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News: Dogs sniff-out explosives during training

4 Jul 2013 | Lance Cpl. Nicholas Ranum

CAMP HANSEN, Japan - Searching and sniffing at anything suspicious, military working dog teams operate on the front lines clearing patrol routes and providing a unique layer of security for Marines in the unit.

As a continuation of earlier training at Camp Hansen, the Marines of 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion brought their military working dogs to the Central Training Area to practice patrolling and roadside bomb identification in a simulated hostile environment June 20.

“The purpose of this training is to get both the dog and the Marine used to working with a full load of equipment,” said Cpl. Heather M. Lewis, a military working dog handler with 3rd LE Bn., III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF. “We try to simulate a combat environment as best as we can, so that the dogs can get used to performing at that level.”

The relationship between the dog and handler is crucial to allowing the teams to work as a cohesive unit, according to Lewis.

“To be able to do this type of training with a dog, you need to have a basic relationship and understanding,” said Lewis. “I need to know that when I send my dog to a corner of a building or a wall during a patrol, he will stay there and not move past it. Everything we do is founded on that relationship.”

Conducting patrols in an outdoor training environment allows each handler to learn how their dog operates and allows the dog to become accustomed to seeing Marines in a combat load, according to Lance Cpl. Derreck S. Brantley, a military working dog handler with the battalion.

“This training really helps you notice the small things while working with your dog,” said Brantley. “Going into this training and not knowing how the course is set up helps to get the natural reaction from the dog.”

Getting a genuine response from the dog in a new environment and recognizing the signals it displays allows the team to do their job more efficiently, according to Lance Cpl. Jadd R. Hamel, a military working dog handler with the battalion.

“I have been with my dog for a short while, and we’ve been steadily building our relationship,” said Brantley. “To build that relationship means getting to know a dog by observing how they search and train for real-world patrols.”

The 3rd LE Bn. working dog teams train consistently, according to Hamel. By employing the tactics, techniques and procedures of working dogs across the U.S. military, the teams are prepared for any environment they may face.

“No two days will ever be the same, nor will two training events ever be the same,” said Hamel. “That is why we train. So we can be ready to respond to anything and save as many lives as we can.”

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