This Memorial Day, as we honor the brave men and women of the armed forces who serve to keep us safe, let’s remember the military animals that help keep our soldiers safe.
Through the Navy Marine Mammal Program which began in 1960, bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions serve in the U.S. Navy. They patrol sea and coastal waters. Through a special skill called echolocation, dolphins are trained to search for sea mines. They are also trained to search for enemy swimmers. In addition to searching for mines, sea lions use their superb vision and diving abilities to find objects underwater such as Navy equipment that has been dropped into the ocean by plane.
Horses, donkeys and mules serve with the Marines. Soldiers are trained on how to use the animals in the mountains through the Mountain Warfare Training Center, which opened in 1951 to teach American troops how to fight in mountains. These pack animals help Marines stay safe by carrying heavy loads for them so that they can move around more quickly. They are also able to bring supplies to troops in mountainous regions like Afghanistan where in some parts of the country there are no roads for vehicles.
Dogs have been used in warfare throughout history. However, the United States didn’t officially begin to use Military War Dogs or MWDs until World War II. Because of their size and strength, German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois dog breeds are trained most often to be war dogs. Before serving in the military, MWDs go through an 11 week training program at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. They are trained to sniff out bombs, parachute out of planes and recognize enemies. Currently there are about 2700 MWDs which serve in all branches of the armed forces.