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The War Dogs of Afghanistan and Iraq
Soldier Dogs, Warrior Dogs
Horses and dogs have always been part of war and conflict or security. But unlike war horses, that ended with WW1, dogs have remained useful even today for war duties. In WW1, there was Sgt. Stubby, a pit bull, that was smuggled in and became devoted to soldiers. That dog warned of an impending gas attack and bit German soldiers trying to infiltrate. Kudos! But it was not until after Pearl Harbor that the US Army actually wanted dogs to train, some 19,000 of them, most became sentries on bases and compounds. Then, in Vietnam, about 3,800 served doing much of the same thing with additional training in smelling explosives and drugs. Today, 2,700 are in the service and 800 are specially trained for war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq where the main duties are bomb-sniffing for IEDs. These dogs are usually in teams and coupled with handlers who have trained them. The dogs in Afghanistan have located 12,500 pounds of explosives in 2010, mostly in roadside bombs. The Army estimates that each dog used in this capacity saves about 150-1800 lives. Live their human counterpart, the risks are high and about 45 dogs have lost their lives since 2005.
The cost to train the war dogs runs between $3000-4500 per dog. Most of the dogs seen in the military are German Shepards who are keen and obey orders without hesitation. Many arrive from the Dutch Police Dog Association, who have been trained for police work. Training war dogs take considerable time and occurs a K-9 course in Yuma, AZ. The dogs are put through, like the men, combat like conditions with explosions and gunsfire. This helps to condition the dog and also shows if their are any weaknesses. Of the dogs, about 10% will not become a war dog. Some dogs freak out during combat situations, others remain focused on their handler. A few of the dogs make it to special ops-yes, you heard me. The training here remains a secret.
Bomb sniffing dogs have a much keener smell for explosives than their human handlers. These dogs are usually ahead of a squad men searching the area and road for IEDs. While humans can detect them, trained dogs often find ones that humans missed. In one case, a dog had found four additional IEDs that had been missed by trained soldiers.
Good boy! The dog expects a reward and gets it.