War dogs honoured at commemorative service

A COMMEMORATIVE service to honour Australian War Dogs was recently held at the Australian Defence Force Trackers and War Dogs Memorial Park in Berriedale.

The service marked Australia’s National Military Dog Day, a solemn day in military history when a handler and his dog were killed together serving Australia for the first time.

On 7 June 2010, Sapper Darren Smith and his explosive detection dog Herbie conducted a route clearance ahead of an Australian Patrol in the Mirabad Valley in Afghanistan with Sapper Jacob Moreland.

Herbie detected an explosive device and as the group approached it, a Taliban insurgent detonated the device by remote control.

Darren and Herbie were killed and Jacob later died of his wounds.

Darren was 26, Jacob was 21 and Herbie was three and a half.

The commemorative service, organised by Australian Defence Force Trackers and War Dogs Association member Suzanne Curry, was attended by about 35 people, including Acting Mayor of Glenorchy Bec Thomas, and 10 dogs.

“The memorial area is such a fitting tribute to war dogs and their handlers who are otherwise offered little recognition for their efforts at war,” Acting Mayor Thomas said.

“The service was very well prepared and delivered.

“I am committed to supporting the efforts of the Australian Defence Force Trackers and War Dogs Association in its aim to build upon this service and raise awareness of these magnificent dogs going forward.”

The path at the Memorial Park in Berriedale is lined with plinths recognising the wars and dogs that served in them.

There are commemorative plaques under the trees lining the path that list trackers that have died in action.

The path leads to a memorial overlooking Lowestoft Bay where more than 130 individual dedication bricks have been laid, honouring dogs and their handlers.

Dogs have played a significant role in Australian military history, with their loyalty, courage, dedication to duty and sacrifice being incalculable.

During the Vietnam War, 11 black Labradors served as tracker dogs.

Tracking teams were small, normally consisting of two dogs and two handlers, a visual tracker who was trained to determine everything from the number of insurgents to what they were armed with, two covermen, a machine gunner, and a signaller.

The team’s main roles were to follow up enemy trails or to locate suspected enemy hideouts after a contact.

The dogs’ job of leading this team was one of the most dangerous jobs in war, with the team needing to have absolute confidence in the dogs’ ability to sense the enemy before actual contact was made.

The theatre of war may have changed, but the role of military dogs is just as important today.

Post-World War One and World War Two, they have served in Korea, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam, Singapore, Somalia, Bougainville, East Timor, Solomon Island, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Today, dogs’ capabilities include searching for explosive devices, airfield and asset protection, combat tracking, and protection of government and international officials.

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