ZHARAY DISTRICT, Afghanistan - They don’t do it for the guts or the glory; they do it for the tennis balls. The first group of tactical explosive detective dogs, or TEDDs, with their handlers, arrived to Forward Operating Base Pasab April 29, before being assigned to the various unit operations.
The handlers were formally selected by a board from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division’s leadership from paratroopers within the unit. The handlers volunteered for the job, and were interviewed by the brigade provost marshal, TEDD platoon leader, and platoon sergeant. The TEDD handlers and the dogs are counter insurgency enablers under the 4th BCT. Only 25, of the original 70 applicants, were selected. Of those selected, just 18 certified after four months of training.
TEDDs are a better defense for the paratroopers on the ground.
“They save more lives, they give that stand-off needed, so they stay alive” said Pfc. Steven Olson, a Company B, 1st Bn., 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment dog handler paired with “Alex.”
The dogs are trained to sniff out explosives, sense emotions of people and alert the handlers when something is awry. The handlers know that they, and the dogs, are in danger, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I made the conscience decision to be a handler, it’s more important to me than shooting.” said Olson.
The platoon, led by 1st Lt. Brennan Bylsma, a Grand Rapids, Mich., native, trained over the course of four months and each person is paired with a like personality in their dogs. “It’s amazing how their personalities mirror each other.” said Bylsma. “During the four months, there was trial and error period to see which dogs fit best with each handler. For example, you have Olson with his cool guy walk, paired with Alex, our most chill dog,” Bylsma explained.
“I get to have my best friend with me, every day.” said Spc. Vance McFarland, a Company A, 2nd Bn. 508th paratrooper, paired with “Ikar.” “I love dogs and it’s awesome to see what they can do.”