AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq --
Marines stand by as one of their own dons a black protective suit in preparation for what seems to be a race. As the Marine finishes putting on the suit, a dog handler emerges from the background with a barking German shepherd. As the Marine slowly walks in front of the dog, the dog’s bark grows louder. A few more seconds pass then without notice, the Marine begins to run. Not long after, the handler releases the dog’s leash, and the animal lunges after the Marine in search for the perfect angle of attack.
The Quick Reaction Force comprised of Marines from Bravo Company, 1st Tank Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8, conducted training with military working dogs and their handlers, March 30, 2009. The training focused on the attacking and tracking capabilities of the dogs.
“This was a really great training experience,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jason Villasana, platoon sergeant for the QRF. “This is the first time in my Marine Corps career that I’ve been able to do anything like this. None of my guys have been able to do this either; as tankers we don’t get to do stuff like this.”
As the QRF for Multi National Force - West, these Marines must be ready to work with a wide range of various supporting units. Not only do the Marines work with dog handlers, they also work with explosive ordnance disposal and weapons interrogation teams.
“It’s always good when we get to coordinate events like this with other attachments, it gives us a great opportunity to see how they operate,” said Villasana
“Back in the rear the only time you see military police is when they’re at the gate or writing tickets, but this gave us a chance to see the other side of their job.”
During the demonstration, QRF Marines witnessed how military dogs detect possible munitions. A handful of these Marines also received the opportunity to put on bite suits, in order to get a firsthand look at the power and aggressiveness of the dogs.
“It’s good that they put on the bite suit,” said Sgt. Elijah Prudhomme, a military dog handler with Task Force Military Police 112. “It helps them really understand the capabilities of the dogs.”
Understanding the capabilities of the dogs is not the only reward for conducting hands-on training.
“If we ever go out with the QRF, they’ll know how the dogs respond, and they won’t act in a way that may disturb the dog,” said Prudhomme. “It just makes them more aware.”
During QRF missions or other operations, military dogs can be used for explosive, drug, and patrol explosive detection. Prudhomme added that the training helps Marines see the specifics of each aspect of their mission and how not to distract the animals while they are conducting their assigned duties.
Although it may seem that the Marines are gaining the most from the training; the dogs get just as much out of the period of instruction as well.
“For us, training is constant. We like to get the dogs out and train with them, whenever we can,” added Prudhomme.
While the event was a great opportunity to learn, it also provided a source of enlightenment for the Marines.
“All the guys who participated enjoyed it,” said Villasana. “Some of the guys underestimated the power of the dogs. They really didn’t think the dogs were strong enough to take them down until they actually were attacked by one.”
Marines begin to cheer vigorously as the dog draws closer to another heavily protected Marine. In an instant, the fierce animal is airborne and quickly latches onto the Marine and pulls him to the ground. One could take a single look at the dogs and see them as pets, but the QRF Marines of 1st Tank Battalion now know that man’s best friend can be a helpful aid while deployed to a combat environment.
For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/iimeffwd.