Coastal Preservation
November 08 2007

Army dogs to get bomb training…

by Chad Nelsen

The truth is surely stranger than fiction....

Land mind detection dogs are training on the beach where the US Army Corps of Engineers pumped munitions from World War I as part of a beach dredge and fill project.

Army dogs to get bomb training in Surf City

By DONNA WEAVER Staff Writer, 609-978-2015
(Published: November 8, 2007)

SURF CITY - Two federal agencies have different explanations for the land-mine detection dogs on the beach.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed Wednesday that the dogs have been brought to Long Beach Island from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., by the U.S. Army to participate in a land-mine detection training program.

"This is another chance for them to test it out. There is no significance for our project, just a way for the land-mine detection team to test its capabilities," corps spokesman Ed Voigt said.

The corps was informed about the project by the Army only a few days ago, Voigt said.

According to Voigt, items will be planted on the beaches and the dogs will search for them. The training is basically a setup and the dogs will continue to search for planted items throughout the rest of the week since they may not be able to detect munitions pumped ashore that are below a certain depth, Voigt said.

"Basically we did this for them," Voigt said. "This is not a route for us to go find more munitions; it is not phase two for this particular project."

But according to Mike Alley, spokesman for Fort Leonard Wood, the dogs are there for more than just training. Lt. Joel Prusi will be on the Surf City beaches with dogs such as German shepherds, according to Alley. All of the dogs were raised in the Ozark Mountains, according to Alley.

"We're assisting with how we're going to clean up that mess up there. A mess, is that what we're calling it?" Alley said of the 1,100 plus World War I era military munitions pumped ashore during a beach replenishment project led by the corps. "They are there to do some training. There will be some other benefits, we hope so."

Alley would not speculate on what exactly those benefits are, but he did explain why it was important to keep the operation under wraps.

Voigt compared the low-key plant and search operation involving the canines to the work of a seeing-eye dog.

"They don't want people coming up, like "Mommy! Mommy! Puppies!" because these dogs are at work," said Voigt.

Alley said for security reasons and the risk of training tactics being exposed, Prusi was not allowed to be interviewed.

Alley said he is very guarded about giving information to the media about the specific ways in which the dogs are trained.

"Terrorists Google, and if I give information to a reporter and it gets out there online, people could be killed. I wish I could make up a song, 'Terrorists Google,'" Alley said. "These dogs are doing exactly what they are doing over in Iraq."

According to Alley, journalists in Iraq are already making it very hard for the military and their dogs are being killed.

"I'm very careful about the information I give to reporters because it is my job to protect people from being killed," Alley said.

Although the funding for additional cleanup of munitions is still unclear, Voigt said, the corps has engineers on the beach each day searching for munitions. But Voigt stressed that the dogs and the cleanup of the munitions pumped ashore are separate operations.

"The Army is now experimenting with dogs for mine detection. We thought, "Gee, if they never worked in a beach environment before we could plant some safe munitions down and see if they can try and find them," said Voigt.

According to Voigt, the dogs have not located any items that have not been planted.

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