The Dogs of War – A Tribute to the MWD, Military Working Dogs
Dogs have been used in warfare for millennia – and are still trained to operate in war zones today. From the scouts to the tracker, detectors and sentries, this is a tribute to those dogs who work with the military today - and of course their trainers.
It is a fact easily overlooked that dogs are used by the military in war zones – many people do not realise that they are used at all. They have made significant contributions where they have been deployed. A fitting point at which to start is to pay our respects to those dogs that helped win wars in the past. Here, Military Working Dog (from here on in referred to as MWD) Rico accompanies Petty Officer 2nd Class Blake Soller to salute the dogs who helped to liberate Guam in 1944. The inscription on the memorial says “25 Marine War Dogs gave their lives liberating Guam in 1944. They served as sentries, messengers, scouts. They explored caves, detected mines and booby traps. -SEMPER FIDELIS” (always faithful).
It takes a deal of time to train up a dog to be a MWD and this picture of Posha with his partner Marine Corporal William Soutra, was taken after a training exhibition. They were deployed together towards the end of 2009. The dogs are a welcome addition to the team during deployment – the sight of a friendly canine face makes military personnel happier. Dogs are generally welcomed on missions – as not only do they protect the troops but they bring enjoyment to the serving men and women. Whether it is a fact that is in the open, the vast majority of handlers look upon working with their MWD as simply the best job in the forces.
For the dogs and their handlers, it isn’t simply a situation of padding around the ground – quite often they will go on missions where helicopters will set them down for a job and then hoist them back up again. Don’t worry though – the dog has been trained to do this previously and most are said to greatly enjoy the experience (in fact this is a training mission). Here Liza from the 101st Air Assault Division is lifted off the ground, safe with Staff Sergeant David Hornsby. The picture was taken outside of Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. Before any training session the dogs are allowed out for a while. This is to avoid any unfortunate little accident of the bathroom variety happening when the training or mission begins.
Dust can get in a dog’s eyes just as easily as it can get in to ours and on occasion some special equipment may be required. Again at Bagram, 2009, a harness here is being attached to Staff Sergeant Michael Hile. That rather cool looking MWD taking everything in his stride answers to the name of Rronnie. Yes, that’s right – the letter ‘r’ is used twice in his name. When the dogs are deployed they are – of course – sent in to the way of danger. When there is a suspected IED (Improvised Explosive Device – the acronym says it all) then it is the dog’s job to protect everyone else on the mission.
It is a whole lot more than a fashion statement, but with a name like Rico then a cool pair of sun glasses is de rigeur. From July of 2009, Staff Sergeant Philip Mendoza of the 332nd Security Forces Group takes Rico through his paces on board a helicopter. The aim of the exercise is to make sure that the team can get on and off aircraft safely in preparation for possible future air assault missions.
The dogs do things that many people would not – in a million years – and their fearlessness is amazing. They will usually go on their first deployment at around the age of two. At the end of the deployment, usually lasting around seven months, the trainer and MWD part ways. Until then they head out on whichever mission they are given. More likely than not they will head out on to booby-trapped roads and in to buildings to find IEDs and to protect the rest of their battalion.
This picture taken by Petty Officer 1st Class Sean Mulligan was taken in Diyala Province in Iraq. It shows a WMD and his trainer, from the 2nd Infantry Division just having cleared a building. In the past the most commonly used dog has been the German shepherd. However, over the last decade there has been a shift toward dogs that, although smaller, have a much keener sense of smell than their larger cousins. Quite often it is the Dutch Shepherd, but a little known breed, the Belgian Malinois is also proving popular.
And here is a Belgian Malinois, seven year old Marco and his handler Staff Sergeant Alissa Jones. They are pictured waiting at the helicopter pad at Baghdad’s Camp Liberty. They were deployed to Iraq from the Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. There are over five hundred USAF dog teams stationed around the world. A lot of the MWDs are trained at Lackland Air Force Base, the only US facility currently is doing so.
Of course, the dogs are under a lot of pressure and sometimes they can get a little overheated. Help is quickly at hand here. Ryky, the MWD pictured here got a little overheated and help had to be called. The dogs’ temperatures are monitored closely when on patrol and when it gets to over 102 degrees then something has to be done. Here, Army Sergeant Laurence Cameron can be seen giving Ryky intravenous fluids to assist in his recovery. He was not a trainer but had been shown how to do it by Ryky’s handler, Army Sergeant James Harrington. A comic irony here - the radio call sign of Sergeant Cameron is “Dawg Medic”.
Sometimes a well earned rest is needed. U.S. In the first picture, Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Reese and his military working dog Grek wait at a safe house before conducting an assault against insurgents in Buhriz, Iraq, April 10, 2007. In the second, a MWD and his handler from the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment takes a break in Ramadi, Iraq.
Again in Iraq but this time Operation Medusa in Mosul. The soldiers of the 549th Military Police Company together with Iraqi Security Forces sent out a message to prospective terrorists that the killing of innocent civilians would not be tolerated. There was still time though, for some respite and buddy time.
There is only limited time for rest, however. The role of the MWD is a serious one and the lives of a whole squad can rest on the shoulders of a single dog. Here we can see Eddie on patrol in Baghdad with soldiers of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. Just as the police use dogs to sniff out narcotics, a well trained MWD is able to detect tiny amounts of a fairly wide range of explosives. This makes them really useful in terms of search and patrols. It is estimated that the dogs are able to achieve a success rate of ninety eight percent in bomb detection.
Sometimes the worst happens. Pictured here are Corporal Kory D Wiens of the 94th Mine Dog Attachment and his partner Cooper. They were killed together in July 2007 by an IED while they were on patrol in Muhammad Sath (Iraq) and were the first military MWD team killed in action since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began. Their cremated remains were buried together in Wiens’ home town of Dallas. It is thought that the last WMD team to be killed together was way back during the Vietnam War.
In October 2009 there was a ceremony at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan to unveil a memorial to war dogs killed there in the line of duty. For many handlers, losing a dog can be akin to losing a child. This was therefore to do something positive in the face of loss. Handlers are burdened not only with grief but often with guilt too as they sometimes blame themselves for putting their dog in to the dangerous situation in which it lost its life. Such is the fondness held for the MWDs that the memorial was built solely through voluntary work and contributions.
It has been proven that dogs can help service personnel cope with the stresses of being in a combat zone. This is Budge. From the 528th Medical in Northern Iraq, here he is meeting some soldiers for a good old game of ball. He is one of two therapy dogs based in Iraq at the moment. By providing these soldiers with affection and comfort it is hoped that it will reduce their adverse reactions to
The dogs and their handlers do an important job, though and their presence in combat zones is assured. Here Staff Sergeant Michael Hile of the 18th Military Police Brigade meets with some of the 2nd Iraqi Army Division – the role of MWDs will continue in Iraq long after US and other troops leave. Here, at Combat Outpost Spear in Mosul he explains to the Iraqi soldiers how dogs can be used to help with search, detain and attack. And yes, that is the famous Rronnie (two rs!) with him.
It used to be the case that once their military service was over then a MWD would be euthanized. This is not the case anymore and dogs can expect to be adopted – or to go in to a new career as a therapy dog once their days of active duty are over. Here is Alan, retiring from military service after five years. He was presented with the Army Commendation during a special ceremony in November 2009.
As well as being companions for the soldiers, MWDs do much to save the lives of military personnel. Here, Lode gets a hug from Lance Corporal Steven Snider – what a great picture of mutual empathy.
As for our friend Rronnie. One last picture? Oh, go on! Way to go, Rronnie!