A Very Good Boy Named 'The Dude' Sniffs Out Bombs on Patrol with US Troops

The Dude, a patrol explosives protection dog, assigned to force protection, awaits a CH-47 Chinook during a live-fire exercise at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, May 18, 2020. (U.S. Army/Spc. Andrew Garcia)

Military Working Dogs can do anything U.S. troops do. A Belgian Malinois named “Conan” accompanied the U.S. Army’s Delta Force on a raid to take down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Another Malinois named “Cairo” joined U.S. Navy SEALs on their daring raid on Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad Compound.

And then there’s The Dude, a working dog assigned to 1st Cavalry Regiment 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), 25th Infantry Division out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska. Like his human counterpart troops, he isn’t making headlines every day bagging terrorists. Instead, he’s doing the hard work of training, doing things by the book and abiding by the rules.

The Dude, you could say, abides.

In his off time he (likely) enjoys relaxing on a rug that really ties the room together, but The Dude’s primary job is saving his handlers and his unit from unseen dangers like roadside bombs and vehicle-borne explosives. He recently boarded a CH-47 Chinook helicopter to participate in a live-fire exercise at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.

U.S. Soldiers and The Dude, a military working dog, assigned to Bravo Team, 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment 1st Stryker Brigade Combat team, 25th Infantry Division, board a CH-47 Chinook at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, May 18, 2020. (U.S. Army/Spc. Andrew Garcia)

Official photos released by the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq showed The Dude participating in that exercise. His role was route clearance procedure. He and his handler, Army Sgt. Jason Salazar, also helped the soldiers of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team validate their ground-level and base augmentation procedures.

Salazar and The Dude held their positions, even as the 1st SBCT fired live mortar rounds and even an M3 Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle.

According to the Defense Department, there are more than 2,300 military working dogs serving in the military at any given moment. Many are German and Dutch Shepherds or Belgian Malinois, breeds chosen for their intelligence, aggression, loyalty and athletics.

The dogs also have a sense of smell five to 10 times stronger than a humans, which is why they’re used to sniff out explosives long before a human handler could find them on their own, according to the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Program.

Al-Asad Air Base was first stood up in 2015 to advise and assist Iraqi Security Forces in its fight against the Islamic State. The base has made headlines in recent days as the target of Iranian missile attacks in retaliation for the death of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

U.S. Army Sgt. Jason Salazar, and The Dude, his military working dog, participate in a live-fire exercise at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. (U.S. Army/Spc. Andrew Garcia)

The 1st SBCT’s ongoing mission in Iraq is to assist and train the Iraqi forces to secure their borders and keep fighting the ISIS pockets that remain in the country.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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