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Thor, a Yellow Labrador Retriever, who is a military working dog with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., looks around the desert at Combat Center Range 220 on Feb. 2. The military working dogs are part of the battalion and will deploy with their Marine handlers.

Photo by Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl

Boots and paws on the ground for OEF

9 Feb 2010 | Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl

Dogs have long been known as man’s best friend, and the military working dog is still that, but they are also an invaluable tool for Marines deployed overseas, because of their abilities to smell, which Marines from 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, learned during their Enhanced Mojave Viper pre-deployment training evolution at Combat Center Range 220.

The dogs are employed and embedded with the platoons, and used when they are needed, said 2nd Lt. John Adams, a platoon commander with Company K, 3rd Bn., 1st Marines, and a native of Milwaukee.

“Having the dogs and trained handlers is a very valuable tool we’ve been able to implement a lot on patrols and searches,” Adams said. “They can smell and detect stuff better than humans can, which makes them great for searching for explosives or drugs.”

Adams said the handlers are not a new addition to the team, rather an old Marine who learned new tricks.

“We sent three Marines from Kilo Company to be trained as handlers,” he said. “They were already part of the platoons. Now they’re right back where they were as part of a team, but they have added skills and abilities from their training.

“So far, the six-week course has paid off a lot,” he added. “The dogs, as well as the handlers, have been performing very well and we’re looking forward to using them overseas.”

Cpl. Deano Miller, a rifleman cross trained for the company as a dog handler, spoke to the lessons he learned and the friend he gained in his working dog, a yellow labrador retriever named Thor.

“The dogs have helped out a lot on patrols and other situations where we have to search for explosives,” said Miller a Tacoma, Wash., native. “We’re not the first ones to do this training, but its great to have something as valuable as a dog’s nose when you’re searching for what we are.”

Miller described his canine companion’s mission as a working dog, and as well as his temperament.

“He’s a bomb sniffing dog,” he said. “Thor is pretty good; he’s a well-behaved and very well-trained dog.

“He’s like a little kid, though,” he continued. “I’ve got to play with him all the time in the morning and at night, or he doesn’t want to work very hard.”

Other Marines who know Miller and served with him recognized how he and the other handlers have made an impact on their team already.

“It’s awesome that one of our own guys got to do this,” said Lance Cpl. Mengqi Xu, a rifleman with the company, and a native of Chicago. “Cpl. Miller was always a good Marine and a good friend. Now we’ve got someone with skills and experience and trust in our own unit who’s going to play a vital role in how we get things done over there.”

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