Bomb-sniffing dog helps Marines stay alive in Afghanistan
Reporting from Forward Operating Base Geronimo, Afghanistan -- It's a rare day when a Marine gladly depends on a dogface.
But in the Marines' efforts to remove the threat of roadside bombs buried by insurgents, one of their best weapons is the keen nose of a 3-year-old black Labrador named Ringo.
Ringo is credited with finding 10 improvised explosive devices in the last six months while on route-clearance patrol with Combined Anti-Armor Team 2 of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.
Ringo sniffs the ground for the presence of explosives. When he finds something suspicious, he sits down near the spot, allowing Marine technicians to dig carefully to uncover the buried bombs, which remain the top killer of U.S. troops.
On two recent occasions, Ringo's nose falsely detected hits. But the Marines are quick to forgive him. On another patrol, he found explosives that proved to be the first in a chain of bombs. Without that initial discovery, the other bombs might have gone undetected, his two-legged buddies said.
There are other bomb-sniffing dogs accompanying Marines in the onetime Taliban stronghold of Helmand province, but Ringo has found more bombs than any of his canine colleagues.
Ringo's handler, Lance Cpl. William Childs, 21, of Santa Cruz, will soon return to Camp Pendleton, his deployment finished. Ringo is also scheduled to be brought back home, where he will be assigned a new handler.
Both will then redeploy to Afghanistan as part of the troop increase announced by President Obama.
Calm and friendly, Ringo is like any other Lab: He likes head pats and chin scratches.
But unlike others of his breed, when he goes roaming off-leash, it's with a determined intent to find trouble.
And when he points out an explosive device, his big reward is playtime with his favorite chew toy -- and the gratitude of an entire team of best friends.
-- Tony Perry
Photo: Ringo, a black Labrador, has found 10 buried roadside bombs in Helmand Province. Buried explosives remain the top killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Credit: Tony Perry / Los Angeles Times