Paw Patrol: Military working dogs execute explosive detection training

Base Info
Lance Cpl. Pete Hernandez, left, directs his military working dog, Amber, during improvised explosive device detection training July 2 in the Central Training Area. MWDs and their handlers patrolled through areas with odors typically associated with explosive devices. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Drew Tech)
Lance Cpl. Pete Hernandez, left, directs his military working dog, Amber, during improvised explosive device detection training July 2 in the Central Training Area. MWDs and their handlers patrolled through areas with odors typically associated with explosive devices. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Drew Tech)

Paw Patrol: Military working dogs execute explosive detection training

by: Lance Cpl. Drew Tech, III MEF/MCIPAC Consolidated Public Affairs Office | .
U.S. Marine Corps | .
published: July 12, 2014

CENTRAL TRAINING AREA, OKINAWA, Japan -- Military working dogs and their Marine handlers executed improvised explosive device detection training July 2 in the Central Training Area.

During the training, dog and handler teams with 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion traveled through lanes with the goal of detecting hidden odors commonly associated with explosive devices.

The Marines train three to four days a week to keep their MWDs savvy in various skills such as explosive detection, drug detection and human tracking, according to Cpl. Sean P. McKenzie, a military working dog handler with 3rd LE Bn., III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF.

“It’s important that we keep these dogs proficient,” said McKenzie, a Germantown, Maryland, native. “If we don’t continue our training and what we’re good at, it can diminish. The last thing we want is for our dogs to diminish to the point where they can’t perceive what’s going on around them.”

The dog handlers themselves were also tested on detecting explosives in the tactical lanes. The lanes included visual indicators of objects that resemble IEDs, giving the Marines obstacles to be cautious of while on patrol.
“As handlers it’s important that the dog is doing its job, but we need to do our job as well,” said McKenzie. “By doing pre-search assessments and making sure we are looking around corners before we step into a danger area, we can save the lives of others.”

The dexterity of the military working dogs makes them strong assets to the battalion and to the overall mission of III MEF, according to Lance Cpl. Pete Hernandez, a military working dog handler with the battalion.

“A dog team is a special kind of asset the Marine Corps has,” said Hernandez, an El Paso, Texas, native. “It relies on one handler building a bond with his partner. Once they are proficient enough to go out, they can pinpoint where an odor is, tell explosive ordnance disposal Marines where to search, and if that’s not available we can choose an alternate route and not have to put (Marines) in danger.”

Like the Marines, the MWDs must maintain a high standard of physical fitness to keep up while working in the austere conditions of the Pacific theater, according to Hernandez.

“I would definitely say that I put my life in my dog’s hands,” said Hernandez. “When we get attached to units, whether it is an infantry unit or any kind of special operations group, they are going to utilize the dog teams as they see fit. If we have a dog team that can’t keep up or gets easily overheated, they are going to be hesitant to choose that dog team. So it’s important to always have your dog running on your off time or working them in some way to get them accustomed to working a lot.”

Through all the hard work the MWDs and their handlers endure to be a constant force in readiness, it is a joy to see the time spent pay off, according to Sgt. David A. Martinez, a military working dog handler with 3rd LE Bn., III MHG, III MEF.

“I’ve been a dog handler for over five years now,” said Martinez, a Gardena, California, native. “Not only do I enjoy working with these dogs and the Marines, but it’s always nice to see a brand new dog that we get progress to be one of the best dogs we have.”