29 December 2007

Why Israeli Dogs of War Lack The Bite in Iraq

Sal Emergui reports from Tel Aviv for the Spanish daily El Mundo why Israeli army dogs are not bringing U.S. troops success in Iraq
The dogs of the anti-explosives unit of the Israeli Army which were acquired by the United States to work in Iraq “failed because they are accustomed to listening to orders in Hebrew and still haven’t mastered English”.

This is what American generals think, wishing that the dogs of the elite Israeli Oketz unit were bilingual. “It’s silly. If the dogs haven’t had success in Baghdad and other places in Iraq in identifying explosives, it is not because of the language but for want of skills among the soldiers charged with the mission,” an expert dog trainer responded from Tel Aviv.

Following the interminable wave of explosions in Iraq, the Pentagon came calling on their Israeli colleagues in the summer of 2004. A representative of the Marines visited installations in Israel where the dogs are trained in identifying explosives, being in front of military missions, attacking, warning of ambushes and rescuing survivors of earthquakes or fires. For the soldiers they are a great help; for those at the receiving end of their actions, a terrible and fearsome nightmare.

After seeing them in action, the United States bought 96 dogs at $4,000 each. The Marines who came to Israel were amazed at the skill and the calm of the dogs and the use of technology. Each dog of the Israeli unit has a radio receptor in the collar through which the guide (the soldier who is always with it) gives it orders. On its back the dog carries alongside a small camera. This way, from several metres away, the soldiers know how many militants there are in a building that has been surrounded and what type of arms they are carrying. “Our dogs are not suicidal and neither do we send them to die in our place. They carry out missions which soldiers executed before,” said Lt-Col Yoave, in charge of Oketz.

They are trained at a modern installation where hundreds of dogs are cared for as if they were professional athletes. Their diets are controlled, they do exercise in a gymnasium for dogs and go for a walk twice a day with their alter ego, a soldier from an elite unit who, after a year and a half’s training, deals exclusively in training his dog for success. The understanding between the two is total and the confidence blind. The dogs retire when they reach the age of ten, and their former handlers then usually adopt them.

The Israeli police also have at their disposal a canine unit, although specialised more in the identification of drugs. “We are with the dog all day long. It is more than a family and the hardest moment is when at the end of the day we have to bid them goodbye,” says one of the young men. Often the dogs are the first to fall in a mission. In that case, the unit has a reserved place in the cemetery where they give the final farewell with all the honours of a military funeral.

Slightly abridged. Source: http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2008/02/28/internacional/1204188958.html


Anonymous said...

I don’t know who said that these dogs were not proving their worth in Iraq. I was one of the Marines who traveled to Israel and attended the training course. I did learn a great deal of knowledge from the Oketz unit trainers and to this day still contact them if problems occur that I cannot correct. After returning to the United States the focus was no longer on the mission but it was turned back to our primary Military Occupational Skill (MOS). Remember Marine, you are a Military Police Officer first and a dog handler second. We are unable to provide you with the proper training or environment before you men leave. Now go get your duty gear and stand the gate, you can train your dog on your 15 minute break. These were the remarks of our chain of command prior to our deployment. I was deployed two times to Iraq with my Israeli partner. For the record we had several successful missions and numerous explosive finds. What needs to be identified is the lack of training, money, and facilities back in the United States on our Marine Corps bases. I am going to leave it at this for now….It is not the IDF who failed, it is the Marine Handler, it is his chain of command! If the Marines want to run a combat dog program they need to open their eyes and look outside the box. Bill can not do all of this on his own, he needs your help…..Security Batallion

Former Marine handler, Current CAD trainer.

Anonymous said...

Oh and for the record, we did speak Hebrew to the dogs, and for the newer dogs, wel they were all trained in English to begin with. The Israeli dogs were a huge success, it was the dogs from Lackland AFB that failed!

Anonymous said...

Im not sure where this person got his information, but i also was one of the Marines to go to the Oketz unit to train and brought back a very obedient and professionally trained dog back that i have deployed with to both theaters. Where we had many finds and the units i was with would not go outside the wire unless i was there with them because of the success we had. As for the commands my dog can work by hebrew or english commands and is very profiecient in both, the commands does not matter for the dog, all that matters is that the dog team can get the proper training needed for the mission, this can include scenario training, environmental training, explosive detection training and the list can go on and on. As a previous person posted it was not our fault that we were not allowed to train under these conditions cause the base mission was more important than the deployable mission. As an expert in this field the overall mission for these teams are to deploy and find the explosives in theater and save lives. Not be stuck on a base to conduct military police actions, so when our home unit made us stand the gate and did not allow us to train for our upcoming mission, they failed in preparing us for the actual mission we will be carrying out. Also the need for better training areas and equipment is still there and until we can receive this we will be hindered in training and thus have to do the best we can to train for the mission. Im not sure who came up with the information that said these teams arent doing their job down range but i assure you that i had many finds and my missions were a success while i was deployed and if you would do your homework you would find this information for yourself and would not have made the comment you made here. I understand that everyone has their right of freedom of speech but i hate it when people speak before they get the facts right. If you read about the IDF and the OKETZ unit you will find that they are a very decorated unit and that they are considered one of the elite in dog training and tactics. These men lead the way on the battle field and do their job to the best of their ability and such as we were taught and carry out that same tradition, along with the fact that i am a U.S. Marine and im willing to give my life for my fellow Marines to make sure they stay safe. It is my duty and my job to protect those Marines or Soldiers that im out on a mission with and i will do that to the fullest extent possible. The IDF/Marine dog program is by far the best program out there for this type of mission and the handlers are very experienced and knowledgeable in what they do. If you want to look into the program that is weak or still lacks the knowledge for this type of mission, go and look into the LAckland AFB SSD program where they are constantly changing how they train the dogs and just come up with ideas from the seat of their pants instead of basing it off of real combat tactics. This course has had the chance to be a better course if the right people would listen to some of the experts from the field and other key individuals that have training experience for years. However they have not and this is why the product is still weak and not productive when they leave the course. Many new handlers chosen for this class are not previous k-9 handlers either and do not have the experience to understand the dog or how a dog team is suppose to work unlike the Marines that train with the IDF that send experienced handlers there to train and are already well versed in k-9 tactics and operations etc.
Maybe a selection process for the handlers might help the Lackland based course to improve their overall skills and efficiency, until then they will be the ones you see on the battle field that are weak and confused about what they are doing and feeding your reports with bad statistics that you can blame on the IDF/Marine program. I challenge you to go out on a mission with a IDF/Marine trained dog team and see how they work and how confident they are in their skills and then go out with a Lackland based SSD trained dog team and see what your statements will be then.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I was going to write something similar. Will check this blog more often I think.

Anonymous said...

I was there as well and I couldn't say anymore than what was already said. I agree 100% and will always support the Oketz program.