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Some joint missions are for the dogs

ALI BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- The dog days of summer are here, but the dogs -- and their handlers -- are taking it in stride. Together, military working dog handlers of every branch of service stand alongside their K-9 companions to make sure no insurgent can disrupt the mission.

"I'm not about to (let) a vehicle get on this base and (have) something happen," said Staff Sgt. Sean Neisen, a military working dog handler with the 407th Provost Marshal Office, who is deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Sergeant Neisen and his 8-year-old military working dog, Goro E114, work in cooperation with two Navy dog handlers to search vehicles that drive onto Contingency Operations Base Adder and Ali Base every day.

Their specialty is detecting explosives.

"If you can build a bomb with it, our dogs can find it," said Tech. Sgt. Terry Gilbert, a dog handler here who's finishing his deployment and will soon return to Kadena Air Base, Japan.

Under sweltering heat that can reach almost of 130 degrees, the Airmen, Sailors and their K-9s can be found searching the vehicles. Working side-by-side is natural for Air Force and Navy dog handlers, who train in the same K-9 school, Sergeant Gilbert said.

"We learn the same stuff, so all our jobs are pretty much the same, especially in Iraq," he said.

The military working dog community is by nature combined, Sergeant Gilbert said. The kennels at his home station are a joint operation, with the Air Force and the Marine Corps each operating half of the kennels. Whether at home or in a deployed environment, the Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines put their joint training and culture to use every day.

"It's a wonderful experience, teaming up and working with the other branches," said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Ivan Winder, the kennel master. "It's an equal match."

Each of the services varies slightly in terms of its expertise, said Petty Officer Winder, who is deployed from Commander Navy Region Southwest in San Diego.

"The Army is great at pounding the ground, while the Air Force is great with force protection such as flightlines," he said. "The Navy's specialty is buildings, open areas and vehicles. Each (service) learns something from the others, and all entities working together creates a stronger, more cohesive unit."

The Air Force and Navy dog handling team here isn't the only joint team in Iraq. Air Force and Navy dog handlers across Iraq work along side Army units searching for weapons and high-value targets.

"The Army doesn't have enough people or dogs to take care of their mission, so they need us," Sergeant Gilbert said. "The K-9 community is already short-manned, but the Army is extremely short" because of mission requirements.

The manning may lead to long days and nights, demonstrating that some joint missions are just for the dogs.

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