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Cpl. Kenneth Doyle and Cpl. Rick Colts, both military working dog handlers with Military Working Dog Platoon, Military Police Support Company, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, fire an M2 .50-caliber machine gun during a field exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Aug. 28, 2010. The exercise was designed to help the Marines of MP Support Co. sustain their proficiency with different weapons they’ll be using while deployed, as well as acclimate their military working dogs to the sounds of combat.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Bryan J. Nygaard

Military Working Dogs prepare for deployment

28 Aug 2010 | Lance Cpl. Bryan J. Nygaard

Amidst the booming sound of Marines firing multiple machine guns was a noise that is often not heard in a combat situation. It was the joyful bark of military working dogs.

Approximately 60 Marines and 22 Military Working Dogs from Military Police Support Company, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, conducted a live fire training exercise at a multi-purpose machine gun range aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Aug. 26-28, 2010. The Marines fired an array of weapons including the M1014 shotgun, Mossberg 500 shotgun, M240B medium machine gun and the M2 .50-caliber machine gun.

The exercise was designed to help the Marines of General Support Platoon, MP Support Co., sustain their proficiency in loading, firing and maintaining the different weapons they’ll be operating during their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. It also served to familiarize the K-9s of Military Working Dog Platoon, MP Support Co. to the sound of gunfire.

“It’s getting back to the basics,” said 1st Sgt. Jason Gillespie, first sergeant of MP Support Co. “Numerous after-action reports state: being proficient at the basics has saved lives downrange.”

The Military Working Dogs, used primarily for detecting the enemy and explosives, were also maintaining the basic skills that will help them survive in combat.

“For the Military Working Dog Platoon, it’s a simulation of a walking patrol in which Marines take fire from an enemy, and the handler coordinates getting the dog to take cover in a Humvee,” said Staff Sgt. Brian N. Burgess, training chief for military working dogs in MP Support Co. “It’s designed to acclimate both the dog and the handler to the fog of war. It also prepares the Marines of General Support Platoon to be able to operate alongside a four-legged animal during combat.”  

The dogs remained calm as the Marines of GS Platoon fired round after round from heavy machine guns.  

Cpl. Arturo Flores, a military working dog handler with MWD Plt., says the dogs’ reactions are not based on their environment, but on the bearing of their handlers.

“The dog can tell when you’re calm, scared or angry based on the tone of your voice and by your mannerisms,” said Flores. “It all travels down leash.”

The Marines of MP Support Company will conduct at least one field exercise a month until their deployment to Afghanistan, which is slated for this winter.