The Military's Combat Canines

By Glenn Bossik

They arrive in the stealth of night on Black Hawk helicopters. They have the guns they need. They even have a dog named Cairo. They're Navy SEAL Team Six, and they're in Pakistan to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. That's what the Daily Mail, a British newspaper, reported when describing the killing of bin Laden by U.S. special forces teams.

According to the Daily Mail, the purpose of the SEAL team's dog was to track anyone who might try to escape from bin Laden's housing compound. The Atlantic Wire said in a recent article that there was a debate about whether the dog was a German shepherd or a Belgian Malinois.

Regardless of which dog was used in the raid, the U.S. military must regularly select, train, and equip dogs for combat zones. The Department of Defense (DoD) oversees this process and has tasked the Air Force's 341st Training Squadron with implementation.


This squadron resides at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. The soldiers there are in charge of selecting dogs for the DoD's military working dog program. There are several breeds listed by the Air Force for military use: the German shepherd, Belgian Malinois, and Dutch shepherd.

An article in a recent issue of Airman Magazine focuses on the breeding of Belgian Malinois for the dog breeding program at Lackland. In the article, Pre K9, Sarah Dietrich, a foster parent for a Belgian Malinois puppy from the program, says: "These dogs are the smart children, and they want to explore every corner of everything."

Smart dogs are the driving force behind the military working dog program. They have the intelligence to find enemy soldiers and hidden bombs. These dogs can be trained.


The 341st Training Squadron says on its Web site that it establishes a relationship between dogs and handlers, teaches the dogs obedience, and shows the dogs how to attack, as well as how to search various locations.

Advance training combines all these learned behaviors. "During this phase a dog is taught to find a suspect or hostile person in a building or open area; to attack, without command, someone who is attacking its handler; to cease an attack upon command at any point after an attack command has been given, and other tasks," says the 341st Training Squadron on its Web site.

These are the skills taught to dogs just like Cairo, the canine soldier from the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound. Dogs are used for a lot more than special forces missions, though. They're often used in longer-term conflicts. They played a big role in World War II. The Army Quartermaster Foundation's Web site says that 10,425 dogs were trained for the war.

They're still in widespread use by the military today. In the article, The Dogs of War: Beloved Comrades in Afghanistan, The New York Times says that Marines in Afghanistan are using Labrador retrievers to find homemade bombs.


Of course, military working dogs sometimes need their own combat gear. Last year, the U.S. Navy SEALS announced on their blog that they would buy canine tactical vests from K9 Storm, a Canadian company. The SEALS' vest of choice is called the Intruder. It's lightweight, waterproof, and equipped with a night-vision camera. K9 Storm's vests also use Kevlar. So, dogs can withstand a knifing from an enemy combatant.

But combat gear isn't the only thing that canine troops need. They must stay cool in hot war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. That's why Starline Nunley started the Cooling Vest Project. Her Web site says that the project supplies military working dogs with ChillyDog RPCM Vests. These vests contain rechargeable cool packs.

With the right gear, the U.S. military's dogs can tackle almost any challenge. They can keep our troops safe from roadside bombs, storm terrorist compounds, and warm the hearts of the soldiers who care for them. Long live military working dogs!

Daily Mail Reporter, "Stealth Helicopters, 23 SEALs and a Dog Named Cairo: For the First Time, Details of Bin Laden Raid Reveal How Close Mission Came to Failure," Mail Online
Alex Eichler, "Breeders Battle for Right to Claim Hero Navy SEAL Dog," The Atlantic Wire
341st Training Squadron, "341st TRS (Military Working Dogs)," Lackland Air Force Base
Randy Roughton, "Pre K9," Airman Magazine Online
Army Quartermaster Foundation, "Quartermaster War Dog Program,"
Elisabeth Bumiller, "The Dogs of War: Beloved Comrades in Afghanistan," The New York Times
U.S. Navy SEALS, "SEAL Dogs Get the Best Gear Too,"
K9 Storm Incorporated, "The K9 Storm Intruder,"
Starline Nunley, "Cooling Vest Project,"
Glacier Tek, Inc., "ChillyDog RPCM® Cool Vest,"

Glenn Bossik works as a Web content writer for Florida Puppies for, a network of trusted, experienced breeders devoted to raising quality puppies and finding happy, loving homes for them.

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