The Best Defense

Rebecca's War Dog of the Week: Dog teams search the wreckage of Washington's mudslide

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

Dogs have been on the scene of the March 22 mudslide in Oso, Washington, that's so far claimed 30 people, a count that is likely only to rise as a number of people are still missing.

The conditions caused by the mudslide have been particularly difficult, posing challenges for the dogs' powerful sense of smell and the way they track odor. As one veteran handler on the scene told National Geographic, "there is so much debris, everything is torn apart, and the human scent can be really spread around.... Plus, it's been raining and cold -- one dog ended up with hypothermia from working in the water."

Despite the difficult terrain, more search and rescue dog teams have even been called in from other states -- like California and Utah -- to help with the search. These include dogs like the one pictured above, who sits at the feet of Washington National Guardsmen to be washed after working the debris field created by the mudslide, and Cody, pictured below with her handler Lisa Bishop from Northwest Disaster Search Dogs. The pair is looking up to watch a Washington National Guard helicopter circle overhead.

Some of the photos of the search and rescue dogs in Washington show them as beleaguered and worn as their exhausted human counterparts. And the dogs can only search for so long before they get worn out and their efforts becomes ineffective. (One of the best photo series on search and rescue dogs is this New York Times collection: "The Search and Rescue Dogs from 9-11".)

War-dog history is flush with legions of dogs who located the wounded (or the fallen) on the battlefield, and the U.S. military has employed search and rescue dogs in recent years, adding them to their ranks. In many ways, we're most accustomed now to using dogs to prevent tragedy -- to save lives. But sadly, when the occasion calls, we also bring in dogs for recovery -- to lead with their noses and do what humans and technology still cannot do better without them.

Photo by Spc. Matthew Sissel

The Best Defense

FoW (23): The biggest growth industry in defense should be counter-drone systems

By Capt. Adam Thomas, USMC
Best Defense future of war entry

There have been a lot of conversation as of late regarding the rise of unmanned systems (UxS) and how they are going to play a large role in future warfare. The proliferation of these future systems is not only going to be used by states but also non-state actors. This is an obvious fact but raises the question, how do we counter such unmanned systems that can be acquired and weaponized by almost anyone? 

With all new technologies there is usually a double-edged sword when it comes to its utility. A basic search on the Internet can allow anyone to find, purchase, and outfit an unmanned system, whether it is an aircraft or ground system, and employ it using their own creative devices. So, back to the original question: How do we combat this proliferating technological capability? There are multiple methods to examine. It depends on whether you want to kill, disable, deny, or take control of the UxS. Future warfare development will have to focus on how to counter these systems because there is no Department of Defense (DOD) monopoly on this technology.

Future adversaries will be capable of utilizing the Internet and mass media to gain visibility and control the message they want the world to see. Due to commercial technologies, they will be highly networked, which will allow them to shape the battlefield quicker than U.S. forces, and they will be able to exploit our own rules of engagement to gain decisive advantages and mass and engage our military on their own terms. Using their own UxS, they will have access to real time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance that will prove lethal if we don't find a way to counter this capability. Research and development within private industry and the DOD has to be seriously focused on a counter-UxS effort if we are to maintain our predominance on future battlefields. 

Capt. Adam Thomas, USMC, is a helicopter pilot who works on counter-unmanned systems projects at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab. The views in this post are those of the author alone and do not reflect the views of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Marine Corps.

ASGHAR ACHAKZAI/AFP/Getty Images