Dogs of war keep US Marines safe

Dogs are trained to detect five kinds of threats. (AFP)

For the Marines patrolling south Afghanistan's footpaths, a bomb-sniffing Labrador can mean the difference between life and death.

These "dogs of war" have saved countless lives and their record for finding hidden explosives has won them a loyal following.

"They are 98 per cent accurate. We trust these dogs more than metal detectors and mine sweepers," said handler Corporal Andrew Guzman.

Trained to detect five kinds of threat, from military grade C-4 plastic explosive to common chemicals used by the Taliban to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the dogs play a vital role alongside their human comrades.

Bomb expert Sergeant Crush is all concentration as he leads a foot patrol by two squads of Marines deployed to Afghanistan as part of Washington's fresh surge to end an eight-year insurgency by the Taliban.

His job along with Corporal Goodwin is to lead the men to safety through dusty footpaths and compounds where Taliban militants plant deadly bombs that have left many troops dead.

They are from a group of four Labradors, who are on average four years old and have all seen action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"These dogs are great. They keep our Marines alive," said First Lieutenant Aaron MacLean, second Platoon commander of the Marines 1st Battalion, sixth Regiment Charlie Company, to which the dog team is attached.

The dogs also provide an emotional crutch for young Marines facing death every day. They crowd around the dogs and play with them inside the camp. There are frequent questions about adopting them after the Labradors end their tour.

With the Taliban increasingly relying on improvised explosive devices to cripple the US advance, officials said up to 70 dogs are now on operation in southern Afghanistan, where the insurgency is festering.

 

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