combat tracking dog and is trained to find people.

The dogs’ special skills put them in danger, but the skills also earn the dogs respect from the locals. Not an easy feat, as most Iraqis have a general dislike of dogs. Even the word itself is hurled as an insult.

“They are scared to death [of the dogs], but extraordinarily intrigued.” Harris said. When Harris’s team goes on patrol, people often move to give the dogs plenty of space.

To further increase their mission involvement, Jasper’s team is planning a demonstration geared for company and battalion level leaders to educate them on the capabilities of the teams, and how these animals can give Soldiers an advantage over our enemies.

By highlighting the dog’s abilities and continuing to seek new missions from units, Jasper and his team hopes that units will understand the K-9 section’s capabilities and continue to utilize their services.

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