From Townhall Magazine's September feature, "The Military Dream Team," by Leah Barkoukis:
Marine Corps Sgt. Brian Riddle was on a routine patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, searching an irrigation area with his military working dog (MWD) Jony. Riddle was second in the line of men, with Jony working off-leash about 200 meters ahead of the patrol.
Riddle had his eyes on Jony, who was sniffing the various holes in the ground that made up the irrigation system. On his way back to Riddle, Jony stopped in his tracks. He then stutter-stepped and quickly whipped his head—a telltale sign that he’s “onto odor,” which is known in military parlance as a change of behavior.
Riddle immediately told everyone to stop where they were because Jony showed a change.
At this point, Jony was getting close to the front of the first man.
Finally, he gave Riddle the signal.
Sure enough, 10 to 15 paces in front of the lead man was an improvised explosive device—fully charged and ready to go.
Jony is a specialized search dog (SSD), a type of canine the Department of Defense introduced into the military working dogs program in 2005 to combat the devastating surge of IEDs being used in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because IEDs are so easy and cheap to make, they’re the weapon of choice by insurgents and caused nearly 2000 American casualties during the 2011 fighting season in Afghanistan, according to GOP Rep. Dan Lungren of California.
SSDs are trained to find trace amounts of homemade or conventional explosives and weapons caches, making them one of the military’s best defenses against the threat. The dogs work primarily off-leash several hundred meters ahead of their handler and follow hand signals or voice commands via radio, likely attached to a tactical vest the dogs sometimes wear.
Saving lives is Jony’s job, and his efforts are part of a much larger canine force doing the same every day. Although war dogs didn’t make their official debut in the U.S. military until 1942, their roles, capabilities and laudability have burgeoned ever since.
Read more about these military dream teams, and get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at their training at Andrews Air Force Bse, by ordering the September issue of Townhall Magazine.