A War Dog Helped Catch Osama Bin Laden
War dogs: They are dogs that help fight war. The U.S. has some 2,700 of them deployed on active duty, and they are a key part of U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of them -- who, at this point, "remains an enigma" -- was involved in the raid on Osama bin Laden. We imagine that if we were being lowered out of a helicopter to go catch and kill Osama bin Laden, it would probably rather reassuring to have a trained fighting best friend along with us -- not least because these dogs are pretty bad-ass. Foreign Policy has a great photo essay on them. After the jump, some fascinating facts about "Military Working Dogs," or "WMDs."
- "Dogs usually jump in tandem with their trainers, but when properly outfitted with flotation vests they can make short jumps into water on their own."
- "A dog can have up to 225 million olfactory receptors in their nose."
- In terms of bomb detection, the Pentagon's best technology had a 50 percent success rate; when dogs helped, "it rose 30 percent."
- Training a dog takes 120 days.
- There's a U.S. War Dogs Association.
- Gear for war dogs includes "Doggles (protective eye wear), body armor, life vests, gas masks, long-range GPS-equipped vests, and high-tech canine 'flak jackets.'"
- War dogs are usually Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds, and Labradors.
- "The average German Shepherd's bite exerts between 400 and 700 pounds of pressure," according to the U.S. Air Force.
- War dogs are incredibly loyal:
When Private First Class Carlton Rusk was shot after his unit came under Taliban sniper fire during a routine patrol in Afghanistan, Rusk's bomb-sniffing dog, Eli, crawled on top of his body, attacking anyone -- including Rusk's fellow Marines -- who tried to come near him. Rusk did not survive the assault, but Eli was granted early retirement so he could live with Rusk's family.
Want to know more? Gerry Proctor, an officer at Lackland Air Force Base where the dog was trained, answered questions about war dogs in a live Q&A on WashingtonPost.com.