Marine Corps plans to reduce working dog force

The Marine Corps is undertaking force-wide restructuring to ensure it has the right composition to face future conflicts. And his community of military working dogs, used for everything from patrols and bomb detection to security for high officials, is no exception.

The Marine Corps’ military working dog program is undergoing a large-scale review that aims to standardize equipment and improve training — and as part of that, the working dog population is expected to drop significantly, a program director Bill Childress told

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Under the direction of the Commandant of the Marines, General David Berger, the Corps is being restructured. Berger has indicated its intention to reduce all tank units and law enforcement battalions, and to reduce infantry units in a bid to reduce the strength from its current strength of 184,000 to around 170,000. here 2030. Already, some units are deactivating in this restructuring.

Childress said the service’s work force would be reduced from its current strength by about 210 to 150 over the next two years, the same period in which Marine Corps law enforcement battalions are expected to dissolve. The program’s human staff will also be reduced, he said, from 260 to about 210. This “adjustment” is designed to find efficiencies and get more dogs trained for multiple skills, he said. he adds.

“We try to get the best out of a dog,” Childress said. “We have what we call single-purpose dogs and dual-purpose dogs. We’re trying to get more dual-purpose dogs because we feel like we’re getting more bang for our buck.”

As the law enforcement battalions disband, he said, law enforcement dogs remaining in the program will be assigned to the base provost marshal’s offices or the Corps of Police Departments. Marines.

“We will always be able to accomplish our mission and execute whatever we need to do,” he said.

Dogs trained for patrol and aggression can also be trained to search for explosives or drugs, although this doubles the length of the training cycle from around three months to six, Childress said.

“Maybe we can reduce the number of dogs that might be needed, which would also reduce the number of personnel that we would need to be able to do the same job, the mission,” he said.

Marine Corps military working dogs deploy alongside Marine handlers in combat zones and even aboard ships for patrols and drug and explosives detection missions. In the United States, they may be used for drug detection and other law enforcement purposes. They also sometimes provide security for officials as highly placed as the President and Vice President of the United States.

All Army working dogs are trained at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and supervised by the Air Force, Childress said. In addition to reviewing and communicating with the Air Force on how the Marine Corps wants its dogs trained, the current assessment is intended to ensure that training keeps up with current events, particularly as this about the substances that dogs are programmed to detect.

“There’s a big difference between what we were seeing in Iraq and Afghanistan and here,” Childress said, acknowledging there are fewer military working dog deployments now than there used to be at most. strengthened by the two conflicts. “So that’s something that we always stay on top of to make sure we’re doing the right things as best we can.”

He was hesitant, however, when asked about the specific tendencies of substances dogs should train for.

Another line of effort, the Marine Corps is working to ensure that all trainers and dog handlers use the same types of training equipment and devices whether they are working on the East Coast or the West Coast.

“A lot of times it was up to the provost marshal’s offices to get their own equipment,” Childress said. “So you would go from place to place and say, ‘Wow, I’ve never used this before. “”

The review and corresponding changes come ahead of Childress’ planned retirement after nearly 24 years at the helm of the working dog program and nearly 44 years working with the Marine Corps.

“I want to make sure I leave the program the way I want to, you know, the best I can do a good turnover,” he said. “And I just think we have to, you know, just to take a look and make sure everything is the best we can do.”

As the working dog program thins its ranks, handlers and trainers will have the opportunity to move on to other positions in the Marine Corps, Childress said. Some of the dogs, who have an average career span of just under 10 years, will retire naturally and not be replaced; others will be moved to other services to fill their gaps, he said.

“We’re very tight between all departments,” Childress said.

— Hope Hodge Seck can be contacted at Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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Bette C. Alvarado