Skip to comments.Working Military Dog Section on fort prepare for variety of roles (WOOF!-WOOF!)
Posted on 04/16/2006 7:46:52 AM PDT by SandRat
FORT HUACHUCA Its early in the morning, the sun has yet to start its rise in the east and the only lights breaking the darkness on this Southern Arizona Army post are the soft orange illuminations from street lamps.
But already there are stirrings as GIs begin to awake, stretching their muscles, yawning and occasionally growling their discontent knowing ahead of them will be chow, physical exercises, training and duty before the work period ends.
Its a routine part of a soldiers day.
And in todays Army, a sense of security is also part of soldiers lives, developed through a team system two GIs who take on the responsibly of looking out for each other.
So it was recently that a small group of noncommissioned officers waited for their junior-ranking battle buddies to arrive so they could go about their jobs of protecting the post.
In a confined area, Staff Sgt. Britt, Staff Sgt. Knuppel, Staff Sgt. Nol and Sgt. 1st Class Wendy the old lady, also known as grandma paced back and forth, their paws pounding the concrete floors of their runs at the 18th Military Police Detachments Working Military Dog Section.
Yep, the four are four-legged GIs. They are canines.
Some are more hyper, like Knuppel, whose pacing includes jumping high up the walls. He mellows out when his handler Sgt. William Josa is around.
Hes like Spider-Man, Josa said of the youngest of the dogs, who is 1. Knuppel is also the heaviest, weighing 72 pounds.
Wendy, who rules the equivalent of the canine roost, is 10. Britt is 9. Nol is 2. The three weigh between 61.2 and 64.7 pounds.
While the animals outrank their handlers by one or more grades, Josa said, I hold the leash.
The reason dogs outrank their handlers is that the soldier is subject to military punishment if they abuse the animal.
One day last week, Josa had the chow duty, filling the food bowls with either active or senior blend of edibles for the dogs. The dogs get two meals a day. No human food, just veterinarian-approved chow.
After each feeding period, the animals are allowed to rest for an hour, which can include a break in a special area, one at a time. There is a fire hydrant in the break area. And yes, the dogs use it in the traditional way associated with canines, Josa said.
Kennel Master Sgt. 1st Class Robert Brenckle said all are patrol dogs, each with a specialty. Three are trained to locate explosives and one trained on narcotics.
The handlers are trained on all aspects of working with the dogs, but an explosive sniffing dog cannot do narcotics work or vice versa because of the smells they are trained to detect, Brenckle said.
A handler and an animal are currently being trained at the Department of Defense school for working dogs at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, in a program where the dog will work off leash, being directed by hand signals and voice commands, Brenckle said.
The third class for the specialized search dogs and handlers is almost done, and it is designed to have a dog find improvised explosive devices in places like Iraq, while keeping humans safe, he said. Most of the breeds being used in the new program are not as excitable as the German shepherds and Belgian Malinois that are generally used in law enforcement work.
The handler in the off-leash program wears a communication transmission collar to direct the dog, which has a small receiver in its back. Hand signals are also a critical part of the new program.
Once that team comes to the post, it will be a Forces Command asset and be highly deployable.
The forts 18th Military Police Detachment and its Military Working Dog Section are under the Training and Doctrine Command. The detachment recently was honored as the best MP unit in TRADOC.
The MP special section is authorized nine dogs but has only five assigned, the kennel master said.
Going to Iraq
One team, Sgt. Matthew Clayton and Staff Sgt. Beast, are deployed to Iraq.
Preparing for deployment in the next couple of weeks is the Britt-and-Tuman team.
For the 23-year-old Spc. James Tuman, it will be his second one-year tour in Iraq.
During his first time, he was an MP gunner who provided protection for convoys. He was then assigned to the 127th Military Police Detachment in Germany.
It will be Britts second time in a global hot spot, having been deployed to Afghanistan for six months. The dog had a different handler then, as well as during a short deployment to Egypt late last year during Operation Bright Star.
The German shepherd received an Army Achievement Medal for service while in Egypt. Dogs, like their human battle buddies, receive military awards.
According to Mondays issue of The Army Times, a pair of explosive detection dogs, Appie and Beny, have been put in for a Combat Action Badge for surviving a roadside bomb blast south of Baghdad. Their handlers Army Sgt. Jeremy Pelkey of the 209th Military Police Detachment from Fort Benning, Ga., and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Johnnie Clinton of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, also have been put in for the badge.
Tuman, who has been in the Army for four years and six months, volunteered to become a dog handler. Most of the dog handlers are MPs, although some combat engineers are becoming handlers, too.
However, Tuman, who is not married but through a previous marriage has a 4-year-old daughter, said he and Britt have a lot to do to be ready for deployment. They will stop at Fort Bliss, Texas, for processing and then go to Kuwait, waiting to be assigned before heading into Iraq.
Both human and animal have to ensure their medical and personnel records are up to date, and they must do more training at Fort Huachuca.
In Iraq, Tuman and Britt will be looking for explosive devices so they can protect other GIs, said the soldier, who hails from Golden Valley, Nev.
It also will be his real-world test with an animal, as he completed dog handler school about six months ago.
When he returns from Iraq, Tuman said he wants to go back to the Texas base to qualify to handle a specialized search dog.
While in Iraq, Tuman and Britt will both were extra gear.
Tuman displayed the special look Britt will have while patrolling and sniffing for explosives while in Iraq. The dog will wear a 15-pound ballistic vest; doggles, special goggles for dogs; and leather booties to protect his paws.
Although the booties were not put on, the vest and doggles were. Almost like a Hollywood star, Britt assumed a pose as if the Herald/Review photographer was a paparazzi.
Tuman put Britt through some paces at an obstacle course near the kennel.
Training the dogs is constant, as reinforcement is critical.
Brenckle said every day is hard.
What happens is dog face, once a slang word for a soldier, and his teammate are dog tired.
While it is serious work, it is a game for the animals. They are praised if they do well.
The handlers use different pitches with their voices to express if they are pleased or not. A bass-like voice is used for correcting. When the dog does a good job and finds a practice device, the humans voices are so high they sound as if they are out-of-tune sopranos.
The auditorium in the basement of Greely Hall was the scene for a practice session, with Brenckle hiding five explosive devices.
Although Britt and Tuman did not participate, Josa and Knuppel practiced. The canine team member found all five of the hidden devices, leading Josa to strain his voice praising his dog.
Knuppels reward was to be allowed to chew on a kong, a heavy rubber device. The animal was reluctant to give up, causing Josa to lower his voice in the correcting mode.
There is a special bond that develops between the team members. The human trusts the dog to provide protection, and the animal trusts the human partner to do the same.
Alexander Pope noted the strong ties between humans and dogs that lasts even onto death, when he wrote: But thinks, admitted to that equal sky, his faithful dog shall bear him company.
Since 2001, military working dogs of all the branches of the service have been allowed to be adopted once their age or other reasons retire them.
Brenckle said the animals are tested to see whether they have the temperament for adoption. They are returned to Lackland Air Force Base for a review.
The first ones allowed adoption rights are handlers.
Josa adopted Rocky, one of the sections dogs. The dog went from being an aggressive job dedicated animal to an unbelievably calm dog, Josa said. In effect, Rocky has become a couch potato, he said.
But Tuman doesnt want Britt to become mellow when working in Iraq.
Its going to be important that when the team enters the combat zone that they both will be in a constant state of readiness.
Although Tuman will be authorized a two-week leave during his tour, he said he probably will not take it.
I dont want to leave him (Britt) there alone. We are going over together, we will be together there, and we will come back together, Tuman said.
Cute very cute.
PS on this. 9 Military Working Dogs have been greeted home in Maine.
Almost looks like brass knuckles.
I wonder why no blood hounds? They are the scent hounds...
In person it is quite nice looking. Most of the Military coins given out are round and a few are square. This one really stands out in the coin case.
Very handsome..Paw print.
(Please Freep-mail me if youd like to be on or off the list.)
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