Canines have been seen in combat with U.S. soldiers for over a hundred years, dating back to the Civil War and World War I. It was not until 1942 however, that dogs were formally admitted into the United States Army, and today, they play a key role in U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq with nearly 3,000 active-duty dogs.
In fact, among the 81 members of the special operations team that killed Osama bin Laden, there was one elite of the four-legged variety: Cairo, a Belgian Malinois. The Malinois breed resembles that of the German Shepherd, and makes up the majority of the canine members in the U.S. Navy SEALs. Although German Shepherds are used in combat, Malinois are preferred because their stockier stature is considered better for parachute jumping.
Dog SEALs are extremely skilled, highly trained and fully capable of carrying out extraordinary military operations just like their fellow sailors and soldiers. Dogs are also twice as fast as a vigorous human, therefore, anyone trying to escape during an operation, will most likely fail.
Not only can dogs run faster than humans, their sense of smell is 40 times greater than that of a human—they are trained to detect potential explosive materials as well as hiding or captive humans. Canines are also often equipped with cameras so they can walk into a danger zone before their handlers, allowing them to scope out hidden dangers.
And like the human SEALs, canines are equipped with extremely durable, flexible armor and are also provided with high-tech equipment like specially designed goggles built with night-vision and infrared capability that allows them to see human heat forms through concrete walls.
In all, the U.S. military has fully taken on canines as a key part of the American military machine; the number of active-duty dogs continues to grow, as does canine status in military operations.
Learn about MSA's own leading bomb dogs.