Hounds and handlers unite in the field

From curling up with their handlers to doing a happy dance when they find explosives, the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment’s explosive detection dogs (EDD) enjoy their role as an integral 3rd Brigade capability.

The dog-and-handler teams are compact, mobile and can work in a variety of environments, including confined spaces and difficult terrain.

During Exercise Brolga Run – held in the Townsville Field Training Area and Ingham – the EDD team assisted in the detection of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), explosives, ammunition and weapon caches during search operations.

Four-year-old Labrador Ethan and his handler, Sapper Flynn Skerke-Erwin – paired on completion of specialist training in 2022 – were eager to hone their skills during the exercise.

“We have been conducting route searches, clearing routes and paths for the battle team to gain access to an area,” Sapper Skerke-Erwin said.

“Once an assault goes through, we undertake battle clearance, using the dogs to look for any potential devices or weapon caches that we may have missed.

“The team is integral for providing access to an area.”

When in a tactical environment, communication procedures are altered to reduce the risk of giving away the position to the enemy.

“We work with the dogs off leash and use singular words of command,” Sapper Skerke-Erwin said.

“Handlers have a radio that transmits to a tactical communications collar.

“The collar sends vibration tones for certain commands, meaning we can work silently by night and day.”

‘He thinks he is the man, and I think he is the man too.’

During specialist training, handlers are taught how to apply first aid to their dogs in a field and operational environment.

“We learn everything from what drugs they can take, to how we treat for an IED,” Sapper Skerke-Erwin said.

“I carry my own kit and a K9 first-aid kit. Most of the stores are the same – treating dogs is very similar.”

Sapper Aidan Jones said extended periods of time in the field environment had a positive impact on his three-year-old EDD Yambo and the team around him.

“It’s good for morale having Yambo around; it makes field exercises 10 times better,” Sapper Jones said.

“We sleep together in my bivvy bag – it’s a nice, tight fit, though.

“He enjoys what he does; every time he is in the harness, he is smiling, having fun.

“I can’t put into words how awesome it is when he finds something – he does a little Happy Feet dance.

“He thinks he is the man, and I think he is the man too.”

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