Animals in the Service

 

 

 

In honor of all the military related festivities in the month of November, like the USMC 238th Birthday and Veteran’s Day, I felt it only appropriate to discuss some of the unique ways animals have also helped to preserve our nation’s freedom. We are all familiar with many a battle on horseback in our nation’s history, but did you know horses and canines are not the only animals who help our brave men and women?  Listed below are some of their unique roles today.

Dolphins and the U.S. Navy

Dolphins have been serving in the U.S. Navy for more than 40 years as part of the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program, and they were used during the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. These highly intelligent animals are trained to detect, locate and mark mines — not to mention suspicious swimmers and divers.

What happens if a dolphin finds an intruder? The dolphin touches a sensor on a boat to alert its handler, and the handler then places a strobe light or noisemaker on the dolphin’s nose. The dolphin is trained to swim to the intruder, bump him or her from behind to knock the device off its nose and swim away while military personnel take over.

Sea Lions

Trained sea lions, another part of the U.S. Navy’s Marine Mammal Program, locate and tag mines just like dolphins, but that’s not all these “Navy Seals” do — they also cuff underwater intruders. The sea lions carry a spring clamp in their mouths that can be attached to a swimmer or diver by simply pressing it against the person’s leg. In fact, the sea lions are so fast that the clamp is on before the swimmer is even aware of it. Once a person is clamped, sailors aboard ships can pull the swimmer out of the water by the rope attached to the clamp.

These specially trained sea lions, part of the Navy’s Shallow Water Intruder Detection System, patrol Navy bases and were even deployed to protect ships from terrorists in the Persian Gulf.

Honeybees

Honeybees are natural-born sniffers with antennae able to sense pollen in the wind and track it down to specific flowers, so bees are now being trained to recognize the scents of bomb ingredients. When the bees pick up a suspicious odor with their antennae, they flick their proboscises — a tubular feeding organ than extends from their mouths.  Watch them in action at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T7d0bze4kM

A honeybee bomb-detection unit would look like a simple box stationed outside airport security. Inside the box, bees would be strapped into tubes and exposed to puffs of air where they could constantly check for the faint scent of a bomb. A video camera linked to pattern-recognition software would alert authorities when the bees started waving their proboscises in unison.

Pigeons

Homing pigeons were widely used by both American and British forces during World War II. The U.S. Army had an entire Pigeon Breeding and Training Center at Fort Monmouth, N.J., where the pigeons were trained to carry small capsules containing messages, maps, photographs and cameras. Military historians claim that more than 90 percent of all pigeon-carried messages sent by the U.S. Army during the war were received.

The birds even participated in the D-Day invasion because troops operated under radio silence. The pigeons sent information about German positions on Normandy beaches and reported back on the success of the mission. In fact, homing pigeons played such an important military role that 32 were awarded the Dickin Medal, Britain’s highest award for animal valor. Recipients of the medal include the U.S. Army Pigeon Service’s bird, G.I. Joe, and the Irish pigeon known as Paddy.

As you can see, a wide variety of creatures have participated in military efforts and are active in service today.  My sincerest thanks and gratitude to all the brave men, women, and animals who selflessly protect our nation’s freedom.

Majority of information for blog came from http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/photos/10-ways-animals-have-served-the-military/in-the-army-now