Sunday, August 19, 2007

Four-legged war fighters dwell in new abode

10 Aug 07
By Cpl. Ryan R. Jackson
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD).

AL ASAD, Iraq - Throughout the theatre, service members are continually asking for and receiving operational gear they need to accomplish their mission.

The latest troops on Al Asad to get new mission essential equipment were the four-legged war fighters, more commonly known as military working dogs, of Task Force Military Police, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, who received new kennels during a ribbon cutting ceremony, July 18. The new kennels were approximately a year and a half in the making and cost approximately $400,000. The kennels are a huge step in the right direction to properly house and care for the dogs, according to 1st Lt. William Turner, military working dog officer in charge.

The facility features include running water and drainage, a rinse tub for washing the dogs, and larger training grounds and break areas. The new training area contains a large obedience course, which is a set of obstacles designed to strengthen a dog and handlers teamwork. The biggest addition to the new facility is the capacity to house 12 dogs. For normal operational purposes each forward operating base normally maintains only a few dogs.

With the increased housing capacity, Al Asad will eventually become the main hub for military working dogs as other FOBs close down and troops draw back, according to the Multi National Forces-West regional kennel master, Tech. Sgt. Nancy Hinostroza.

The biggest difference between the old kennels and the new facility is the billeting situation. In the former kennels the dogs slept in cages beneath the handlers beds and there was almost no separation between the two throughout the day. Now each dog has their own large kennel and each handler has their own room.

“They are the first professional kennels in MNF-W,” said Turner. “The restrictions being in a combat zone has always forced the handlers and dogs to live together, but here we are able to separate them out in a more professional manner.”

Separating the teams is more hygienic and keeps each end of the team healthier.

“The new kennels are more sanitary, in our old kennels we didn’t have anywhere to bathe the dogs,” said Hinostroza. “Now, we have an actual break yard where the dogs can stretch out and it’s great for training.”

The new facility is geared towards expanding on the dogs needs. The training grounds and hygiene equipment lead to better physical health of the furry war fighters, while separating them from their handlers improves their mental health.

“Now we get some separation, we’re not with our dogs all day,” said Hinostroza. “Sometimes you just need a break from your dog. Now, when we get them they are like ‘Come on, take me out!’ instead of like ‘Good morning, what’s going on?’ they are much happier to see us.”

Photo - Sgt. Aaron DeSalvo, a military working dog handler, walks his dog Kelsey through the obedience course at the new kennel facility, July 18. The facility has an improved break yard and larger obedience course, which is used to improve the dog and handlers teamwork skills.

Source: Chaotic Synaptic Activity.

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