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Cpl. David Capuzzo, a Military Working Dog handler with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, who is part of the unit’s remain behind element, hugs every deploying Marine as they board the bus enroute to Afghanistan from the Combat Center May 31, 2011.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Lyndel Johnson

K9 deploys to Afghanistan

3 Jun 2011 | Staff Sergeant Lyndel Johnson

Dogs are not only companions to many Marines, but are also a proficient aid in the war against terror. The Military Working Dog unit, with 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, departed the Combat Center to join the fight in Afghanistan May 31, 2011.

Family members and loved ones watched as 32 Marines boarded the bus with their dogs enroute to Afghanistan.

Danielle Barrera, wife of Cpl. David Barrera said she feels proud of her husband. “I am happy for him because he is finally doing the job he has been training for,” she said.

Like infantry units, military dogs and their handlers train year-long for the day they are called to assist in various combat zones.

The dogs and their handlers participate in a plethora of obstacle courses, ranges so they get accustomed to the sounds of rounds being fired, and daily three to five mile conditioning hikes. Only the best dogs are chosen to deploy.

If a dog struggles with the training, then another dog is chosen to deploy. The new dog and the handler have to expedite their training.

The dog is not the only member of the K9 unit that is required to be transcendent.

“K9 handlers are chosen from the elite of the M.P. [military police] field,” said Cpl. Andrew Buckley, a K9 handler. “I guarantee that most K9 handlers run a 270 or above [physical fitness test score].”

While deployed, all 32 Marines and dogs will not be in the same unit. Each handler and their dog will be placed in different Marine, Navy and Army units across Afghanistan.

The bond between the Marine and his dog will be tested as they are not only in a combat zone together, but are the only familiar faces in a new unit. Staff Sgt. Skillings, the K9 Kennel Master said the handler and his dog “are trained to be their own attachment.

While on deployment, if something happens to the dog, the handler gets sent back home or given an administrative billet. If the Marine is injured, then the dog gets sent back to the States.”

The goal of the team is to ensure missions are accomplished and a safe return back to the Combat Center. With the training they endured prior to the deployment and the support they have from their family members, this deployment is destined to be a success.

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