Honoring The Men, Women, And Dogs That Served Our Country
November 11th is more than just another Thursday in November, it’s a day to honor and remember the men and women of our military who fought, served, and died for our country. It is an American holiday known as Veterans Day. Unlike most holidays that are celebratory, Veterans Day is a holiday of reverence and admiration for all those that risked and/or gave their lives so that you and I may share the same basic American freedoms and liberties. But, it’s not just men and women that proudly serve our country as the U.S. military also enlists dogs to serve for various purposes and occupations. This blog will discuss the history, various occupations, and importance that dogs fulfill in the U.S. military.
A History Of Dogs In The Military
Believe it or not, dogs actually have their own veterans day dedicated just to them. It all began on March 13th, 1942 when the U.S. Army started training for its new “War Dog” program also known as the “K-9 Corps.” This was the first time dogs were officially recognized as part of the U.S. armed forces and to this day they continue to serve in every branch of the U.S. military including the Army, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Navy. These early day “War Dogs” first served in WWII on both the U.S. and German sides. They were mostly used to find wounded soldiers, transport supplies, and carry messages. Nevertheless, they served an essential role in the war efforts not only for their usefulness, but for their companionship and camaraderie amongst the soldiers they worked with.
Dogs In The Service Today
Trained military dogs, or TMD’s, make up a vital part of the U.S. military in a wide variety of ways. Unlike the early days of being a “War Dog,” TMD’s are considered a valuable asset and are essentially treated as a soldier on four legs. TMD’s are trained from a young age to perform very specific jobs including search & rescue, patrolling, attacking, tracking, and explosive detection. Many of these jobs revolve around a dog’s keen sense of smell which is significantly better than a human’s. This alone makes them an invaluable companion in virtually any form of warfare. In 2013, there were an estimated 2,500 dogs actively serving in the U.S. military across all branches.
So Why Dogs?
Dogs are fiercely loyal creatures and truly man’s best friend. This applies to not only at home or in your life, but at war and in the midst of battle and warfare. Dogs are just as loyal as a fellow human soldier, if not more, and is exactly why they are regarded as soldiers themselves with both rankings and status. Experienced Department of Defense K-9 personnel are classified as non-commissioned officers and oddly enough are always one rank higher than their handler. But TMD’s are more than just loyal; they’re also more readily equipped to fill specific roles in the military that humans cannot, thanks to their remarkable sense of smell and hearing. In fact, TMD’s are so good at their job that they are actually in high demand from militaries all over the world. The average price for a fully trained bomb-detection canine is over $150,000, but truthfully these animals and the services they provide are priceless.
Where Do Trained Military Dogs Come From?
Nearly all military dogs and their handlers are trained in San Antonio, Texas at the 341st Training Squadron located at the Lackland Air Force Base. It is here that military dogs and their handlers are trained to track and/or attack an enemy as well as drug, weapon, and bomb detection. The Lackland Air Force Base has been training military dogs and their handlers since 1958 and continues to train thousands of them every year. The most common breeds of dogs trained here are German Shepherds and Labradors, similar to the breeds who become service dogs as mentioned in a previous blog. This is mostly due to their natural ability to detect drugs, weapons, bombs, and gases more readily and accurately than most other breeds as well as better than most military equipment. Although technology plays a large role in modern day military logistics, TMD’s still play an invaluable and irreplaceable role in our military as well and are considered the most effective countermeasure against terrorists and explosives.
Why Honor Military Dogs During Veterans Day?
Simply put, trained military dogs are veterans too. Although they may not be as highly ranked or have as many medals as human Veterans, they are still dedicated soldiers that risk their lives for our country and its people. One could argue that “War Dogs” don’t have a choice as they’re bred and trained to serve at an early age. But, they are still serving their country regardless of who tells them to. Serving your country is one of the most righteous and selfless acts anyone can do (dog or human) and deserves the utmost respect and admiration. I encourage you to celebrate this Veterans Day in remembrance of not only the men and women of the military, but of the trained military dogs as well.