CAMP RIPPER, AL ASAD, Iraq -- As the Marines with Regimental Combat Team-2 detain a known insurgent, Aug. 14, one service member can’t help but drool over the chance that the detainee might flee -- giving him the opportunity to chase him down and sink his teeth into the challenge.
Basco, a K-9 working dog with RCT-2, escorts the detainee to the designated holding facility, then sits and waits for his Marine handler to come put his leash back on. He is one of the dogs in the K-9 Corps detachment here, playing a big role in the success of operations in the most active and dangerous area of Iraq, the Al Anbar Province.
Originally used as sleigh dogs during World War I they eventually evolved into scout, sentry and attack dogs who alerted service members of possible enemy presence during World War II and the Korean War.
After World War II, Chesty Puller recommended new dogs be retrained for civilian use because the current canines, Dobermans, could not be untrained and were immediately killed, something he thought unfitting of the Corps.
That led to the new breed of dog, mostly Belgian Malnois and German Shepherds, trained the same until the 1980s. After that, they trained the dogs for detection not only of humans, but explosives and other contraband.
In today’s war against terrorism, the canines play an important role in capturing insurgents who use improvised explosive devices, mines and other weapons used against Coalition Forces.
Sergeant Allen Smith, 24, from Clinton, S.C., is a kennel master with RCT-2 and described some of the missions they conduct.
“We conduct cordon and knocks where the K-9 sweeps a house after the Marines clear it, searching for weapons and explosives used to make IEDs,” the 2000 graduate of Clinton High School continued. “We sweep areas for weapons caches. We also sweep roads for secondary IEDs when one goes off.”
According to Smith, the importance of sweeping areas and roads is more than just finding the weapons or explosives, it saves service members’ lives.
“Finding caches is a way of robbing the insurgents of weapons they could use to kill, and sweeping roads for IEDs and mines prevents Marines from getting hit by an IED twice,” Smith elaborated. “It’s a more expedient way of searching than using metal detectors.”
In order to prepare the dogs for their mission, like Marines, they have to train. Smith and his fellow service members conduct a number of different training sessions on a regular basis.
The canines go through obedience and aggression training, which involves biting and escorting, standoff training to guard detainees, and search and escort training.
They also conduct detection training usually consisting of searching or sweeping cars, houses, open areas and other places.
“We basically make our training what they will run into out there during operations. We make it as realistic as possible for them,” Smith explained.
When they are not involved in training or operations, the canines assist Marines with base security by sniffing people who enter the base. However, according to Smith, their most important job is during combat operations where they are a big asset to Coalition Forces.
“They are very important in the war we’re fighting out here, because they make searching and seizing much more expedient and are very proficient at what they do,” he said.