Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Rebecca’s War Dogs of the Week: Combat canines go to boot camp; Theo and Cpl. Tasker are welcomed home

By Rebecca Frankel Best Defense chief canine correspondent There’s a new program in the works to get U.S. military dogs combat-ready — by giving them an old school work out. A small group of canines (and their handlers) are hitting the track and the treadmill in an attempt to see if dogs that are more ...

556795_110311_ricks12.jpg
556795_110311_ricks12.jpg

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense chief canine correspondent

There's a new program in the works to get U.S. military dogs combat-ready -- by giving them an old school work out. A small group of canines (and their handlers) are hitting the track and the treadmill in an attempt to see if dogs that are more physically fit are more successful in the battle field.

The conditioning that these dogs are undergoing is part of a test physical training program that originated at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and so far only a handful of bases are participating. The program centers around of two basic components, the foundation of any exercise regime -- strength and endurance. The strength conditioning consists of: "power fetch, obstacle work, pulls, center line drills, [and] weight pulls," while the endurance component is broken down into "brisk walks, runs, walk, [and] then a jog." As the dog improves the workouts increase in length and difficulty.

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense chief canine correspondent

There’s a new program in the works to get U.S. military dogs combat-ready — by giving them an old school work out. A small group of canines (and their handlers) are hitting the track and the treadmill in an attempt to see if dogs that are more physically fit are more successful in the battle field.

The conditioning that these dogs are undergoing is part of a test physical training program that originated at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and so far only a handful of bases are participating. The program centers around of two basic components, the foundation of any exercise regime — strength and endurance. The strength conditioning consists of: “power fetch, obstacle work, pulls, center line drills, [and] weight pulls,” while the endurance component is broken down into “brisk walks, runs, walk, [and] then a jog.” As the dog improves the workouts increase in length and difficulty.

Pier, the Yellow Lab on the treadmill, is with the 460th Security Forces squadron at Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado, and one of the participating in the trial who certainly appears to not only be benefiting from the new routine, but thoroughly enjoying it. And Pier’s handler, Sergeant Duritsky, is already seeing the upsides to having his canine partner join him for an invigorating workout.

I love the fact that I am able to PT with our K-9’s. When we are down and do not feel like running they are always up for it. Like today when we were running, [Pier] started pulling me like ‘hey, dad come on lets go.'”

In other, more somber, war-dog news, Theo and his handler, Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, who died in Afghanistan last week, were returned home to Britain yesterday together. Hundreds of people — including dog handlers and their dogs — gathered along the streets of the small town of Wooten Basset, to pay their respects.

Reports of the scene were heartrending:

As has become tradition, local people and Royal British Legion members joined [Tasker’s] family and friends in tribute. A dozen dogs also joined the mourners, sitting respectfully with their masters as the hearse went by. Movingly, as a single bell tolled to mark the arrival of the cortege into the Wiltshire town, several dogs could be heard barking.”

The Telegraph hosts a video of the pair while they were in Afghanistan here.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.