K-9s Stand Guard in Africa
CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti (Aug. 26, 2011) Rado, an 8-year-old German Shepherd military working dog, bites U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Yourg, Camp Lemonnier master-at-arms and K-9 kennel supervisor, during a patrol training exercise at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, August 26. The Camp Lemonnier military working dogs are patrol and detection trained. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Stephen Linch)
Sailors and their furry, four-legged partners deploy all over the world with one mission: to detect and defend.
The working military dogs stationed at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti in the Horn of Africa ensure that mission is completed on a daily basis.
"The K-9 unit here is tasked with the protection of the base," said U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Abraham, Camp Lemonnier master-at-arms and military working dog handler. "We keep an eye on anything that comes on and off base. We are the first line of defense."
The military working dogs are certified in patrol and detection. Patrol is based on tactical operations such as locating suspects, whereas detection involves finding contraband such as explosives and narcotics, Abraham said.
To obtain these skill sets, the dogs are trained from about a year old at basic military training, which lasts for four months, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. They continue training throughout their careers with their handlers.
"The dogs we have here are some of the best-trained dogs that I have seen throughout my naval career," said U.S. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Brian Bates, Camp Lemonnier security operations chief, ensuring praise also fell on the handlers. "They don't falter - they are spot on."
The sailors and their military working dogs can be found patrolling and protecting different areas around the camp at any given time and are available around the clock.
"We put all the handlers on 24-hour call," said U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Yourg, Camp Lemonnier master-at-arms and K-9 kennel supervisor.
Although their mission in the Horn of Africa is similar to that of their home station, they are faced with a unique complication - exceptionally hot weather, which routinely exceeds 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer time.
According to Yourg, it is vital to acclimatize the dogs to the heat or deal with the repercussions.
"We couldn't do our job, … and they could end up dying," he said.
"It's easy for the handler to get accustomed," said Abraham. "It's a little harder for the dogs."
Abraham uses the same techniques prescribed by the rest of the Camp Lemonnier K-9 to safeguard his partner Adela, a 6-year-old German Shepherd who deployed with him from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.
"We don't just let them (the dogs) sit in the vehicle with air conditioning running," Abraham explained describing one of the techniques used to acclimatize the dogs. "We will have the windows down a little bit so they get used to the warm air.
"So if we have to go out and do anything, they aren't going from cold to hot - … getting a shock," Abraham added.
It is important to have the dogs operating at peak performance, Bates said.
"K-9 brings an overall different aspect as far as detection," he said. "They enhance the mission for the base as well as the area of operation."
Much like their human counterparts, military working dogs, such as those defending Camp Lemonnier, eventually retire after serving distinguished careers. Many of them are compatible and available for adoption. For information on adopting military working dogs, visit http://www.lackland.af.mil/units/341stmwd/index.asp.