MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- Through the years, dogs have been known as "man's best friend." Many provide companionship and help with everyday tasks. Canines assist in anything from leading the blind, guarding homes and establishments, to assisting Marines in protecting the United States.
Just as a Marine, dogs have basic training and are tested annually. After they have served their time, they also retire.
A Military Working Dog's training is done at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Training begins at approximately age 1 and they learn obedience, patrol work, how to search buildings, how to scout or look for people, and detection.
The mission of the Department of Defense Dog Center in Texas is to provide trained Military Working Dogs and handlers for the Department of Defense and other government agencies through training, research and development and veterinary support for security efforts worldwide.
Basic canine training lasts approximately 120 days, and three months for the handler.
"Military Police have to attend occupational school, and if selected they have the opportunity to become part of a K-9 unit," said Sgt. Charles Rotenberry, Newark, Del. native, handler, Provost Marshal's Office. "Then we go to school and receive the training necessary to handle and take care of a dog,"
Once dogs complete basic training, they proceed to military installations to carry out their tour of duty.
However, training for the animals does not stop there. Upon "checking in," the dogs are trained in narcotics detection or explosives detection. After Lackland AFB determines what their specialty will be, the dogs undergo more training at their new station and must demonstrate their proficiency to the commanding officer. Prior to certification handlers are not permitted to assume an operational role.
Although the dogs will always retain the same specialty, they won't always have the same handler. Being a K-9 handler is not a permanent job for Marines.
"The canines don't move around from duty station to duty station like Marines," said Sgt. Nester Antoine, Homa, Lo. Native, kennel master, PMO. "The dog stays and the handlers rotate."
Currently, MCLB Albany has several dogs that are used extensively. Some of the canines have been all over the United States for different events, to include Super Bowl XXXVI and the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City, Utah. One of the canines is credited with making a $24 million drug bust for the U.S. Customs Agency.
When requested by local law enforcement, Military Working Dogs have also responded to bomb threats in the area.
After serving their time in the Marine Corps and helping local communities, the canines are retired and some are eligible for local adoption. The handlers screen each dog to ensure that they are well suited for potential adoption candidates. Handlers also make sure that the prospective candidate has the ability to take care of and house the animal properly.
"We make sure the canines are well cared for and happy during and after they have completed their service," Antoine said.