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Marine, Canine Partner Detect Explosives

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Walter Marino
Special to American Forces Press Service

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2010 – Their truck sways from side to side and bumps up and down along a path in Afghanistan. But what would be an intolerable ride for most is just something Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Paul N. Krist, a dog handler for 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, and his dog, Max, have accepted as part of the job.

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Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Paul N. Krist enjoys a moment with his bomb-sniffing dog, Max, before beginning a search for homemade explosives in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Jan. 19, 2010. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Walter Marino
  

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

While Max, a 3-year-old Labrador retriever, sat calmly on the floor next to Krist, who was reading a book, they waited for their next opportunity to work. Suddenly, the back of the truck opened.

"Get out, we need you and the dog," said Marine Corps Cpl. Adam S. Rogers, a combat engineer.

Max immediately started sniffing the area for explosive material. As they continued down the road, they discovered why they were called.

Marines had halted and surrounded a white van and were discussing whether the bags found in its trunk contained homemade explosives. They threw one of the bags to the ground, where Max could sniff it. After a few moments, it became evident to Krist that the bags did not contain bomb-making materials.

"Max lies down if it's [explosives]," he said.

For Krist, getting to this point took training and a passion for helping others. Originally a tank mechanic, Krist became a dog handler after learning the billet likely would lead to a deployment in Afghanistan.

"I wanted to deploy," he said.

After arriving to the improvised explosive device detectors dog course, Krist was paired with Max, who quickly became his new best friend.

"When we got there, they gave us a sheet of paper that asked us what our hobbies were and what we did on our free time,” Krist said.

“It was supposed to help us pair up with the dogs. But, our tallest guy got the biggest dog, our meanest guy got the meanest dog, and I got Max," he added with a laugh.

Since then, the two constantly have been perfecting their explosive-detection skills. Their first find came early in their deployment when they were still learning their area of operations here.

"I didn't expect to find anything,” Krist recalled. "Then Max laid down, and I was like, 'Oh dang, I'm kind of close to this.' So I backed up and gave him his toy -- that's what he gets for finding an IED -- then he ran away, and explosive ordinance disposal Marines dug it out."

Later, Krist learned they had uncovered two bombs carrying 50 and 60 pounds of explosives, respectively. Although their discovery more than likely saved lives, Krist said, he is not out for the recognition.

"When I came over here as a dog handler, I wanted to find IEDs,” he said. “Not to say that I did, but to use my dog for what we were trained for,” the 19-year-old Marine said.

"I really enjoy what I do, and the guys I work with,” he continued. “They really care about their job and the safety of others. My drive comes from knowing that we're keeping people safe, and it's not long before I go home. I hope I have a chance to do something this relevant in winning the war on my next deployment, and I hope Max can come, too."

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Walter Marino serves in the 1st Marine Division’s Regimental Combat Team 7 public affairs office.)

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Related Sites:
1st Marine Division
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U.S. Forces Afghanistan on Facebook
U.S. Forces Afghanistan on YouTube
NATO International Security Assistance Force

Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarine Corps Lance Cpl. Paul N. Krist works with Max, his bomb-sniffing dog, to check packages for homemade explosives in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Jan. 18, 2010. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Walter Marino   
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