Among the unnamed heroes in the raid on the Abbottabad compound where Osama Bin Laden was found and killed on Sunday is one bomb-sniffing German shepherd or Belgian Malinois whose identity is being closely guarded. The dog who was part of the Navy Seal team is one of some 600 canines serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their training by Navy Seal teams and other Special Operations units is, says the New York Times, top secret.
While the main duties of the dogs are to find explosives — dogs can beat the best machines and certainly humans at detecting bombs — and to conduct searches and patrols, dogs also can provide a “psychological deterrent,” according to Tech Sgt. Kelly A. Mylott, the kennel master at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. As any jogger knows, if you’re running, and running away, a dog is sure to run after you (and catch up). Dogs can be trained to run after a suspect, hold and bite them in the arms or legs.
Maj. William Roberts, commander of the Defense Department’s Military Working Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, describes how dogs could have played a crucial role on the raid on Bin Laden’s compound:
First, the dog could have quickly checked the compound for explosives and even sniffed the handle of the door to the house to see if it was booby-trapped.
And given that Saddam Hussein was found hiding in a narrow, dark hole beneath a two-room mud shack in Iraq, the Seal team might have brought the dog in case Bin Laden had built into his compound a hidden room, hole or other hiding place.
“Dogs are very good at detecting people inside of a building,” Major Roberts said.
Another use might have been to catch anyone escaping the compound in the first moments of the raid. A German shepherd or Belgian Malinois runs twice as fast as a human. Anyone who made it out of the compound in the first seconds of the raid could have been tracked down relatively quickly by the dog.
…dogs can be used to pacify an unruly group of people — particularly in the Middle East.
“There is a cultural aversion to dogs in some of these countries, where few of them are used as pets,” Major Roberts said. “Dogs can be very intimidating in that situation.”
Dogs can also be equipped with waterproof tactical vests that have infrared and night-vision cameras. Using a three-inch monitor from as far as a 1,000 yards away, handlers can immediately see what the dogs are seeing and communicate with the dogs via speaker. Four such vests cost $86,000.
A dog named Remco was posthumously awarded a Silver Star after he charged an insurgent’s hideout in Afghanistan.
These dogs who do so much can be severely injured (as the dog Brin in the photo illustrating this post) and never get to go back home. Some die in the line of service.
Yes, they’re heroes.
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