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NEWS | April 15, 2010

Combat tracker dog program proves effective

By Mike Joseph 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs

The first handlers and dogs to graduate the Department of Defense's combat tracker dog training course are convinced the program will be effective in taking down bad guys in theater.

The combat tracker dog is different from other DoD-trained dogs. The program, new to Lackland, is designed for combat tracker dogs to find the bad guys, not explosives or ammunition and weapons.

Five Marines were the initial class teamed with combat tracker dogs, possessing an ability to track human scent.

The teams trained 30 days at Lackland before moving on to Yuma, Ariz., for 10 days of certification training before deployment to Afghanistan.

"It's an awesome program and the tracker dogs are a great asset," said Marine Staff Sgt. Nester Antoine. "It's going to take our capability to a whole new level to deal with IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and locating (those responsible)."

Major Kathy Jordan, 341st Training Squadron commander, said the DoD originally used contractors to supply trained teams for the combat tracker dog mission. However, once the 341st Training Squadron was able to set up a training course, the Marines began using the Lackland program to support their needs.

"They will deploy together as a team," said Navy Chief Petty Officer Tommy Day, 341st Training Squadron operations superintendent. "If for any reason the handler gets hurt or injured and comes off the dog, the dog comes back here into the pool and is matched with another handler."

Col. William H. Mott V, 37th Training Wing commander, found out April 8 about the dogs' effectiveness.

"The chief's (Chief Master Sgt. Jay Simons, 37th TRW command chief) dog was in our backyard, got spooked and jumped the fence," said Colonel Mott. "We were looking for the dog and they brought in a tracker dog.

"I said, 'there's no way they're going to find another dog.' They told me, 'we don't know but that dog will find you.' I said 'oh, really?' So it was kind of a challenge."

In a field demonstration at the Lackland Training Annex, Colonel Mott was given a 15-minute head start before the combat tracker dog was released. Once the dog was introduced to the area containing the colonel's scent, the dog immediately went to work and tracked him down on the other side of a stream. It took only 25 minutes for Chico, a Belgian Malinois, to find his man.

"It's a great tool," said Colonel Mott, who tried several ploys to throw the dog off his trail. "I didn't think the dog would be able to do it, but after they explained what they're doing and how the dog does it, I'm a believer.

"We're fighting individuals," he continued. "For an individual to think he's being sneaky (planting IEDs) and getting away with it, and then you're finding them with a dog, I think that's going to put a lot of fear into the enemy."