Photo: U.S.Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall
This Memorial Day, when you think of the sacrifices of American soldiers, their families and loved ones, take a moment to say thank you for the legions of canines who have also served and sacrified for the American way for well over a hundred years.
Military Working Dogs(MWD), sometimes referred to as “War Dogs” have been used by the U.S. Military since the Civil War and made official in World War I. Before that, accounts of dogs in battle and as ‘protectors of the King,’ have been known for centuries.
American families donated their dogs to the military to aid our troops during wartime. Dogs, along with their volunteer handlers, trained in teams as scouts, trackers, sentry, mine/booby-trap/tunnel and water detection of hostile forces. Dogs were used in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo, and now in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Most recently in news was the raid on Osama Bin Laden, where the Navy Seals had more than a super secret stealth helicopter at their disposal. At their heals was one of their very own version of a Super Secret Military Working Dog . The mystery dog was there to detect and detain hostiles, potential explosives, and to make sure no one could sneak up on the SEAL Team Six, the elite military operatives who took out Bin Laden.
The MWD of the Osama Bin Laden raid. These super secret, kept from public eyes MWDs are more than just a pooch on four legs. According to The New York Times, the SEALs bought four tactical vests for their dogs, at a cost of more than $20,000 per unit. The vests are reported to have infrared and night-vision cameras that allow handlers to use a monitor from up to 1,000 yards away to see what the dog sees. The handler is also able to communicate with the dog through a speaker on the vest. Other reports say they use ear-buds.
Originally enlisted by the Quartermaster Corps a diversity of breeds were accepted for training over the years. The dogs of choice for the American Army eventially became the German Shepherd and the Doberman. As the duties of the K9 units expanded from War Dog to Peace Keepers, the Labrador eventually replaced the Doberman. And as we learned in the bin Laden raid news, The Belgian Malinois, a smaller, but big hearted MWD is now also included on that list of valiant canine heroes. Because of its size, the Maliois is able to get into tighter spaces than his bigger counterpart, the German Shepard.
Learn more about the Belgian Malinois (AKC)
Learn more about the US Navy Seal Team.
Today all branches of our Armed Forces are utilizing Military Patrol Dogs specializing in Drug and Bomb/Explosive detection. There are approximately 600-700 of these canines currently deployed in the Middle East. They patrol Air Bases, Military Compounds, Ammunition Depots and Military Check Points. They are guard and protect our Military Personnel as they were trained to do, with Courage, Loyalty and Honor.
Read about two UC Davis students who are currently in training to suport our MWDs. > UCDavis students commissioned as US Army Veterinary Corps officers.
It has been estimated that these courageous canine heroes saved over 10,000 lives during the conflict in Vietnam alone.
The sad fact is that a majority of these honorably serving dogs have historically been euthanized following their service. Today, groups like the United States War Dogs Association are working to retrain and return these dogs to a family life.
Read about San Jose’s very own special service dogs of the San Jose Police Department Special Ops Canine Unit. who vigilantly protect our streets and handlers.
Woof for now,
Wrapping my arms around all things Dog.
Read more: San Jose Dogs Examiner