There are nine elite K-9s in the Explosive and Drug Canine Unit at MCAS Miramar which are trained to detect, react and protect. Three of the dogs are trained to search for drugs and the other six specialize in sniffing out explosives.
Staff Sgt. Mark Daniels is the kennel master. He also searched the deserts for IED’s during two deployments in Iraq and says the dogs are treated like fellow Marines.
“The dogs have saved thousands of lives. When we’re out there with a platoon, we're walking point, basically getting the guys from point A to point B,” Daniels said.
The dogs, which come from Lackland Airforce Base in Texas, also train like Marines, running through agility drills and simulating take downs of the bad guys.
Unlike other police agencies, the K-9s stay in kennels on base. They don’t go home with a trainer, so every morning when the trainer gets to work they are responsible to exercise and train the dogs.
Lance Cpl. Kaity Fishbough is the newest member of the MCAS Miramar team, just graduating from K-9 training school in San Antonio.
“It’s a really close bond you build with them. Your life depends on them, and the more time you spend with them, and that’s all they’re looking for – your love and affection,” Fishbough said.
That affection is a small price to pay for the protection the dogs provide.