Did the SEALs bring along a military working dog on Sunday’s raid?
Two helicopters ferried 79 commandos and one dog into Osama Bin Laden’s compound for Sunday’s successful kill operation. Why did the Pentagon send in a canine with the special forces?
For its sniffer, of course. The special operations forces do have their own canine training program, but it’s very hush-hush. Furthermore, neither the Pentagon nor the White House is talking about the role the dog played in Sunday’s operation, and they haven’t even confirmed that a dog was involved at all. (It seems the information first came from the British tabloid the Sun, but has been reported in more reputable papers. Slate’s Jack Shafer advises readers to maintain a healthy skepticism about such reports.) If Navy SEAL Team Six did indeed bring along a dog, then we might guess at its role based on the Pentagon’s non-confidential Military Working Dog Program. It’s possible that the commandos brought a specialized search dog, which would have been sent in ahead of the humans to find explosives or people hidden inside the building. Or they might have used a “combat tracker” dog instead—one of a newer class of military animals developed by the Marines just a year ago. These are taught to pick up the scent of a particular individual, usually from a footprint or a few drops of blood, and then follow the trail. If Bin Laden had heard the choppers coming and fled the scene, a combat tracker dog could have been used to track him down as he high-tailed it through the streets of Abbottabad.
Americans are fascinated by the anonymous U.S. Navy SEALs who daringly raided Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad, Pakistan compound this week, but one canine commando is attracting especially fervent interest.
According to the New York Times and the British tabloid The Sun, a military dog was strapped onto one of the assault team members as he was lowered out of a Black Hawk helicopter and began the operation that killed the notorious terrorist on Monday. But who is this canine hero?
Sadly, we know very little, and the Pentagon hasn’t confirmed that a dog was even on the mission, much less release information about the canine’s name or breed.
“Little is known about what may be the nation’s most courageous dog,” the Times’ Gardner Harris writes. He speculates that the dog was most likely a German shepherd or a Belgian Malinois, since those are the breeds most often found in the military’s 2,700-strong military dog program. (A new breed, however, is becoming popular with the troops. Labrador retrievers have begun to “wander off-leash 100 yards or more in front of patrols to ensure the safety of the route.”)