By Spc. Allison Churchill

41st Fires Brigade public affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq — Seven service members and their dogs are teamed up to ensure the safety of missions in Wasit Province.

Four soldiers, two airmen and a sailor make up the FOB Delta military working dog team, providing an extra dose of security as other units leave the wire.

“We have a dog out the gate every day,” said Staff Sgt. Quatdreecus Nealon, the team’s noncommissioned officer-in-charge, from the 6th Military Police Detachment at Fort Rucker, Ala.

The units going out on mission determine where the dogs are needed, and in recent months the dogs have uncovered 164 rockets and 12 mortars, said Springtown native Spc. Matthew Carroll, of the 34th Military Police Detachment at Fort Knox, Ky.

When the dogs and their handlers aren’t on mission, they live in their handler’s trailers and go through detection and aggression training.

“We set up detection problems, take all the dogs through, and if the dogs have any problems we work with them on that problem and then take them back through,” Carroll said.

The team said they work together well, despite the fact they each deployed individually and arrived at FOB Delta at different times.

Several of the team members met previously at the military working dog school at Lackland Air Force Base, a joint service school. Handlers learn the trade there before their training is fine-tuned by their unit and military branch.

“All the branches have the same views, but the details vary,” said Seaman Robert Highman, of Naval Security Forces, Guam, who handles Max, the team’s only explosives detector dog.

In all branches, one has to be a regular military policeman before becoming a canine handler. For the handlers on the FOB Delta team, the change was welcome.

“Actually being able to go outside the wire — I actually feel like I’m doing something,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Bruce Martinez, from Nellis Air Force Base’s 99th Security Forces Squadron.

“There’s nothing better than waking up in the morning and going out to play with dogs,” said Carroll, who also said he considers the dogs the hardest workers in the military.

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