Spc. Mark VanGerpen
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Every day, Spc. Logan Ellard buries a bit of TNT or C4 in the road at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E.
When he’s finished, he walks away for a few hours.
Later on, he comes back with Sgt. Thor, his tactical explosive detection dog.
Thor sniffs out the explosive and takes a seat next to it, the signal to Ellard that he found the explosive.
The training helps keep Thor sharp, said Ellard, a TEDD handler with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Security Forces Assistance Brigade.
When Thor goes to work, the Soldiers patrolling with him can breathe a little easier.
In the field, Thor is a living mine detector that has been deployed three times in the past four
“His nose is a huge force,” said Spc. J.R. Jones, an infantryman with D Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd SFAB. “You have equipment that works, but there’s no mishap with him.
“He’s going to find explosives, regardless,” he added. “It’s what he’s trained to do.”
Training also keeps Thor accustomed to obeying commands, Ellard said. Thor works without a leash, so if something dangerous happens, he needs to respond to Ellard without hesitation.
“If he’s out and he finds an IED, I don’t want him to be on a 30-foot leash,” Ellard said. “I want to be as far back as I can. So he has to be very well trained to listen to my signals and my words.”
Thor is trained to detect 14 different scents, including TNT, C4, homemade explosives and even detonation cord that could be wired to an improvised explosive device.
He’s a single-minded professional when he’s on the job, Ellard said. But he’s just as good at boosting morale.
“Everybody loves it when he comes around,” Ellard said.
For 4th Platoon, Thor’s skills finding explosives are matched by his ability to lift their spirits.
“With him around, the other guys are happy,” Jones said. “When you sleep with the same guys for so long, you kind of get mad at each other. People will fight. But he stops that.”
During Operation Zafar, a 10-day security patrol into the Nikeh District in late May, 4th Platoon set up camp for several days at Combat Outpost Zerok.
The Soldiers had a lot of down time, but Thor kept them entertained by showing off his detection skills and playing games with the Soldiers.
“Boredom will get to you,” Jones said. “Just having him around is great.”
More than just helping to wile away the hours, Thor helps keep the troops going on long patrols, Jones said.
“When you’re walking and you think life sucks, and you look at the dog and life doesn’t suck for the dog, it makes you feel better,” Jones said.
Ellard, a former cavalry scout, has been working with Thor since November. He has gone on four missions with Thor so far and said that the dog is a good partner, and the work is very rewarding.
“I love going out there and working with him,” Ellard said. “It’s awesome to be out there in front knowing that if I find something, I’ve saved somebody’s life.”
(VanGerpen is a member of the U.S. Army National Guard attached to 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)