Who Let the Dogs Out?

Capt. Vance White
First published in
SFOR Informer#135, March 28, 2002

Cpl. Mandy Swanwick, Royal Army Veterinary Corps (RAVC) is based at the Banja Luka Metal Factory (BLMF). She is the advisor to the Multinational Division Southwest (MND-SW) unit on military working dogs, and a qualified handler of arms and explosive search dogs.
Banja Luka - The dog unit at BLMF is home to many dogs that are trained in different disciplines, including arms and explosive searches (AES), explosive detection (EDD) and crowd and riot control (CRC). To more easily serve the entire UK Battle Group, there are also dog sections located in Sipovo, Mrkonjic Grad, and Glamoc.
Different jobs
"Many people don't really understand the jobs that the different dogs do," said Swanwick. In fact, each type of dog gets specific training. "The AES dogs and EDDs each get about six months of training in explosive detection before they start working."
AES dogs are extensively used for Project Harvest - where SFOR troops search civilian houses for illegally kept weapons. These dogs are trained to detect explosives (TNT, C4, PE4, Semtex, etc.), weapons, ammunition, magazines and the like. The use of AES dogs increases the speed of a search and the dogs are less obtrusive in a home than a soldier conducting a manual search. AES dogs indicate a find by sitting still and looking toward the specific point where the scent is detected.
Explosive Detection Dogs (EDDs) are relatively new to Bosnia and Herzegovina, but have quickly established themselves as an important part of mine detection operations - mainly due to the speed at which they can 'proof' an area, or in other words, to ensure a location is clear of mines. In this way, the RAVC handlers and their dogs work hand in hand with Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams - experienced teams can clear an area of more than 600 m2 in a day. EDDs are normally Labradors, as they are intelligent and have a calm temperament. The EDDs are trained to detect TNT in quantities as small as a pinhead. Their sensitive noses can therefore recognise all types of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines.
When they recognise a scent, EDDs will indicate to their handler by sitting or laying down 'frozen' until the location is marked by the handler and the spot can be prodded by qualified EOD personnel. Their role is to proof areas and routes to allow for the movement of military personnel.
Patrol and CRC
The 16 patrol dogs are the most common RAVC dogs in BiH. They are employed as an essential part of camp security as the dogs are an excellent deterrent to would-be intruders. Most of the patrol dogs are German Shepherds; there is one Rottweiler and one Belgian Shepherd (or Malinois) that recently arrived.
The more aggressive of these dogs are also used for crowd and riot control (CRC). Taking their deterrent role further, the CRC dogs can be an effective way to assist with crowd dispersal. If a riot becomes too violent, the dog and handler will be withdrawn - they don't have four- or six-foot shields to protect them, as do the personnel in CRC units.
The dogs' are a definite help to many of the SFOR efforts carried out around the divisional area. In roles such as protection from intruders and mine detection, having an RAVC dog or 'man's best friend' nearby can mean the difference between life and death in a theatre of operations.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: UK

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Photos: Cpl Brad Chappell

Malinois (Belgium Shepherd) 'Vigor' runs in for an attack on Pte. Rob Bell, Royal Gloucester Berkshire Wiltshire Regt.


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Cpl Mandy Swanwick, RAVC, with 'Lige' as they arrive to begin a 'Harvest' near Banja Luka.


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Pte Andy Riddell, 4th Bn Parachute Regt. with 'Rocky', a Malinois (Belgium Shepherd) patrol dog.


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Pte. Rob Bell, Royal Gloucester Berkshire Wiltshire Regt with his German Shepherd 'Ruby'.