MSgt Bell has been over in Iraq and is going back. He has seen friends die driving over an IED. He also knows the feeling of anxiety that Peirett spoke of. Bell was watching lamp poles, watching, always watching, always alert. Bell described it as, “Imagine going into your faucet every morning and turning your hot water on full blast. One day you go into the room and turn the faucet on and it explodes right in your face. How long would it take you before you didnt feel anxious about turning the faucet on again? It was that random and they were that creative. ”
Major General Roger A. Nadeau,Commanding General, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), understands the soldiers anxiety and spoke to me at the 2005 Association of the United States Army (AUSA) technology convention in Washington D.C. General Nadeau takes these issues very seriously, they are emotional to him as well. These are the unseen problems that make these young men and women age quickly. Nadeauss group is the voice of the soldier. They go to him and tell them that they have to do something. Nadeaus group is also looked at as bureaucrats to the soldiers, because RDECOM has to authorize new technology to confront new problems. When they go to RDECOM with these issues Nadeau cant just tell the soldiers they are emotional issues. RDECOM has to bridge the gap between the soldiers and bureaucracy. If the soldiers arent shown a level of confidence that these issues will be
fixed then they flinch, they lose trust, and they shouldnt have to lose confidence.The first fix was to bring in mine smelling dogs. Jim Pettit, Program Manager of the K-9 mine detection unit came up with the design and development concept three years ago of sending IED dogs over to sniff out the bombs. Pettit explains, “Mine detection dogs were used in World War II in North Africa and Italy. They were about 4,000 dogs used in Vietnam performing multiple skills such as scouting, watching (sentry), mine detectoring and tracking missions. Today the Army is using mine dogs in Afghanistan to help clear areas of land mines to keep soldiers safe in and around base camps. Mine dogs arent used to sniff out IEDs, IED dogs are specially trained to sniff out components and IEDs. US Army Specialized Search Dog handler, SSG James Simpson is the first ever U.S. military handler to work a specialized search dog.
All the dogs have a rank. Its not to be cute and it doesnt coincide with the rank of the soldier that handles the dog. US Army Specialized Search Dog handler, SSG James Simpson, and his three-year old Black Labrador dog, Staff Sargent Cabor spent nine months in Iraq hunting for IEDs. Simpson and Cabor are attached to the Mine Dog Detachment at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. According to Simpson, “When we got over to Iraq,the soldiers already there were very cautious and very aware of their surroundings. They were taking care of each other and making sure everyone was ready to go. Everywhere they went they were making sure that they kept that level of consciousness up. They were nervous, but they were confident in what they were doing and they trusted in what they were doing and what they were taught.”
“We would take the dogs out to the farms and homes and the dogs could sniff out the IED components and explosives before the IEDs were even constructed. Every IED component and explosive we found, meant we were saving lives.” In September, 2005 primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall recognized Cabor as The Bear Search and Rescue Foundation Military working dog of the Year and presented him with an award for service to humanity.
Back in 1996, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) sponsored a “Dogs Nose” program to find technology that could emulate the mine-sensing capabilities of dogs. Nomadics and a dozen other companies were funded by Darpa, but Nomadics was the first company to successfully detect buried land mines. Nomadics has created a device that uses a chemical sensing material that was invented at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)that is able to detect minute amounts of explosive vapors emanating from buried land mines. The new hand-held device is called FIDO.
According to Steve Broadway, Vice President of Marketing, Nomadics, an ICX company, “We have FIDO in Iraq undergoing demonstration and test. We also have an integrated system with iRobots PacBot EOD. Three FIDOs/PacBots will go to Iraq for testing this fall, with more to follow. Testing has shown us anecdotally that FIDO accuracy for finding IEDs is comparable to the performance of military working dogs.”
The Army is hoping the technology will help keep the more lives safer; both soldiers and our canine friends.