PATROL BASE HABIB, Helmand province, Afghanistan --
A rifle may be a Marine’s best friend in combat, but a close second goes to the military working dogs that go out with the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines every day.
The Marines are very pleased with my dog, TTroy,” said Cpl. Derrick Magee, 21, dog handler, from Vineland, N.J. “He helps keep us alive and I keep him happy, emotions travel down the leash, the dog can tell how you feel and will feel and act in the same way, so you have to be positive.”
TTroy was bred at Lackland Air Force Base and is identified as part of the puppy program by his double consonant first name. The puppy program takes 2 military working dogs and breeds them.
“I guess they figure that two successful dogs will give you more successful puppies,” Magee laughed. “All the K-9 corps for every service is trained at Lackland, so that’s where they breed them.”
The Marine Corps relies on the dog’s heightened senses to assist in detect various substances. The dogs are trained for specific purposes, either narcotics or explosives detection with emphasis on accuracy.
“My dog is trained to detect nine military-grade explosives and various home made explosives,” said Cpl. Casey Chang, 21, dog handler, from Detroit, Mich. “This is the best job in the Marine Corps. I love being deployed with a dog.”
There are two types of dog handlers in the Marine Corps, a military police dog handler and a normal handler. The police handler goes to his regular school and then goes to a K-9 training school before his duty station. The regular handler can be a Marine from any position who volunteers to go through a 6-week course in dog handling prior to deployment. That Marine then controls the dog for the duration of the tour.
The handlers are trained to work with verbal, whistle and hand command signals. They work on basic obedience and patrol and detection during their training. The dogs are used primarily in explosives and narcotics detection but can also undergo aggression training to intimidate and subdue enemies.
“We have to keep these dogs healthy so that they can do their job,” said Cpl. Jason Lintz, 25, rifleman, from Walled Lake, Mich. “I share food with him and he drinks out of my Camelback. I’d do anything to protect my dog, I’ve even killed feral dogs that were about to attack him.”
E-mail Staff Sgt. Robert M. Storm at email@example.com
Editor’s note: The “Magnificent Bastards” of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, are currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 6, which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.