U.S. Marine Cpl. Sean Grady, a dog handler
and pointman with Echo Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance
Battalion, and Ace, an improvised explosive device detection dog,
post security during a dismounted patrol here, April 27, 2012.
Grady, a 27-year-old native of Otho, Iowa, and Ace have successfully
located 16 IEDs, the most of any team in their battalion, since
arriving in southern Helmand on October 2011. Photo by USMC Cpl.
Alfred V. Lopez
KHAN NESHIN DISTRICT, Afghanistan (5/1/2012) – A team of two jumped
out of the vehicle as it came to a stop at a chokepoint on the road.
While Ace, an improvised explosive device detection dog,
wandered around the vehicle, Cpl. Sean Grady, Ace's handler and a
pointman with Echo Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance
Battalion, began preparing his sickle and combat metal detector.
The pair then proceeded with what they do best: clearing a safe
path for their fellow Marines.
They moved down the road in a
carefully choreographed dance, methodically searching for the
disguised and dangerous devices. Grady, a 27-year-old native of Otho,
Iowa, launched Ace forward with an array of hand signals and verbal
commands, while he swept the path with his CMD.
choice to enlist in the Marine Corps was influenced by the loss of a
best friend, Sgt. Jon Bonnell, who sacrificed his life in Al Anbar
Province, Iraq in 2008 while serving with 1st Battalion, 11th Marine
“He was one of my best friends in high school,” said
Grady, who graduated with Bonnell from Fort Dodge Senior
Being the pointman for his platoon
requires Grady to efficiently utilize all of his tools. With
his sickle, CMD, combat experience and Ace's skills, a
complete IED detection team is effectively leading the
“I volunteered to be a pointman during this
deployment,” said Grady. “The only thing I care about is
keeping my Marines safe.”
Grady considers their
tactical approach atypical. While most dog handlers are
usually positioned farther back in a patrol, Grady saw that
having Ace at the front of his platoon would greatly enhance
their ability to find IEDs.
“As a dog handler, most
of the time we're in the back of the patrol,” said Grady.
“They only call us up when they see suspicious things on the
road, or when the pointman needs to confirm something.”
“I was a pointman on my last deployment, and I know the
danger that comes with dealing with IEDs, and didn't want
anyone else dealing with that,” explained Grady, who
previously served in Afghanistan in 2010.
unusual method has produced uncanny results, with their 16
IED finds since arriving in southern Helmand in October 2011
being the highest of any IED detection team in the
“Ace has found five IEDs, and also
confirmed three suspicious hits,” said Grady. “I've found
seven during our time here.”
In addition to the tools
of his trade, Grady credits tactical decision games – a
basic skill set taught to all infantrymen – for much of his
success in Khan Neshin.
“In my head during a patrol,
I'll go through my TDGs,” explained Grady. “I ask myself,
‘If I was the Taliban, where's the best place to put the
“I would look around the area and focus my
attention where I think the enemy would put the IED,” he
Grady recalled an incident, where he found an
IED using lessons learned from conducting TDGs. He used his
sickle to investigate what he figured was a suspicious spot
on the road, and uncovered a bucket filled with 50 pounds of
Grady and Ace have been teammates since
July 2011, after Grady attended the Marine Corp's dog
handling course. He was amazed by Ace's obedience and the
skills he had acquired from training with K2 Solutions Inc.,
before they were partnered together.
“It blew my mind
how disciplined Ace was, the amount of different explosive
scents that he could recognized, and how useful his skill
can be in the field,” Grady explained.
“He's a superb
dog and he helps me do my job,” he added. “I wasn't really
aware of how amazing the Marine Corps dog handler's program
is until I met Ace.”
Just as he was taught in boot
camp and infantry training, Grady keeps his weapons, tools
and skills well maintained. He stressed that constantly
training Ace is what keeps him sharp and disciplined when
they are out on patrol.
“We keep up with his
obedience and reset training to make sure he keeps his
skills and stays on his game,” explained Grady.
hard, because I want to love him as a pet but I have to
treat him as tool as well, because of the skills he has,”
said Grady. “I'm constantly on that fine line of being his
friend and master.”
As 1st LAR's deployment comes to
a close, Grady and Ace look to keep their platoon's path
home safe and IED free.
By USMC Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez
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