The Dogs of the Navy SEALs

When U.S. President Barack Obama went to Fort Campbell, Kentucky earlier for a highly publicized, but very private meeting with the commando team that killed Osama bin Laden, only one of the 81 members of the super-secret SEAL DevGru unit was identified by name: Cairo, the war dog. Cairo, like most canine members of the elite U.S. Navy SEALs, is a Belgian Malinois. The Malinois breed is similar to German shepherds but smaller and more compact, with an adult male weighing in the 30-kilo range.

Belgian Malinois Navy SEAL Dog

Belgian Malinois Navy SEAL Dog

German shepherds are still used as war dogs by the American military but the lighter, stubbier Malinois is considered better for the tandem parachute jumping and rappelling operations often undertaken by SEAL teams. Labrador retrievers are also favoured by various military organizations around the world.

Like their human counterparts, the dog SEALs are highly trained, highly skilled, highly motivated special ops experts, able to perform extraordinary military missions by Sea, Air and Land (thus the acronym). The dogs carry out a wide range of specialized duties for the military teams to which they are attached: With a sense of smell 40 times greater than a human’s, the dogs are trained to detect and identify both explosive material and hostile or hiding humans. The dogs are twice as fast as a fit human, so anyone trying to escape is not likely to outrun Cairo or his buddies.

Airborne Dog!

Airborne Dog!

The dogs, equipped with video cameras, also enter certain danger zones first, allowing their handlers to see what’s ahead before humans follow. As I mentioned before, SEAL dogs are even trained parachutists, jumping either in tandem with their handlers or solo, if the jump is into water. Last year canine parachute instructor Mike Forsythe and his dog Cara set the world record for highest man-dog parachute deployment, jumping from more than 30,100 feet up – the altitude transoceanic passenger jets fly at. Both Forsythe and Cara were wearing oxygen masks and skin protectors for the jump. Here’s a photo from that jump, taken by Andy Anderson for K9 Storm Inc. (more about those folks shortly).

As well, the dogs are faithful, fearless and ferocious – incredibly frightening and efficient attackers. When the SEAL DevGru team (usually known by its old designation, Team 6) hit bin Laden’s Pakistan compound on May 2, Cairo ‘s feet would have been four of the first on the ground. And like the human SEALs, Cairo was wearing super-strong, flexible body Armour and outfitted with high-tech equipment that included “doggles” – specially designed and fitted dog goggles with night-vision and infrared capability that would even allow Cairo to see human heat forms through concrete walls.

Now where on earth would anyone get that kind of incredibly niche hi-tech doggie gear? From Winnipeg, of all places. Jim and Glori Slater’s Manitoba hi-tech mom-and-pop business, K9 Storm Inc., has a deserved worldwide reputation for designing and manufacturing probably the best body Armour available for police and military dogs. Working dogs in 15 countries around the world are currently protected by their K9 Storm body Armour.

Highest Man-Dog Parachute Deployment

Highest Man-Dog Parachute Deployment

Jim Slater was a canine handler on the Winnipeg Police Force when he crafted a Kevlar protective jacket for his own dog, Olaf, in the mid-1990s. Soon Slater was making body Armour for other cop dogs, then the Canadian military and soon the world. The standard K9 Storm vest also has a load-bearing harness system that makes it ideal for tandem rappelling and parachuting.

Airborne Dog Enjoying a Tandem Jump

Airborne Dog Enjoying a Tandem Jump

And then there are the special hi-tech add-ons that made the K9 Storm especially appealing to the U.S. Navy SEALs, who bought four of K9 Storm Inc.’s top-end Intruder “canine tactical assault suits” last year for $86,000. You can be sure Cairo was wearing one of those four suits when he jumped into bin Laden’s lair.

Here’s an explanation of all the K9 Storm Intruder special features:

K9 Storm Body Armour

K9 Storm Body Armour

Just as the Navy SEALS and other elite special forces are the sharp point of the American military machine, so too are their dogs at the top of a canine military hierarchy. In all, the U.S. military currently has about 2,800 active-duty dogs deployed around the world, with roughly 600 now in Afghanistan and Iraq. Several of the photos I have included here are from Foreign Policy, as you will see. Other photos are from K9 Storm Inc.

Air Assault Dogs

Air Assault Dogs

As for the ethics of sending dogs to war, that’s pretty much a moot point, don’t you think? If it’s ethical to send humans into combat, then why not dogs? The U.S. now treats its war dogs as full members of the military.

41 comments
jeanettedoal
jeanettedoal

the photo of forsythe and cara jumping from 30,000+ feet is breathtaking.  i fly across country and we cruise at 38000 ft with an outside temperature of minus many degrees and little oxygen.  that's a remarkable vision to see.  to think that someone and his dog could accomplish this.  i would like a signed photo, including a paw print from cara, sent to my email.  possible?

jeanettedoal
jeanettedoal

looking at a comment here, i have to say i would rather have a SEAL sniper take out the driver of a high prized enemy vehicle than a SEAL dog used as a mobile IED.  i think we need more chris kyle snipers.  judging from the eastwood movie, i see how effective kyle was.  in honor of his life, produce more SEAL snipers.

DFDK9
DFDK9

@jeanettedoal - SEAL dogs are not used as "mobile IEDs." These dogs are much too costly to procure and train to just blow them up. The last time any Allied military has used dogs to deliver explosives was when the Russians experimented with it during World War 2. That project failed miserably because the dogs couldn't tell the difference between German and Russian tanks (and the Germans just shot them on sight before they could blow up their tanks).

JosephQuinn1
JosephQuinn1

You can't adopt a SFD. Most people don't know but war dogs are trained to kill PERIOD that's there mission! There are seal dogs with metal implants replacing there less effective "teeth" in some cases the dog is trained to run under high prized enemy vehicles ? Why you may ask they are used as a mobile IED to neutralize enemy forces

DFDK9
DFDK9

@JosephQuinn1 - I don't know where you get your information from, but you are wrong. Dogs are trained to find things (people, bombs, drugs) and neutralize a threat (bite and hold on). 

The "metal implants" are actually crowns used on damaged teeth. They just happen to be stainless steel or titanium since materials used for human crowns wouldn't hold up to a dog's bite pressure.


And no country currently uses their very expensive working dogs as "mobile IEDs." That was only ever experimented with by Russians in WW2 and failed miserably.

SusanSterritt
SusanSterritt

How does someone adopt one of these dogs once retired?

seanhagins
seanhagins

@SusanSterritt  i believe they will stay with their handler til death however if handler is deceased then there deployed back in action once retired they more than most will always remain fully taken care of without adoption sorry


DFDK9
DFDK9

@seanhagins @SusanSterritt - You are incorrect, Sean.

Although the military attempts to keep dog and handler together as long as possible, it's common for a dog to be assigned to a new handler once the old handler leaves the service, retires, or is injured, as long as the dog can still work.

If the dog needs to be retired, either due to age, illness, or injury, then former handler(s) are offered first choice at adopting them. Most dogs are adopted by former handlers but it's not always possible. Dogs not adopted by their former handlers are put up for public adoption, they're not "taken care of" by the military.

Ali Gray
Ali Gray

@SusanSterritt  not sure if you can adopt unless in the military yourself, however I have 2 Malinios, a brother and sister. If you have the opportunity to share your life with this breed of dog I guarantee you will not be disappointed

JamesPennington
JamesPennington

NOTHIN BUT LOVE FOR YA GUYS AND THE THE SHEPARDS!!! GO SEALS!

SondraMiller
SondraMiller

I watched the Fox News special tonite "The Man who shot Bin Ladin" and I wanted to see what the wonderful Cairo looked like.  This truly special member of the team is now retired.  Brings tears to my eyes to know our canine vets are taken care of.

Carol A Roux
Carol A Roux

having met a former SEAL, I respect what they have done and are doing. They have pride, integrity, comradely, sense of duty above and beyond most people. Their code of Honor is outstanding. Thank God they are protecting our freedom. Thank you  al past and present men who serve in this service, as well as the other services. 

Rogmc69
Rogmc69

being special; its for the dogs.....

Dylanegon
Dylanegon

I would like to donate the use of my original artwork to a canine seal team, would appreciate anyone's ability to pass it along. Thanks, dylan

ascoli
ascoli

The picture with the title "Airborne dog" is not from the seals...it is from the Austrian JAGDKOMMANDO (SpecialForce Unit)

DFDK9
DFDK9

@ascoli - Most of the photos are not SEAL dogs. They just forgot / choose not to caption them properly.


Loujr1
Loujr1

We need to dump the Maryland Senators Carden and Mikulski for voting against pensions for our military who risk their lives every day to protect this country. I'm X military and resent these two representing me and my family. They have been in power way too long for anyone's benefit. Please vote them out in Nov. 2014

SkipperUddy
SkipperUddy

Enjoyed the Pics very much....hope Fiji had more of those in the force

CharlesBorger
CharlesBorger

EVERY CONGRESS OR SENATOR THAT VOTES FOR AMNESTY NEEDS TO BE VOTED OUT OF OFFICE NEXT ELECTION... DEPORT THE ILLEGALS AND THEIR KIDS... IMPEACH OBAMA and BIDEN
STOP GUN CONTROL. NO MONEY FOR EGYPT.. NO OBAMA CARE,

Minou_Demimonde
Minou_Demimonde

Unless the law has changed very recently, they're still listed as equipment. The main difference being that they won't be left behind, which was an incredibly inhumane and stupid idea in the first place. The bill originally contained language that would have equated them with active duty troops, and then classified than as veterans--though with different benefits, naturally. But it got sabotaged along the way, sadly.

Is it just wrong that I want to pet Cairo and give him treats and a nice Kong to chew on? Yeah, probably.

Loreen Pantaleone
Loreen Pantaleone

@jimzgirl Any chance I can get someone to give me info on Cairo? I am going to be painting either Cairo or Bart for the Navy Seals Wounded Wear event for 2016.  The elusive Cairo doesn't have many photos (if those are actually Cairo) that are usable.  I would be happy to provide a full size print to Cairo's family.  My project is The K9 Hero Portrait Project. If you Google it, you'll see I don't draw caricatures, I paint realistic portraits of these heroes.

My email is k9heroportraitproject@gmail.com.

Thank you, Loreen Pantaleone

DFDK9
DFDK9

@Minou_Demimonde - Military Working Dogs are classified as equipment because they are issued "stock numbers" so they can be tracked in the system when they're posted or deployed somewhere. They're not viewed as equipment by the military or their handlers, but there's an effort underway to change the terminology from equipment to canine members of the armed forces or something like that.

Dogs haven't been left behind since the Vietnam War - and that was limited only to that time period. Most of the dogs in WW2 and Korea returned home (most of them back to the families that had donated them, actually, which obviously they don't do any longer since they don't take donated family dogs anymore). In Vietnam, it was due to concerns about the dogs bringing disease back, among other things.

jimzgirl
jimzgirl

@Minou_Demimonde,

Your Question...

Is it just wrong that I want to pet Cairo and give him treats and a nice Kong to chew on? Yeah, probably.

My answer...

ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!

We actually have met and got to know Cairo since his retirement.  A friend of a friend owns him!

What a GREAT feeling to be able to pet, hug, etc. a dog that was such an integral part of capturing and killing Bin Laden!  He is obviously an AMAZING dog and it was pretty special to see his well-behaved "manners" 1st hand.  I was extremely touched by the experience!  

Others, who aren't dog lovers, may not get the emotion that I did from our 1st meeting, and the awe I still have for him, and they may not realize either, why DOG spelled backwards is GOD!  Dogs really are our gift from HIM!!!  :-)

CharlesBorger
CharlesBorger

GLAD TO SEE THEY HAVE K-9 AND SO WELL TRAINED.. WISH I COULD HAVE MADE IT IN...

Julesy
Julesy

How long does it take to train them to jump?

cdoggyd
cdoggyd

These dogs are amazing. I had no idea.

Muskrat
Muskrat

Great post. I really enjoyed the pics!