Photo Information

A U.S. Marine grooms MWD Shiva, on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Feb. 3.

Photo by Cpl. Karis Mattingly

A Marine's best friend

17 Feb 2021 | Cpl. Karis Mattingly Marine Corps Installations Pacific

“I rely heavily on the protection of Max,” said Cpl. Jarod Bell, a Military Working Dog handler, and a native of Rochester, New York. “He can potentially be the deciding factor in whether I go home or not. I feel like if I can protect my dog [Max] to make it back, it gives us another day to go out there and do it again.”

“He is definitely my best friend.”

U.S. Marines with the Provost Marshal’s Office and 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, MWD section, regularly conduct training to maintain mission readiness. However, for Marines like Bell, continuously building the relationship with the MWD’s means so much more.

“I feel like this is the best job in the Marine Corps,” said Bell with the PMO MWD section. “Every day we come into work and have a companion jumping for joy at the sight of us. I think that is what does it for me- to have my dog looking forward to seeing me every day as much as I look forward to seeing him.”

“I get him, like he gets me. As much time we spend working, we have just as much time playing together.” Cpl. Jarod Bell, a Military Working Dog handler

There are two sides to MWD handling: administration and patrolling. Administratively, the primary focus is training- area and building searches, obstacle courses, controlled aggression and odor detection for explosives and narcotics.

Patrolling consists of the Marine and the MWD roving throughout and around the camps to ensure good order. Additionally, they respond to calls other patrol units may need assistance with, due to the command presence associated with MWD’s, explained Bell.

The Marines are expected to maintain their own training and uphold the expectations held for their primary military occupational specialty. In addition, assume the duties of an MWD handler and ensure their military working dogs are nurtured, healthy and trained on a daily basis.

“I get him, like he gets me,” said Bell. “As much time we spend working, we have just as much time playing together.”

A Marine's Best Friend Photo by Cpl. Karis Mattingly
A U.S. Marine takes a military working dog out of the kennels to conduct training on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Feb. 3.

Every four hours, the Marines tend to the dogs, ensuring they have water and are in good health. Throughout the day, they clean the kennels, groom the dogs and feed them based on their customized diets.

When the MWD and handler are paired, the first step is building rapport. For the first few weeks their focus is to develop a strong connection. Bonds between MWDs and handlers are created through grooming, playing with the dogs’ and their favorite toy, and letting them know the handlers are their ‘mom and dad,’ explained Bell.

After building a strong foundation, it is then time to initiate training and practically apply what the dog has learned.

Bell explained that when a handler puts in the time and effort to really understand their dog, they develop a unique ability to recognize the changes in each other's behavior. Soon, the handlers and dogs begin to learn each other well enough to know their expectations and needs.

“If I treated him any less than a best friend, we would not be an essential and successful dog team,” said Bell. “We would not work well as a team because the mutual respect would not be there.”

“He may be my assigned military working dog, but to me he’s my best friend, Max.”

The Mission of the Marine Corps Base PMO is to provide law enforcement, investigative, and security services as directed by the Commanding General.