Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Rocha, of Riverside, Calif., sits with Reno, an explosives detection and attack dog, on duty in Mina Salman, Bahrain during the unloading of the USS Gladiator.
While many Americans are anxious to meet and commend the team of Navy SEALs who raided the compound in Abottabad, Pakistan, and killed Usama bin Laden, one team member would be happy just to receive a doggie treat.
Among the commandos was a heroic canine – a bomb-sniffing dog who was attached to a team member as the SEALs were lowered from a Black Hawk helicopter into bin Laden’s hideout, The Sun reports.
The four-legged soldier has not yet been identified, but some speculate the breed was either a Belgian Malinois or German shepherd, a breed used frequently in raids in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The dogs are well-protected in these dangerous situations, armed with ballistic body armor, protective gear to shield against bullets and shrapnel, and infrared night-sight cameras that provide crucial feedback to troops and warn of potential ambushes, The Sun reports.
There are currently 600 dogs serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ensign Brynn Olsen of U.S. Central Command told the New York Times. In 2008, Gen. David Petraeus, current U.S. commander in charge of Afghanistan and soon to be CIA director, called for an increase in the number of dogs used by the military.
“The capability they bring to the fight cannot be replicated by man or machine,” Petraeus said. “By all measures of performance, their yield outperforms any asset we have in our industry.”
War dogs are trained to seek out enemies who may be hiding inside buildings using their keen sense of smell. They also learn to attack anyone carrying a weapon, and how to detain suspects who try to flee.
Military working dogs have played a pivotal role in the U.S. military since they were first sent to Vietnam as part of the “Top Dog” program. After their service is done, most dogs are available for adoption through The United States War Dog Association.