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Marine Corps Recruiting Command

Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

3280 Russell Road, 2nd Floor Quantico, Va. 22134
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They have a nose for their business

By Lance Cpl. Edward R. Guevara Jr. | | June 13, 2003

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Some dogs help people in wheelchairs, some dogs help people that use walking sticks, and some dogs help find people who are missing, but the dogs aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, protect the lives of those who work and serve here.

The working dogs here serve to protect the interests of the service members here.

The Military Working Dog Section, Provost Marshal's Office here, search for drugs and explosives to protect the safety of the personnel aboard the Depot.

The mission of the MWD aboard the Depot is to detect and locate controlled substances and illegal narcotics and explosives.  Also, to act as a deterrent for illegal activity and as an effective tool for antiterrorism through the use of vehicles and foot patrols, sentry duty and random explosive and narcotic sweeps.

Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds are two of the breeds that currently make up the canine team.

Sgt. Todd W. Shires, kennel master, Cpl. Jarrod M. Glass, Cpl. Michael A. Skillings, and Cpl. Joshua A. Moose, each rotate the handling of the dogs they work with during their three years here.

"We rotate dogs for the purpose of them not getting attached to a handler and to give the handlers experience with different dogs," said Shires.

Each dog is trained for a specific purpose in either narcotics detection or explosives detection with an emphasis on accuracy.  The handlers are trained to work with both types of dogs.

"Each dog is either explosives or narcotics, so the dog is in tune with its objective," said Shires.  "They are all trained for 100 percent accuracy."

Jaco and Borris are "bomb dogs" aboard the Depot and are used the most because if explosives were found, they could pose a more massive threat than if drugs were found here, according to Shires.

Pasja and Hertha are drug dogs and are used for their trained specialty to do tasks such as car searches and random barracks inspections.

Inspections are not the only missions the dogs take on.

The handlers sometimes take their companions on missions to other military installations to keep the dogs on a constant training schedule with different environments, according to Cpl. Joshua A. Moose, MWD.

"It is added training for the dogs and for us to work in new and different environments this base doesn't have," said Skillings.

About two times a year, MWD sends one dog for one month to work with U.S. Customs Service, according to Skillings.

"The dogs go on (temporary assigned duty) with customs to do narcotics searches at the entry points coming into the U.S.," said Skillings.

Moose went to New Jersey with Pasja for three weeks and participated in a Phoenix Readiness course.  Participants and their dogs did patrols together, searched out enemies, setup and walked perimeters, and ensured everything was secure.  They also helped the Air Force setup canine protection for a new air base, according to Moose.

The maintenance of the dog's training is important so they can maintain a level of accuracy when doing searches with minimal mistakes.

"The dogs will have to be re-certified if they have too many misses," said Shires.

Outside of detection all dogs are trained in patrol.  They are mainly used for random patrols and building searches the Marines decide to do.

"The majority of what we do here is training," said Shires.  "We don't have many calls for drugs or searches like bigger bases such as Miramar, who do sweeps and patrols often."

Some bases require less canine support, but all bases have a canine unit, according to Shires.

The Depot will be receiving another explosives dog at the end of the year.

According to Shires, the explosive dogs are vital to the base at this time and when the threat condition is elevated, the dogs are worked more and need to be rotated out because of fatigue.  This new dog will help with the workload.

The dogs rotate constantly in patrol shifts to ensure base security.

The dogs are very attentive to what is going on in their surroundings, according to Shires.

The ability of the handler and dog to work together is displayed in demonstrations to groups such as Boy Scouts, police explorers, future Marines and high school students.  Two to three times a year, they may go to high schools and conduct demonstrations.
"I like it when the young children come here on field trips to see demos," said Shires.  "They are the best question askers."  The students always have an endless number of questions, added Shires.

This group of Marines and Military Working Dogs not only accomplish their mission by deterring possible problems with their patrols, but they also educate the public about their capabilities with demonstrations on an average of five times a month.

In addition to the new dog, two newly trained handlers are expected to arrive in July.

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