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Military dogs get better protection

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February 24, 2004

Albany - They protect our country just as much as a man or woman in a military uniform. Just like humans, the four legged warriors will never leave the home front without training and protection.

The K-9 dogs at the Marine Corps Logistics Base have never been to war, but they are always on call.

Meet Doenja, or should I say Corporal Doenja. His handler, Lance Corporal Sebastian Dennis, says, "I'm a Lance Corporal so that makes him a Lance Corporal. He's a rank higher than me."

Dennis just became Doenja's handler, but the four legged marine joined the military seven years ago. He's stationed at MCLB in Albany and he's not cheap.

It can cost up to $56,000 to put these dogs through boot camp. Dennis smiles, "He looks after me and I've got his back." Literally, the marine dogs now wear Kevlar body armor, a bullet proof vest for pooches.

The price tag is around $1,200. Sgt. Nester Antoine says, "It would make sense to protect our investment."

These dogs attack the bad guys. During a training exercise Sgt. Kyle Holdmann calmly says to a pretend criminal, "Come back sir, or I'm going to release my dog." The criminal didn't obey, so with a few words, Holdmann released his vicious dog Sergeant Max. Within seconds, Max grabbed hold of the criminal's arm and took him to the ground.

They go through rigorous training to get used to the extra weight of the vest. Antoine adds, "That vest is roughly seven pounds, for me that's like putting on 20 extra pounds."

With a simple command, the dogs go from man's best friend to criminal's worst enemy. Antoine explains, "For a criminal it's his worst nightmare because once you let them go, he can do a little more harm than I can."

If any of these handlers are called to duty their higher ranking dogs will be right by their side.

MCLB has seven dogs in its K-9 unit. Every unit in the Marine Corps has the new Kevlar vests.

posted at 5:15PM by kathryn.simmons@walb.com

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