AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Cpl. Noah S. Evermann is a military working dog handler from 2nd Military Police Battalion attached to the 2nd Marine Division.
The 26-year-old Pullman, Wash., native and his 80-pound Belgian Malnois, Borris, keeps the troops here safe both on and off the camp.
Borris is trained in patrolling as well as explosives and weapons detection. The main effort of his work is in his detection skills. Evermann and Borris often man the front gate of the camp, searching through the various food and supply trucks, sniffing out any weapons or explosives.
“We’re on a rotation of three days working the front gate and three days on standby for missions,” Evermann said. “When we’re not searching vehicles, we can get called to go out on convoys or patrols.”
Three days a week Evermann and his K-9 companion are on call for upcoming vehicle or foot patrols in Ramadi. Troops moving throughout the city are under the constant threat posed by improvised explosive devices. Evermann and Borris’s nose help alleviate that threat by sniffing them out before the insurgents use them.
“A unit can request that we go along with them on patrol or a convoy,” Evermann said. “We clear the (main service roads) before a convoy or Marines go down the road. We are also used after an IED goes off. We go out and do a perimeter search around the convoy to make sure there aren’t any other IEDs that are chained together.”
Aside from clearing roads of IEDs, Evermann and Borris clear buildings. In place of Marines entering a home, Evermann lets Borris in to root out anyone hiding inside.
“Letting Borris clear a building keeps Marines from risking their lives,” Evermann said. “Dogs are really feared here so they work well.”
Evermann said Borris and the Marines he patrols with also work well together. Although Borris is extremely aggressive, through continuous training Evermann has taught him to know the difference between a Marine and an insurgent.
“We are constantly training our dogs,” Evermann said. “When we do aggression training we wear native clothing so the dog doesn’t associate our uniform with something bad. It’s worked well.”
Although Evermann uses the people’s natural fear of dogs to his advantage, he exercises extreme discretion. He said he’s here to make sure the job gets done, but isn’t here to make enemies.
When clearing a home or assisting Marines on patrol, he is aware of the cultural differences between Americans and the Iraqi people. He is constantly attentive of the impressions he is making. Too many Iraqi dogs are considered filthy animals. Evermann said he is constantly fighting to find a balance between praising Borris to keep him motivated and not showing too much affection toward an animal that many view as disgusting.
“I know the people here view dogs in a different way than we do so I try not to be too friendly with Borris when I’m out in town,” Evermann said. “I don’t let it get in the way of me doing my job, but I’m always conscience of what other people are thinking.”
Evermann uses the same discretion when taking the dog into someone’s home. His job of searching for weapons and explosives makes it necessary to root through peoples’ houses, but by using common courtesy and being as unobtrusive as possible he said he feels like he can mitigate many of the concerns of the people here.
“For a lot of people, me bringing my dog in their house is the equivalent of someone bringing a pig into an American’s house,” Evermann said. “I try to do little things like stay off of people’s carpet or keep him away from the people when I’m in their house.”
Evermann said he came to Iraq to make friends and not enemies. He judges his success not on the over all success of the Marines here, but on his ability to make small changes in the lives of the people he meets. He doesn’t shy away from taking it to the enemy. He knows he has a job to do, but differentiates between those who want to do him harm and those who are caught in the middle.
“I know I won’t be able to have an effect on the total outcome of the war, but if I feel like I’ve made a difference on a day to day basis I can go home satisfied.”