Taking a bite out of Ramadi

28 Sep 2006 | Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr.

Marines operating in the city of Ar Ramadi, have many weapons in the fight against improvised explosive devices, one of which could be considered a “Marine’s best friend.”

Military working dogs and their Marine handlers provide valuable support to the Marines of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, operating in the city.

The MWD teams serve in a variety of roles from being a physical deterrent to conducting vehicle checks, but their most important role comes from their ability to find explosives and IEDs.

Thoroughly trained in explosive odors, the dogs are nearly flawless in their detections.

“Our dogs are required to maintain 95 percent accuracy on all odors,” said Cpl. Ryan C. Head, a 21-year-old military working dog handler with the battalion.

With their “nose” for IEDs and weapons caches, the MWD teams are put in the lead of patrols for early detection, or used for route clearance before an operation.

Only a short time into the deployment, the teams have already displayed their usefulness by pointing out a few well-hidden IEDs, said Cpl. Chris D. Branham, a 23-year-old military working dog handler with the battalion.

“My dog found things we never could have found with just our eyes,” said Branham, a native of Kershaw, S.C.

The efficiency of the dogs on patrol aids the Marines mentally as well, said Branham.

With little need to watch the ground for IEDs, the Marines can focus more of their attention on the surrounding area and their own security.

“It’s just one less thing these guys have to worry about,” said Branham.

In some cases, the mere presence of the dogs at the various forward operating bases can be an uplifting experience for the Marines.

As time passes, the Marines come to recognize and get to know the dogs they work with on a regular basis.

“It’s definitely a morale booster; it gives them a little piece of home,” said Head, a native of Snellville, Ga.

The dogs, which are trained and handled by Marines in uniform, have an affinity toward Marines in their cammies, according to Head.

The greatest bond, however, is formed between dog and handler during their six- to seven-month deployments together.

“It’s a joint relationship with the dogs,” said Branham. “You rely on them and they rely on you. They are our partners.”

With the aid of their “partners” the numerous MWD teams of the battalion will continue to take point in the fight against IEDs for many months to come.

Although the dogs may not understand their noble purpose in the battle, their handlers are clear on their objective.

“We’re here to keep Marines out of that danger zone,” said Head.