News: Man’s best friend trains to detect explosives in Afghanistan
Story by Staff Sgt. Elvis Umanzor
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – As security patrol operations continue in Afghanistan, American service members, Afghan civilians and coalition partners are prone to improvised explosive device attacks. The U.S. Army continues to train “man’s best friend” to help detect explosives and keep U.S. service members and their partners safe.
In Logar and Wardak provinces, the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, uses tactical explosives detection dogs on route clearing missions, security patrols and search operations to find hidden IEDs to help prevent the loss of human life.
The Vanguard TEDD handlers exercise with their dogs and go over obedience training and explosives detection training daily to stay ready for their next mission.
U.S. Army Sgt. Austin Swaney, a Jacksonville, Fla., native and cavalry scout with 4th IBCT, said the dogs are trained to detect explosives, using their sharp sense of smell to identify a specific component found in all explosives. He added the dogs are trained to work on and off a leash, giving the dogs free range to move in an area.
“Basically we are going to find a point where … the enemy would place an IED or explosive device, and going to hide it, making sure it’s not visible to the eye,” said Swaney. “So the search is completely up to the dog.”
During the detection training, May 16, here, Swaney hid a pound of explosives without the main charge, far away from the dog and his handler.
One at a time, the dogs were taken off their leashes and swept the ground searching for explosives in the direction their handlers directed them using hand signals and verbal commands. When the dogs detected an explosive, they stopped and looked back at their handler.
“They’ll change their behavior or sit and indicate they have found explosive odor residue,” said U.S. Army Spc. Lucas Parker, a San Bernardino, Calif., native and an infantryman with the Vanguard Brigade.
The handlers then called the dogs back and awarded them with a small ball or similar toy. In an actual operation, the handler would call the dog back, and the unit commander would call an explosives ordnance disposal team to investigate the site.
Parker said some dogs are really fast like his dog, Sgt. Max, and can find a hidden explosive in less than 15 minutes.
“It’s our job as a handler to put the dog in all the productive areas to make sure they search everything as we go,” Parker said. “As long as the team is working together, we won’t miss it.”