News: Military Working Dogs get a new 'leash' on life
Story by Spc. Jessica Hayes
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq — Since Iraqi Security Forces have taken the lead, they have primarily called upon U.S. forces for support in the form of air support and military working dogs. Expanding on the ISF capabilities, U.S. forces recently provided training to Kirkuk's Emergency Services Unit on caring for military working dogs Oct. 20.
According to Capt. Jennifer Scruggs, a Knoxville, Tenn., native and veterinarian with the 64th Medical Detachment from Fort Lewis, Wash., the training was to prepare the ESU for their eventual use of MWDs.
"It's important for them [ISF] to learn basic medical training so they can identify any problems and issues as they arise, so the dogs can get veterinarian care as needed, when needed," Scruggs explained.
The class taught the future ESU dog handlers on a wide array of subjects from types of food, proper weight, grooming techniques and a short block of instruction on dog anatomy.
"The most important things they learned today were basic nutritional care so they know how to properly feed the dogs and basic grooming skills so they know how to provide basic care for their dogs," Scruggs said.
Instruction was also provided on how to trim the dogs' nails, clean their teeth and ears, hair trimming, and the importance of clean drinking water.
Scruggs said the importance of sharing this knowledge for the ESU dog handlers was so in the future they will be able to identify problems with the dogs and ensure they get the proper treatment.
Staff Sgt. Justin Fernandez of Bakersfield, Calif., and a MWD handler with the 51st Military Police Detachment from Fort Lewis, Wash., provided a demonstration of the dog's capabilities prior to the beginning of the class.
"The dogs the ISF will be getting are explosive and narcotics detection dogs," Fernandez said. "The explosives detection capabilities of the dogs will allow the ISF to provide their own MWDs for cordon and searches and locating weapons caches."
Fernandez explained that explosive detection dogs are an asset the Iraqis aren't familiar with so currently U.S. forces are called in for that type of support.
"By teaching the Iraqis how to use the dogs it will remove us from the picture as we work our way out of the country," Fernandez said. "And with the training they receive today they will be able to identify potential medical problems and bring the dogs to the veterinarian."
The ESU were also shown the importance of maintaining the proper paperwork on the dogs as well as the microchip systems that are placed in the dogs, which are used to store information and track where the dogs are in the event one is lost.