Dogs train at YPG to become explosive detection experts
YPG has become an important hub for the training of teams of working dogs and soldiers, with well over 600 canines visiting each year, as well as their handlers. Courses range in length from one week to over a month, with dogs trained in searching for and identifying explosives, searching for people and more.
Specialized facilities have been constructed to optimize the training from modern, clean dog housing facilities to remote desert training locations, some of which feature groups of wood, cinder block and adobe buildings similar to those in combat areas overseas.
YPG canine training involves plenty of uphill and downhill hiking over rocky desert terrain as the teams proceed through various scenarios on the search for explosives or various scents. Some situations even incorporate simulated small arms fire and explosions caused by hard-to-spot tripwires. Though the loud explosions erupt dust clouds and, sometimes, a temporary dye, they are sobering, realistic reminders of battlefield dangers.
Spec. Tyler Gosla was a student in a search dog course held at YPG recently. “We're here for two weeks,” he said, “and, to me, YPG looks like everything I've heard about conditions in Afghanistan. The scenarios are ones I'll deal with for real overseas, which is where most of us students are going.”
Specialized search dogs are commonly used to search for explosives along roadways, both buried and on the surface. Improvised explosive devices have caused innumerable American casualties in both Iraq and Afghanistan, making trained dogs of particular value.
The extremely sensitive noses dogs possess have caused their use overseas to grow exponentially in the last five years. Gosla, who as a young boy had a dog as a pet, like many of us, felt his eyes have opened regarding the capabilities of trained canines.
“I'm extremely impressed,” he said. “They use their noses to sense things we can't see, even scents buried beneath the ground or in water. Dogs are far more intelligent than most people give them credit for.”
Staff Sgt. Richard Miller, a 14-year Army veteran working on his 10th year with military canines, said he considers working dogs to be one of the greatest assets the Army has.
“These dogs save lives, which I've seen many, many times on my tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. The environment YPG offers is invaluable to soldiers heading overseas.”
While Yuma Proving Ground's mission priority is centered on testing and evaluating a tremendous variety of weapon systems and munitions, the training of troops and working dog teams is an important component of the overall workload — one that could very well expand in future years.