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The Dogs of War: Beloved Comrades in Afghanistan

The New York Times Pentagon Memo  May 11, 2011

Click photo to see this and more photos at ABC News

Capt. Manuel Zepeda, the commander of Company F, Second Battalion, Sixth Marines, was unapologetic. If the Lab on the patrol had been hurt, the Marines would have lost their best weapon for detecting roadside bombs — and would have called for a medevac helicopter, just as they would for a human. An attack on the Lab was an attack on a fellow warrior.

As Captain Zepeda put it that day, “We consider the dog another Marine.”

The classified canine that went on the Navy Seals’ raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound last week has generated a wave of interest in military dogs, which have been used by the United States since at least World War I. Now, more valued than ever, they are on their own surge into Afghanistan.

American troops may be starting to come home this summer, but more dogs are going in. In 2007, the Marines began a pilot program in Afghanistan with nine bomb-sniffing dogs, a number that has grown to 350 and is expected to reach nearly 650 by the end of the year. Over all, there are some 2,700 dogs on active duty in the American military. A decade ago, before the Sept. 11 attacks, there were 1,800.

“Most of the public isn’t aware of what these dogs add to national security,” said Gerry Proctor, a spokesman for training programs at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, including the Military Working Dog School. Dogs are used for protection, pursuit, tracking and search and rescue, but the military is also increasingly relying on them to sniff out the homemade bombs that cause the vast majority of American casualties in Afghanistan. So far, no human or human-made technology can do better.

Please read the entire story here

May 12, 2011 - Posted by | Afghanistan, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Improvised Explosive Devices | , , ,

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