The U.S. Marine Corps explains that "working dogs" have different jobs: some help people in wheelchairs, others assist those with walking sticks, and some help locate missing people.
But the canines aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, have a unique mission: They protect the lives of those who serve their country. In fact, the military working dogs at the Depot serve to protect the interests of all service members stationed there.
The Military Working Dog Section, Provost Marshal's Office
The Provost Marshal's Office is where canines are put to work. These dogs are trained to search for drugs and explosives to protect the safety of the personnel aboard the Depot.
The mission of the Military Working Dog (MWD) is to detect and locate controlled substances and illegal narcotics and explosives. In addition, these dogs often are called upon to act as a deterrent for illegal activity and as an effective tool for antiterrorism through the use of vehicles and foot patrols, sentry duty and random explosive and narcotic sweeps.
Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds are two of the breeds on the canine team trained in either narcotics or explosives detection with an emphasis on accuracy.
The dogs are rotated among handlers as to not get attached to one Marine during their time at the Depot.
But inspections are not the only missions the dogs take on.
The dog handlers sometimes take their companions on missions to other military installations to keep the dogs on a constant training schedule with different environments. About two times a year, MWD sends one dog for one month to work with U.S. Customs Service.
Participants and their dogs do patrols together, search out enemies, setup and walk perimeters, and ensure everything is secure. In the past, they also helped the Air Force set up canine protection for a new airbase.
The dogs' training is important so they can maintain a level of accuracy when doing searches with minimal mistakes.
Outside of detection, all dogs are trained in patrol. They are mainly used for random patrols and building searches the Marines decide to do.
The explosive dogs are vital to the base, especially when a threat condition is elevated. At this time, the dogs are worked more and need to be rotated because of fatigue. The explosive dogs are also rotated in patrol shifts to ensure base security.
Handlers often get the opportunity to "show off" their dogs to community groups. The ability of the handler and dog to work together is displayed in demonstrations to groups, such as Boy Scouts, police explorers, future Marines and high school students. Two to three times a year, they may go to high schools to conduct demonstrations.
This group of Marines and military working dogs not only accomplish their mission by deterring possible problems with their patrols, but they also educate the public about their capabilities with demonstrations on an average of five times a month.