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By Spc. Joshua Morris
U.S. Army Central
The purpose of the training was to get both the dogs and their handlers familiarized with the procedures of loading and unloading on to a helicopter under potential emergency circumstances.
The Marines and their working dogs have been deployed to Kuwait for approximately five months. Some of the Marines belong to 1st Marine Expeditionary Force of Camp Pendleton, California, with the other Marines coming from 2nd MEF of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Sgt. Suzette Clemans and her military working dog, Denny went through the training.
“Every couple of months we like to work up on it to make sure the dogs are staying proficient at it,” she said. “Just in case we’re in a combat situation and our dog goes down, we all know the basic procedures to get us on and off the bird safely.”
Clemans and Denny have been together for four years and are on their second deployment together. The handlers and their dogs spend countless hours together, which helps them conduct training like this without mishaps.
“We are with them almost 18 hours a day,” she said. “We have 12-hour shifts but a lot of us come in after work or before work to take our dogs out to do things like PT [physical training] with them.”
Lance Cpl. Dakota Ford, 2nd MEF, and his working dog, Freddy, a female Labrador, are another pair that went through the MEDEVAC training.
Ford said that the training was a culmination of previous training the dogs go through.
“What we do is get the dogs used to loud noises and people around them.” Ford said. “That way they can actually see that and get used to a chaotic environment and still be able to perform the way we need them to perform. It’s really important, because we work with different vehicles all the time and we want the dogs to be used to all environments, so that way if something happens they aren’t getting sketched out.”
Not only do the dogs need to perform well with their handlers, but there are also times when they need to perform well with other dogs.
“We actually had two dogs in the helicopters at once so that adds another factor with her and other dogs,” he said. “These guys aren’t pets. So, for them to work around other dogs – and still be able to keep focus on their handler and what the mission is – is really important to us.”
At the end of the training, each dog successfully completed the training, including one that was taking part for the first time. With training like this, the dogs are held to a high standard just like their human counterparts.
“Dogs can end up on birds for different reasons,” he said. “If something happens to a dog, or anything like that, the dogs are going to be taken care of just like a Soldier or Marine.”
From their initial training, the dogs are trained to sniff for bombs, weapons, drugs, and also to engage enemies so training like this aids in mission versatility.
“Our missions can range anywhere from a VIP sweep, searching vehicles, to searching roadways for IEDs,” he said. “We have kind of a broad mission and we train for all of that.”
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