Spc. Hugo, explosive detection dog with the Tactical Explosive Detection Dog program assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), poses for a picture after a successful demonstration of the Tactical Explosive Detection Dog programs technique in finding road side bombs at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2013. Hugo is apart of the TEDD program, which trains soldiers to work hand-in-hand with military working dogs. (U.S. photo by Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton Task Force 3/101 Public Affairs)

Man’s Best Friend Plays Pivotal Role in IED Defeat

All the dog teams I’ve written about so far work as military working dog handlers full time. But what about those handlers who are saddled with this immense responsibility just months before deployment?

What if you were an Army infantryman, cook, truck driver, and your unit informed you one day that you would be attending dog school, and told to learn everything you could because in just a few months you will be leading combat patrols in Afghanistan with your dog?

Charged to lead combat patrols, with a dog they barely know, and a skill they recently learned- this is the Army’s Tactical Explosive Detector Dog Program…….today’s post is about them.

This isn’t my story but I do have the story on a Tactical Explosive Detector Dog Team, PFC Jeremy Wirth and his TEDD David coming soon!

Story by Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA)  Public Affairs
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – One asset being used today against roadside bombs is a different type of tool often seen on the battlefield.

The fact that it isn’t another electronic item stored away in a backpack or vehicle is a change for some Soldiers.

Military working dogs have worked hand-in-hand with the military for decades as guard dogs or attack dogs. However, Soldiers are now seeing more and more bomb sniffing dogs going on missions with them.

“These dogs smell the odor no matter what it’s hidden or buried in, their noses will pick up the explosive’s odor,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Phillips, An infantryman and dog handler assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). “You could spend days looking around with a metal detector and only find garbage. No matter what the explosive is made of, the dog will smell the odor of the material.”

Sgt. Misa, a military working dog with the Tactical Explosive Detection Dog program assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), jumps over a wall of an obstacle course during a demonstration on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2013. The obstacle course is designed to test the dogs possible deployment scenarios, as well as keep them physically fit for duty. (U.S. photo by Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton Task Force 3/101 Public Affairs)

Sgt. Misa, a military working dog with the Tactical Explosive Detection Dog program assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), jumps over a wall of an obstacle course during a demonstration on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2013. The obstacle course is designed to test the dogs possible deployment scenarios, as well as keep them physically fit for duty. (U.S. photo by Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton Task Force 3/101 Public Affairs)

Phillips is just one of thirteen Rakkasans in the Tactical Explosive Detection Dogs program also known as TEDD. The program takes Soldiers from different military jobs and sends them to a 9-week course where they learn to work hand-in-hand with their new partner and their responsibilities inherent with being a dog handler.

“You have to learn the dog’s body language on what they smell,” said Cpl. Daniel Crean, a military police officer assigned to 3rd BCT. “Each dog has a different reaction to explosive odor. In a perfect scenario, the handler notices the dog’s reaction and calls them back before they go to the bomb.”

Phillips leans over and hugs his canine partner, a German shepherd named Sgt. 1st Class Rocky.

“I think the hardest part of the class was learning how to read your dogs movements,” said Pfc. William Clark, an infantryman and dog handler assigned to 3rd BCT. “It was the most stressful part of the class, and it was the part that many people failed.”

Crean describes the dog’s reaction to detecting an explosive. The dog will start walking side to side, turning around when they have reached the limit of the odor, almost in the shape of a funnel. It is through this technique that Soldiers are able to know the direction and usually the distance of the improvised explosive device.

Staff Sgt. Mathhew Phillips, an infantryman dog handler assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), rewards Sgt. 1st Class Rocky with some play time after a successful demonstration of bomb detection at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2013. Phillips and Rocky are apart of the Tactical Explosive Detection Dog program also known as the TEDD program, which trains soldiers to work hand-in-hand with military working dogs. (U.S. photo by Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton Task Force 3/101 Public Affairs)

Staff Sgt. Mathhew Phillips, an infantryman dog handler assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), rewards Sgt. 1st Class Rocky with some play time after a successful demonstration of bomb detection at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2013. Phillips and Rocky are apart of the Tactical Explosive Detection Dog program also known as the TEDD program, which trains soldiers to work hand-in-hand with military working dogs. (U.S. photo by Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton Task Force 3/101 Public Affairs)

The handler and dog teams rotate through all the larger forward operating bases and smaller outposts to assist as many Rakkasans as they can.

“These dogs work ahead of the troops,” said Crean. “They work really hard to keep us out of harm’s way.”

“The dog’s body language says it all,” said Phillips. “It can be something small like the slight perking of their ears or something big like the movement and speed of their tail.”

“Dogs have proved to the best asset to have in finding improvised explosive devices,” said Phillips, who has been in the Army 11 years and deployed multiple times. “I saw a few dogs in Iraq, but not nearly as many as I have seen on this deployment.”

There are 13 dogs within 3rd Brigade and their assistance is spread among most of the troops when they are out on missions.

“In December and January, the TEDD dogs had more explosive finds in country than any other programs,” said Crean.

“We go out with the infantrymen, the scouts and really anyone who would like to have our assistance while out on patrol,” said Clark. “These dogs have saved lives.”

Dogs with the TEDD program are not the only dogs working at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan.

AMK9 is a civilian dog handling company hired by the Department of Defence.

“The only difference between our dogs and the dogs working with Soldiers is that we handle the work on the operating bases and outposts and their dogs work outside on missions,” said Kevin Campbell, the kennel master assigned to FOB Salerno. “I have 10 dogs that work in the area of operations here.”

Sgt. Misa, a military working dog with the Tactical Explosive Detection Dog program assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), is rewarded with a toy after his demonstration on his ability to find explosives at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2013. The TEDD program partners soldiers and dogs to assist in finding road side bombs in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. photo by Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton Task Force 3/101 Public Affairs)

Sgt. Misa, a military working dog with the Tactical Explosive Detection Dog program assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), is rewarded with a toy after his demonstration on his ability to find explosives at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2013. The TEDD program partners soldiers and dogs to assist in finding road side bombs in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. photo by Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton Task Force 3/101 Public Affairs)

Dogs assigned to AMK9 conduct operations on deployed military installations, their operations include, but are not limited to, vehicle inspections, drug related operations, security and escorting personnel.

“Our dogs have to meet the same standards as the dogs working with the Army,” said Campbell. “Our missions are just on installations, not outside on missions.”

Deployed dogs, whether they are assigned to the military or work with a civilian company, have played a large role for the Rakkasans; from assisting them on missions to protection while on a FOB or COP.

Though they are here for work, Soldiers working through the TEDD program can’t help but bond and grow attached to their canine partners.

“My dog, Spc. Hugo, in a nutshell, is bipolar, clumsy and such a goofball. But I don’t think I have a bond as strong with anyone else but him,” said Clark. “Even fellow Soldiers I have known since the start of my career, none come close to the bond I have with Hugo.”

“My dog, Sgt. Misa is amazing,” said Crean. “He is really timid, he will scare himself all the time but he is the most loving dog I have ever met.”

“Rocky is just a big baby,” said Phillips. “He thinks he’s a lap dog, but he’s such a sweet heart.”

“He loves working and he really loves playing,” Phillips continued. “Even though they are working dogs, in order to perform better, they need time to play and just be a dog.”

Looking at all three Soldiers with their canine partners you can see the strong bond each team shares as well as the affection, dedication and love each dog shows for their handler.

“I love that dog.” Said Crean. “I really don’t want to give Misa back to the TEDD program when we get back to Fort Campbell.”

Spc. Hugo, explosive detection dog with the Tactical Explosive Detection Dog program assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), obeys the order to stay and watched his handler's gestures carefully on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2013. The TEDD program partners soldiers and dogs to assist in finding road side bombs in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. photo by Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton Task Force 3/101 Public Affairs)

Spc. Hugo, explosive detection dog with the Tactical Explosive Detection Dog program assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), obeys the order to stay and watched his handler’s gestures carefully on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2013. The TEDD program partners soldiers and dogs to assist in finding road side bombs in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. photo by Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton Task Force 3/101 Public Affairs)

“If I could come up with the money, I would buy Rocky from the TEDD program after the deployment, in a heartbeat,” Said Phillips.

“This is the last thing I ever expected to do when I enlisted in the infantry,” said Clark. “But it was a change for the best, I love doing this.”

“Out of my 11 years in the Army, this is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” said Phillips.

More than 20 dogs work in the Rakkasans area of operations, doing their part in Operation Enduring Freedom.

These dogs are not considered equipment, but fellow service members. They too take part in helping protect currently deployed Rakkasans.

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18 thoughts on “Man’s Best Friend Plays Pivotal Role in IED Defeat

  1. Jani Muhlestein

    I love that picture of Rocky and Phillips. That pup is snuggled right up to him with such a loving look. What utter trust and love there is between them.

    It’s sad that they may have to be parted. It makes me even more glad that Honza and John are permanently attached at the hip. Congratulate John on successfully guiding goofball #1 in his life through certification. And give Honza some tummy rubs, too.

    We will miss your Thursday posts, but we do want your second book finished quickly, too. And your new New Year’s resolution did say to balance things a bit more, too.

    Give Brady hugs and kisses, and extra ones on his birthday!

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      We always have this challenge…….. These dogs are trained military working dogs…..they save lives…..they are needed more in Afghanistan than in a troopers home. That is the Army Officer in me……as a human, I wish these young kids could all keep their dogs. But reality is that these pups are highly trained in explosive detection…….recycling them back into the program will save additional soldiers lives.:-)

      I had no doubt John and Honza would kill it at certification last week. Hopefully next round I’ll get to watch some……

      Brady is spending his first B-day on the ocean in Duck, NC……he just put his feet in the sand for the first time! I’ll post pictures on Facebook when I get a chance.

      Reply
    2. Jani Muhlestein

      I do understand. But at least I know that their love for each other is incredibly strong, and that never ends. And whomever ends up with the dogs next time around will love, and be loved, just as much. Lt. Cmdr. Rorke Denver said that war is about love for the true soldier. Love of your country, family, home. Love of your comrades. I would include these dogs in with that group, obviously. Like I said, I’m just glad that Honza is safe with his dad. Is Chuck? Oh dear. That’s a horrible thought. I never even thought to ask about Noah and Chuck.

      I want pictures of Brady in the sand! I bet he is absolutely and completely adorable. Those tiny little feet! That sweet face. He really does look like a sweet little angel. And how adorable he is walking his dog! I may be a bit in love with your baby. And John’s. My brother once told me I have an amazing capacity to love other people’s children. I think it’s a mom thing,

      Reply
      1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

        I was thinking about this same thing this morning while running…….that next handler grows a bond as equally as strong as the prior handler ……many times there are multiple former handlers who wish to adopt the retiring MWD.

        Brady just took his first two steps this morning! Maybe you inspired him with your words of love!

        Reply
        1. Jani Muhlestein

          Now I want pictures even more! And video. Congrats, Dad. It’s a big deal when they take their first steps. Mind you, from here on out, the cuddles go downhill.

          Yeah, I imagine that there is a line of peple wanting to bring a pup home. And that’s kind of sad, but kind of good. The pup will always be taken care of. But there are handlers who will be sad.

          Reply
  2. Carole Remy

    Wonderful post! Thank you Brian and Kevin!

    I’m curious to learn when this post was originally written. Is there any way Puppy Rescue Mission could help Phillips buy Rocky and get him to the US?

    Salutes and respect to everyone working with MWD’s and of course to the MWDs themselves!

    Carole

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Thanks Carole. All those dogs will come home with their handlers…..then they are cycled back into the program, retrained with a new handler and sent back. I mention a little about this in my comment to Jani but it is a necessary evil.

      Reply
  3. Keith Baron

    Another great story Kevin – it is interesting for outsiders to read about the training of the dogs and their handlers and to also follow their exploits on deployment to a war zone such as Afghanistan.By reading your blog we can appreciate how special these brave handlers and their dogs are and the strong bonds that they form with each other – they are all truly outstanding.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Thanks Keith….. I try to give you all the micro and macro picture…….from a program level down to the handler……if only the dog would speak I would give you that perspective. :-)

      Reply
  4. Leslie Sneed

    Kevin~ you are such a wonderful person, teacher and advocate!!! Thanks for the (as usual) amazing post! Love love love my MWD’s and 101st :)))

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Thanks Leslie……as a founding father of the TEDD program, I’m so proud to see it flourish and save lives.

      Reply
  5. Sally Lowen

    Hi Kevin, not possible Brady is walking! Can Phillips be able to adopt Rocky when he retires? I thought I read that handlers have first option on retires. My Mal actually came to us from RONCO from Baghdad. Love this girl. Take care and our thanks to all and your families and the dogs.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      He just climbed up an entire flight of stairs this morning Sally. I do believe that we are in trouble!

      Phillips will have top priority to adopt Rocky….but he’ll need to remain vigilant in keeping track of him. We have a dog at Fort Eustis that is about to retire…..a handler from many years ago is coming to get that hero. :-)

      Reply
      1. Jani Muhlestein

        He climbed the stairs? Well, for the next few years, you’re going to have to be on suicide watch. Trust me. If there’s anything he can do that will put his life in danger, he’ll do it. Actually, knowing that he’s your child, it may be more than a few years…

        Reply
  6. JD Adam

    I look forward to every post. Thank you for “balancing” sword & pen and sharing the stories about these wonderful dogs and men that we otherwise would not hear about. You are a treasure and your work keeps those far from us who are in such dangerous situations close to my heart and thoughts.

    Reply

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