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Why I Serve: K-9 Couple Watches for Danger

By Pfc. Abel Trevino, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, BALAD, Iraq, Feb. 9, 2005 – The most dangerous part of Giray Jones' day is when Timer squats: It means he's found explosives.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Brad and Giray Jones handle Timer and Gromett, explosive smelling dogs, at the North Entry Control Point as one of the first waves of inspections for local nationals and vehicles coming onto the area. Photo by Pfc. Abel Trevino, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Giray and Brad Jones are dog handlers working for K-9 Associates International and are contracted through the 81st Brigade Combat Team. Timer is a 5-year-old shorthaired German Shepherd handled by Giray. Brad handles Gromett, a Belgium Malinois.

The four of them have traveled throughout Iraq with 1st Armored and 1st Cavalry divisions and are now here searching for explosives and assisting in the capture of terrorists.

"The way we look at it, these dogs have actually saved lives," Brad said. "They've found munitions and stuff that were going to be used against people. They put people in jail who were bad guys who would have gone out and hurt more people."

The couple, married for 10 years, brings years of dog-handling experience to the gates. Both have law enforcement backgrounds. Brad planned a canine unit program for a police department, and Giray started off in search and rescue. They actually met during a case while searching for a missing boy.

That first case turned into years of commitment to one another. Their jobs rarely allow the couple to spend time together. Their 10th anniversary was the first one they were able to spend together, and it was on the plane coming to Iraq. That moment reflected the best part of the couple's job here: being together and being able to work and search together.

Their searching efforts here are used for more dangerous cases and incorporate olfactory skills of the dogs such as smelling for explosives and drugs.

"The dogs are sensitive enough that they pick up on where there were explosives," Brad said. "If someone has been carrying explosives, the dogs will sometimes pick up on that. Even if they don't find any, military intelligence will question [the person] and get good information out of them."

Chasing the tail of explosives has led the couple to local national residences where they have made large discoveries of explosives and dangerous items, Brad said.

The dogs also represent a show of force and intimidation to people intent on harming the post. "Not only is [the dog's] presence a deterrent to those bringing in explosives, but also to the people's behavior coming in," Giray said. "They don't do anything crazy at the gate."

The dogs work close to those entering the area's gate, but are prohibited from directly searching people. "We don't search people; we search bags," Brad said.

"In the morning I go over and search personnel, bags and suitcases with Timer," Giray said. "Once I get through, I help [Brad] with vehicles."

When searching vehicles and bags, the dog handlers have to be sensitive to cultural differences. "A lot of the vehicles have food in them and the [owners] get concerned about their food coming in, but the dogs are trained where they won't eat any food unless it's given specifically by us," Giray said.

She said the dogs do smell the food, but are trained not to lick or touch it.

Their job puts the couple directly in harm's way, but for a greater purpose. "Because of the nature of the job, [the danger] is to be expected. We're there to locate it first so a larger number of people aren't involved," Giray said.

Like all aspects of force protection, the Jones take their jobs seriously and concentrate heavily on watching the reaction of the dogs for clues and hints that something is amiss. "We depend on soldiers to watch our backs while we're out there," Brad said.

"We appreciate the support from the armed services that we get," Giray said. "We just can't thank those guys enough for their support on what the dogs do and also for their support on our safety. It makes our job a lot easier."

(Army Pfc. Abel Trevino is assigned to the 28th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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