Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. -- A military working dog team from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort supported Pope Francis’ visit to United States Sept. 28- Oct. 1.
Francis arrived at Joint Base Andrews in the nation’s capital; his first stop for his visit to the country before he traveled to New York and Philadelphia. This historical moment marked the third time a pontiff visited the White House and the fourth pope to visit the country.
Units across the Department of Defense supported the event. The air station received a request for a MWD team to augment the other security units.
“The request came from the DOD to support the event,” said Sgt. Adam Cook, an assistant kennel master and chief trainer with the military working dog section, Provost Marshal’s Office.
“We let Headquarters Marine Corps know we could support the mission and sent the next available team.”
Like their civilian counterparts, MWDs can perform preventive patrols in vehicles or on foot, locate and apprehend criminal suspects attempting to elude and resist apprehension; search of buildings and open/wooded areas; locate lost individuals; assist in crowd and riot control situations; and detect drugs or explosives by scent, according to Cook.
Some situations can come up that were not covered in training, so the unit prepares and trains for any possible scenarios they might encounter.
“We try to cover a different area of training every day,” said Cook. “By covering different scenarios, we’re able to make our teams better-rounded. No matter the mission, being prepared is very important”
The first official use of dogs for military purposes in the United States was during the Seminole Wars. Hounds were used in the American Civil War to protect, send messages, and guard prisoners. All MWDs in use today are paired with a single individual after their training. This person is called a handler. A MWD team is composed of a dog and handler.
“On a day-to-day basis, the handlers take care of the dogs, ensure the dogs are healthy, and are advancing in their training,” said Cook. “As trainers, we base part of the training from our past experiences here and on deployments overseas.”
In a deployment, MWD teams conduct patrols, sweeps for weapons caches, improvised explosive devices and house searches among other duties. A major difference in this environment is the time spent between the handler and their canine partner.
“It takes heart and true dedication to take care of a dog,” said Sgt. Frederick Roethler III, an assistant trainer with the military working dog section, PMO. “Dogs are always with you on a deployment. Everywhere you go they go with you. You really have to know your dog and understand them to really be effective as a team.”
As of 2011, 600 U.S. Military dogs are actively participating in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. But not every team gets the opportunity to deploy.
“Being in a garrison unit and being able to go on missions like the visit is the equivalent to a deployment for a team,” said Cook. “It’s a good opportunity to let a team gain experience and put what we train for into practice in a different environment.”
After the visit, the team returned to resume their duties aboard the air station. As for the unit, the mission was completed successfully.
“Having one of our teams coming back from a successful mission like the one in Washington and New York i great,” said Roethler. “It’s about keeping the people safe.”