CAMP DWYER, HELMAND PROVINCE, , AFGHANISTAN
CAMP DWYER, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Maintaining a Marine’s warfighting skills requires rigorous practice and steadfast dedication. Training doesn’t stop, not even in a combat zone.
Putting in the hours of training required to detect improvised explosive device threats are critical for both Lance Cpl. Adam Fox, an infantryman and dog handler with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment and Cpl. Jett, an IED detection dog.
The cost for a missed scent or misinterpreted command is high in their line of work.
“We spend up to thirty-five hours on drills and exercises every week,” said Fox, a 21-year-old native of Meriden, Conn. “It keeps his odor and detection skills up to date and also my command techniques.”
Before their partnership began in June, Jett, a chocolate Labrador retriever, had already received extensive training at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejuene, N.C., said Fox.
Jett can be commanded verbally, with a whistle or with hand-and-arm signals. His talents are best utilized by pushing far out in front of Marines patrolling on foot, setting up cordons around vehicles and searching the interior and exterior of buildings.
“Both of us need to work hard,” said Fox. “Otherwise he won’t be able to keep up during patrols or he won’t listen to my commands.”
The pair begins each day with a series of drills, designed to keep Jett healthy and his mind fresh. Their morning drills usually involve a form of fetch to get Jett’s blood pumping for work.
Throughout the day they find time to work on odor drills, keeping his nose alert to the various odors of components used to make IEDs. Fox digs a hole and buries a sample of homemade explosive materials, often masking the odor with various items to throw Jett off the scent.
“If we don’t keep up with these drills, he will lose his skills and obedience and become just like a normal pet,” said Fox.
Obedience drills are one of the more critical exercises for this IED detection team because it helps build the communication skills between dog and handler.
One of the drills is called the wagon wheel. Fox first strategically places toys in different directions. Then, with Jett waiting by his side, Fox uses hand signals to commands the Labrador to fetch a toy in one particular direction.
“Getting to know each other is part of the training,” said Fox. “Jett responds to my body language, so it’s important that I’m into the drills, so he’s into it too.”
But it’s not all work and no play for Jett.
“Labs are naturally social,” said Fox. “He needs to be praised if he’s working. If he isn’t, he loses the drive to hunt and he won’t be able to function like a well oiled machine.”
With Fox at the reigns and Jett’s sharp nose for explosives, Marines patrolling the rugged southern Helmand landscape have extra peace of mind when this capable IED detection team is at their side.
Editor’s note: Charlie Company, First Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.
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This work, Detection team sharpens skills, protects Marines from IED threat, by Sgt Alfred V. Lopez, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.