MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- Dogs have earned the title 'man's best friend' through the past several centuries. Although today people view the title as a representation of the canine's loyalty and devotion to his master, dogs were initially domesticated to work.
Therefore, the designation 'military working dogs' is a more than accurate title for the Provost Marshal's canine unit here.
Just as dogs of ancient times helped their masters hunt, herd, and defend borders, military working dogs help their Marine handlers perform their law enforcement tasks.
Each of the seven dogs is assigned his own handler and each handler is responsible for his animals' care -- feeding, grooming, training and overall care.
Handlers are also responsible for ensuring the dogs' records are maintained to verify the animals' performance evaluations.
"They're tested on everything from speed and agility to efficiency," said Lance Cpl. Robert Bowker.
K-9 personnel report that maintaining the dogs' records is vital. Records provide a way to track the dog's performance and serve as verification that the animal is certified for use in positive detection situations.
"It may become necessary to verify their records if a case went to court," said Lance Cpl. Nester Antoine. "It's like their alibi to prove they know what theyÕre doing."
All military working dogs are trained, evaluated and shipped to various units from the 341st Military Working Dog Training Squadron, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio.
The animals go through a rigorous six- to-12 month training period, depending on the specific training.
After their training at Lackland, it is estimated the Marine Corps has invested about $6,000 in each dog and another $37,000 over his entire life.
According to Sgt. Kristopher Knight, all the dogs here are dual certified.
"They're all trained in patrolling and in either narcotics or explosives detection," the Cincinnati native said.
Personnel from the K-9 unit also said that handlers train with their dogs for at least two hours per day.
"It may not be all at once," Lance Cpl. Charles Rottenberry said.
"We have to give them a little break in between and we also have to carry on with our regular duties like patrolling and random vehicle and building searches," the Newark, Del., native added.
Although the dogs go through daily training and quarterly certification tests, they are required by the Marine Corps to take annual certification tests to remain in active service.
"During our training, we grade the dogs on how quickly they can sweep an area [either for narcotics or explosives] and whether they found all of the different items we hid," said Antoine, a New Orleans native.
In addition to their regular routine, the dogs and their handlers are requested for special operations.
Antoine and his dog, MWD Duco, recently returned from Washington where they helped support the presidential inauguration.
"We had a great time," said Antoine.
"We worked countless hours sweeping cars, dumpsters, walk-ways, just about anywhere dignitaries would be or come in close contact with," he added.
According to Antoine, who spent nearly three weeks on the Washington detail, numerous dog teams were on hand during the preparation for the presidential inauguration.
"It was a great honor to be chosen to work with the inauguration detail," Antoine said.
"I was proud to represent the Corps and the PMO canine unit from MCLB Albany."