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Mine dog teams get ready for action

By Sgt. Robert Larson , CJTF-101

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CENTCOM

U.S. Army Sgt. Perry Pyle, a dog handler with 49th Mine Dog Detachment, 54th Engineer Battalion, Task Force Dolch and native of St. Louis, rewards his partner, Finta, with some play time for a job well done on mine-detection training lanes at Bagram Air Field, Dec. 15. The dogs are tested regularly to ensure they can maintain the high find rates required of mine detection dogs. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Larson)

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Dec. 31, 2010) — Ever heard the phrase, “Every dog has its day”?

Well, the mine detection dogs and handlers from the 49th Mine Dog Detachment, 54th Engineer Battalion, Task Force Dolch, based at Bagram Air Field, know that better than most. These highly trained animals are used to help soldiers on the ground find some of the most elusive enemies in theater - landmines and improvised explosive devices.

The 49th MDD, attached to TF Dolch for their deployment to Afghanistan,  consists of only a handful of soldiers who are responsible for conducting clearance operations alongside multiple route clearance patrols and many other missions that TF Dolch Sappers execute. Sappers are elite Ranger-like combat engineers who work with demolitions.

The dogs are tested regularly to ensure they can maintain the high find rates required of their job. Using actual land mines and munitions found around Bagram that coalition explosive ordnance detachment members rendered inert, the handlers built training lanes designed to help keep their companions mission ready at all times.

“We have anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines (and) anti-personnel landmines that are used as boosters for anti-tank mines, hand grenades,  artillery rounds and everything in between,” said U.S. Army Sgt. John Bornhoff of the 49th MDD and resident of North Prairie, Wis.

There are 10 training and testing lanes, which are one meter wide by 10 meters long each. Bricks divide the lanes, and random ordnances are buried throughout.

“The dogs will key on even the slightest explosive scent that, (when)  combined with a visual signature, will give the dog more than it needs to know that something is there,” said Bornhoff.

The presence of the MDD gives the soldiers of TF Dolch a bit more confidence and a nice morale boost.

“Just being able to be around the dogs makes the morale of the soldiers that much better,” said U.S. Army Capt. William Robinson Jr., chaplain for the 54th Engr. Bn., TF Dolch, and native of Youngstown, Ohio.

The MDD is a great asset for TF Dolch soldiers to remove at least some of the unexploded ordnance and IED threats military personnel and local civilians face in Afghanistan.