- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Working at a clip on the snowy ground at Bragram Air Field is Drake, a mine detection dog, and his U.S. Army handler Sgt. Garret Grenier. This dog team (only doing training exercises in this photo taken on Jan. 8th) is part of the 49th Engineer Detachment and their job is to find buried explosives, specifically land mines.
U.S. Army Capt. Jeffrey Vlietstra, the officer-in-charge of the 49th Engineer Detachment, says that the original mission of these dogs that arrived in Afghanistan in 2004 was to find the mines on Bagram Air Field but that "eventually the program expanded and they started working in Kandahar" searching for IEDs.
"Our dog teams are the tip of the spear," Vlietstra explains. "Our engineers clear the way ahead of the maneuver force and our dog teams clear the routes to ensure their safety."
Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently writing a book about military working dogs, to be published by Atria Books in August 2013.