Archive for military dogs

War Dogs on Military Channel *

Posted in Military Working Dogs with tags , , , , , on July 13, 2009 by wardogmarine

“Follow the incredible story of the US Marine war dog platoons of WWIIwhen marine commanders were willing to try anything, including using dogs to sniff out hidden enemy. But nobody anticipated just how effective they would be against the enemy and how important they would become to their handlers.”


K-9 cop keeps military safe

Posted in Military Working Dogs with tags , , , , , on June 20, 2009 by wardogmarine

Howdy Stout – Staff Writer

“We’ve got a bomb threat at the shoppette,” the Airman says. “Who do you want to send?” Tech. Sgt. Michael Jones thinks for a second. “I’ll go with Blacky,” he says.

It takes only a few minutes for Sergeant Jones, the kennelmaster for the 72nd Security Forces Squadron to locate his partner, an all-black German Shepherd. Blacky leaps into the rear cab of the truck and the two — cop and canine — are on the way.

Tech Sgt. Michael Jones and military working dog Blacky pause during patrol in Iraq for a water break. (Courtesy photo)

“We don’t normally get those on base,” Sergeant Jones says of the bomb threat. “They’ll have set up a cordon and then we’ll go in and search it out.”

For Sergeant Jones and Blacky, their Monday morning call to duty is another day of a partnership that started several years ago and included two eventful tours of duty in Iraq, for which Sergeant Jones received the Air Force Combat Action Medal, three Army Commendation Medals and the Army Combat Action Badge.

“Both times I was there, we were on nothing but combat missions,” Sergeant Jones said. “We’d go out on patrol and see what the dog would find.”

Like other military working dogs, Blacky is trained in a number of skills, including searching out explosives, drugs, weapons and people.

Trained with other canines destined for military service, Blacky learned his basic skills at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Assigned to Tinker, with Sergeant Jones as his handler, Blacky refined those skills before he and Sergeant Jones were deployed to Iraq in September 2006.

As one of only two dog teams supporting an entire Army Brigade, Sergeant Jones said the days were busy. “We did everything,” he said. “A wide array of jobs.”

Using Blacky’s training and superior sense of smell, the German Sheppard could sniff out IEDs, illegally-cached weapons and even terrorist suspects. On raids of suspected terrorist hideouts, Sergeant Jones said he and Blacky would often wait outside in case the suspect tried to flee. Dogs, of course, are faster than humans.

“That’s where a dog comes in handy,” Sergeant Jones says.

Patrols were conducted in Hummvees, Stryker armored vehicles or by helicopter. “Which is pretty interesting with a dog who’s never been in a helicopter before,” Sergeant Jones said. Like any combat newcomer, Sergeant Jones said Blacky was a bit skittish at first. “Going from here to the streets of Baghdad, it’s a completely different environment.”

Gone were the air-conditioned K-9 trailers and patrol vehicles. In their place were dusty vehicles loaded with fellow warfighters.

“They adapt to the environment just like we do,” Sergeant Jones said. “By the second deployment, he was like a vet.”

Returning home in May 2007, Sergeant Jones and Blacky had a six-month respite before returning to Iraq in November 2007. This time, Sergeant Jones oversaw 13 teams of dogs and handlers and spent much of his time assisting Special Forces in locating insurgents. Although they were a experienced team, the work was still dangerous.

“We were out on a search and we got ambushed by insurgents,” Sergeant Jones said. “At first, it was like in slow motion…I could see the rounds hitting the street and I remember thinking, ‘Are they shooting at me?’”

Faced with a firefight, the insurgents fled.

“We went to another location, searched it, and it happened again,” he said. That day, Sergeant Jones said, “was eventful.”

Sergeant Jones said insurgents often used hit-and-run tactics as they knew they couldn’t win a stand-up firefight. And they especially respected the capabilities of trained military dogs. “They looked at our dogs as completely different,” he said. “And for some reason, they don’t like black dogs.”

Dogs were a good tool to keep people from congregating in one place, making themselves good targets for suicide bombers. In addition, the psychological effect of a dog’s presence often deterred aggression.

“That’s the biggest part of our capability is psychological deterrence,” Sergeant Jones says.

Returning to Tinker in May 2008, Sergeant Jones and Blacky resumed their duties of supporting the base’s security forces and even patrolling as “ordinary” police. As the Kennelmaster at Tinker, Sergeant Jones oversees the 12 teams of handlers and dogs. Every day is a training day for the handlers and the dogs as they continually build on their skills and practice their proficiency. The dogs must maintain the ability to identify explosives with 95 percent accuracy and identify drugs with 90 degree percent accuracy.

“It’s our job to progress the dog through training,” Sergeant Jones says. “Once a handler is assigned a dog, they’re responsible for everything concerning that dog, from grooming to washing to training.”

Dogs too old or ill to work are often adopted by handlers. Sergeant Jones adopted one, Sonja, after her retirement. But sometimes they don’t make it to retirement. In 2007 Marco was electrocuted and killed during a building search in Iraq. “He’s our only combat casualty,” Sergeant Jones said.

However, the work continues, with the odd bomb threat to vary the routine.

“I bet they don’t run no exercises on us today,” says one Airman as he and his partner eyeball Sergeant Jones and Blacky searching the suspected bomb area.

“It was nothing,” Sergeant Jones says of their search. “But I’d rather do that than do paperwork.” Blacky jumps back into his spot in the truck and quickly snuggles down. “And that’s a day’s work.”

(June 19, 2009)

Attacked by dogs!!!

Posted in Military Working Dogs with tags , , on June 20, 2009 by wardogmarine

Flight becomes first foster unit to military working puppy

Posted in Military Working Dogs with tags , , , , on June 20, 2009 by wardogmarine

by Patrick Desmond
37th Training Wing Public Affairs

6/18/2009 – LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS)  — After three weeks, the newest member of the 37th Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness Flight knows her way around the three-story building and often bounds through open doors on surprise visits.

Aamee, a four-month old Belgian Malinois, is the first puppy to be fostered by a unit at Lackland through the military working dog foster program.
Sharon Witter and Master Sgt. Don Friemel, both with the 37th Force Support Squadron, go over paperwork while Aamee plays with a tennis ball. The Airman and Family Readiness Flight is fostering Aamee, exposing her to a variety of social settings, and caring for her until she is ready for military working dog training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robbin Cresswell)

The foster program socializes potential working dogs to different people and environments to prepare them for a life of various handlers and locations. Aamee has been with the flight on a pilot test since May 1.

Sharon Witter, Airman and Family Readiness Flight chief, said it provides a different work atmosphere.

“It is a stress reliever, I think, for everybody,” she said. “We definitely have to communicate more. You can’t just leave her alone.”

When broaching the program’s pilot test of unit care, Ms. Witter, a dog lover with two of her own, admitted she likes to do things a little differently and jumped at the chance to support the program.

“When I started thinking about doing this for the office, I saw it as a win-win for everyone involved,” she said. “The puppy gets the attention and socialization, and the Department of Defense puppy foster program wins. Eventually they will go do their job as a military working dog. They are just military working puppies right now.”

The deciding factor was the ability to split responsibility between Ms. Witter, Master Sgts. Jason Hohenstreiter and Don Friemel, both assigned to the Readiness Flight, with the program’s option for joint custody.

“(Adopting a puppy) can be a really big undertaking,” Sergeant Hohenstreiter said. “Being able to take a break works out better for everybody, especially for the dog. Then the dog is getting all the attention it needs and is not becoming a burden.”

Aamee, knows her way around the building, but she is getting to know the base as well. She’s gone to commander’s call, Veterans in the Classroom training and the Skylark Bowling Center.

“People love the visits,” Ms. Witter said. “The puppy draws a crowd. We don’t have to say ‘Hey, here, look! It’s the puppy!’ The more visibility we provide her, the more people see her and the more people understand the program and ask about it.”

The foster program requires constant puppy supervision and specific guidelines for care.

“You are trying to prepare the dog for training,” Sergeant Hohenstreiter said. “You are getting it ready for school, almost like pre-K; you just want to help them develop the skills that are going to help them succeed.”

Ms. Witter said the large kennel whether in the office or at home, is the puppy’s main base so she gets accustomed to living in tight quarters.

“She has to eat and sleep in her crate,” she said. “That’s her home whether it’s in my house or in Iraq. They want her to be comfortable in that adjustment.”

Even playtime is more about building motor skills than having fun. Sergeant Hohenstreiter said playing fetch has rules; too, you never pull the tennis ball out of her mouth.

Describing tug-o-war, Ms. Witter added, “Puppy always wins.”

Though caring for Aamee is demanding of time and patience, Ms. Witter said she’s looking at the big picture.

“One day she might save a life; that’s what these puppies are eventually trained to do in Iraq, Afghanistan or even an airport,” she said. “When I see the grown dogs doing their thing, I’m just amazed and in awe of how they do it. Now, to be a part of how they develop and how they get there, it’s just a good feeling.”

Aamee returns to the military working dog program in August to undergo patrol or drug and explosive detection training.

A soldier’s best friend

Posted in Military Working Dogs with tags , , , , , , on June 20, 2009 by wardogmarine

Batavia native trains to be military dog handler
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Jessica Switzer Joint Hometown News ServiceSaturday, June 20, 2009 6:19 AM EDT

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — It can be a terrifying thing to see a dog streaking toward you across a field, fast and low to the ground, lips peeled back from a mouth filled with huge white teeth.
Photo 6
Dog handlers wait with their dogs before participating in a series of tests determining the handler’s control on a working environment at the Military Working Dog Hospital at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Center, Lackland AFB, Texas. (Photo by Michael Tolzmann)

But for the son of a Batavia couple, all he can think about as the 80-pound animal leaps toward his arm is making sure the dog gets a good bite.

Air Force Senior Airman Joseph Teresi, son of Joseph and Mary Beth Teresi of Lewiston Road, is a student military working dog handler with the 341st Training Squadron, the largest canine training center of its kind in the world.
Air Force Senior Airman Joseph Teresi, a Batavia native, is a student military working dog handler. He is learning to become a handler at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog center at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. (Photo by Senior Airman Christopher Griffin)

The Department of Defense Military Working Dog Center has courses that train both new dogs and new handlers to work together as sentries and bomb and drug sniffers. The human students spend 11 weeks working with veteran dogs learning how to control and understand their future canine partners. The new dogs work with veteran handlers to learn patrol work and to recognize the scents of drugs and explosives and the behaviors that will tell their handlers they’ve found something.

The dogs learn to identify the scents of a variety of explosives and drugs, many of which are odorless to humans. The dogs also learn how to patrol and are taught “controlled aggression” — when it is and is not appropriate to bite a human and to let go of someone they have bitten, on command and with no hesitation.
Photo 2
A military working dog attacks a handler on command at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Center, Lackland AFB, Texas. Military working dogs are taught deterrence and how to protect their handler. (Photo by Senior Airman Christopher Griffin)

“I work with a dog every day and put in long hours of dog training and grooming,” said Teresi, a 2006 graduate of Notre Dame High School. “I also conduct police patrols with my four-legged partner.”

Working with canines is a completely different military experience.

“It doesn’t matter how badly a day is going or how long I’ve been working, when I look down my leash there’s always a tail wagging,” said Teresi. “A dog doesn’t care about the bad; he’s there by your side. He becomes a four-legged best friend.”
Photo 4
Military working dogs bark as handlers walk by the kennels at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Center, Lackland AFB, Texas. (Photo by Senior Airman Christopher Griffin)

Human students at the school learn the basics of their future partners including safety procedures, managing health, the gear they will be using, general record keeping for the animals and the principles of behavioral conditioning.

Then they begin to work with the dogs, learning basic obedience commands, how to control the animals, procedures for patrolling and searching an area and how to keep a working dog in top form.
Photo 3
A military working dog handler instructs his dog to detect explosives around vehicles at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Center, Lackland AFB, Texas. (Photo by Senior Airman Christopher Griffin)

“Military working dogs are a vital resource unmatched by any piece of equipment,” said Teresi, who has been in the Air Force for three years and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. “Sure, some day a machine may be able to smell a bomb, but it will never have a heart or the will to keep going.”

Military Dogs Bite Into Their Mission

Posted in military working dog handlers, Various Teams, Working Dog News with tags , , , , , on June 4, 2009 by wardogmarine

Marine Corps News|by LCpls Brian Marion and Jason Hernandez

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq  — Dogs have served in nearly every major conflict in human history.  The Romans deployed entire company-sized formations of dogs and armies in medieval Britain used dogs to pull armored horsemen off their mounts for infantrymen to kill with ease. During World War I, the Belgian army used dogs to tow machine-gun carriages and canines have been in action with U.S. forces since the birth of the nation.

That tradition continues today in Iraq’s Al Anbar province where military working dogs are hard at work detecting explosives, sniffing out drugs, tracking down potential enemies, and serving as an extra set of eyes and ears on patrols.
“We use these working dogs for a variety of counter-insurgent, counter-[improvised explosive device] and force protection roles,” said Sgt. Elijah S. Prudhomme, a kennel master with Task Force Military Police, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.  “They help us seek out dangerous materials while putting the Marines at as little risk as possible.”
They may be animals, but the dogs display just as much discipline as their Marine handlers.  Able to operate without a leash, the dogs show initiative, communications skills and, when necessary, ruthless aggression.
They’ve been trained on how to “sniff out” hazardous substances and point out the locations of these hazardous materials to their handlers.  It is also not uncommon to watch a dog sweeping an open area in a tight, scanning formation dozens of yards away from its master.
“They’re also highly trained on how to attack and take down an opponent,” said Prudhomme.  “We train them on that regularly to ensure that our Marines have a dog well-trained on how to non-lethally remove a threat.”
To show off their dogs’ prowess, the TFMP dog handlers put on a military working dog demonstration for the Marines of the Multi National Force – West command element aboard Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, May 26, 2009. The handlers and their canine companions showed off their search and discovery techniques around buildings and vehicles, but the most intense part of the demonstration had a bit more bite.
To cap off the half hour-long demonstration, Prudhomme donned a protective set and attempted to ‘flee’ from another handler and his dog. In response, Diva, a German Sheppard combat tracker dog, was let off the leash and sent in pursuit. Latching on to Prudhomme, Diva was able to wrestle the much larger and heavier man to the ground within seconds. A simple voice command from her handler stopped the attack, and Diva returned to her master’s side.
“It was a lot of fun being the victim in the bite suit,” said Navy Lt. Chris Martin, the battalion chaplain for TFMP who has volunteered to be ‘attacked’ during an earlier training evolution. “It’s neat to see what the dogs can do and feel the type of force they hit you with. The impact feels like someone suddenly grabbing your arm and pulling you down to the ground.”
Getting the dogs into prime condition is no simple feat. The handlers spend almost every waking moment of the day with their dogs to establish the bonds and reinforce the skills necessary to make the animals an essential part of the ongoing mission in Iraq.
“Most people think we sit around and play with the dogs the entire time, but we don’t,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Danielle Kubit, master-at-arms for TFMP’s military working dog section. “It isn’t easy training. It takes a lot of hard work to train the dogs and you have to start with baby steps.”
According to Kubit, each day involves hours of training and reinforcement of skills to keep the dogs at their peak. Military working dog detachments are scattered throughout the Al Anbar province to support MNF-W operations, and at any given time, can be found conducting searches, out on patrols with Iraqi and Marine forces, or simply standing by for the call to leap into action.
Serving in Iraq presents a unique set of challenges for the dog handlers most people wouldn’t imagine, and that involves taking care of the dogs in the brutal Iraq heat. Unlike other ‘service members’ who can verbalize when they are becoming hot or tired, the handlers must look for non-verbal clues from their partners whose fur and body types make them more susceptible to the heat.
“We have to keep themydrated and in the shade because the heat makes them tired very fast,” Kubit said.
Kubit went on to say that the gravel and rocks dominating the Iraqi landscape can tear up a dog’s paws and when the ground gets too hot, it can cause their paws to crack and burn. To combat this, the dog handlers coat their canine partner’s paws with a special spray.
Despite the difficulties, Kubit, Prudhomme and the other dog handlers agree theirs is an essential job and well worth the extra effort.
“I love my job,” Kubit added.  “We put in several hours of hard work to train the dogs and get them to trust us enough to be our partners – and we do get to play with them.”

© Copyright 2009 Marine Corps News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Teaching about military dogs earns Jackson teens Gold Awards

Posted in military working dog handlers, Military Working Dogs, Working Dog News with tags , , , on May 13, 2009 by wardogmarine

By Victoria Hurley-Schubert

Raising awareness about K9 units in the military oversea and collecting donations for soldiers and their animal co-workers has earned two Jackson teens the Girl Scout Gold Award.

“I chose this project to help the dogs and give back to the soldiers for protecting our country,” said Eliana Lisuzzo, a junior at Jackson Liberty High School. “The most successful aspect of our project would probably be working with the Girl Scout troops, they put a lot of hard work into the letters, drawings and bandanas [we sent to the soldiers and their dogs] and they turned out great.”

The girls held a collection drive for supplies for the dogs and soldiers overseas in addition to educating the community about the work military dogs do.

“We want to help the dogs and soldiers because they do so much to protect America,” said Rebecca Weigand, also a junior at Jackson Liberty High School.

Lisuzzo and Weigand are two of more than 60 girls from Monmouth and Ocean counties who have already earned a Gold Award this year from the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore. The Gold Award is the highest achievement available to a teen Girl Scout. The program is designed to help girls, ages 14-18, create a foundation for a lifetime of active citizenship.

Although it’s called an award, the Gold Award is earned, not given, and it isn’t easily achieved. Each recipient must spend at least 65 hours completing a project that combines organizational, leadership and networking skills with community service. The girl must feel passionate about the project in thought, deed and action. The project should also have an impact in the girl’s community that ideally will continue even after her involvement ends.