All SEALS in my mind are equally elite. It doesn’t matter if you’re SEAL Team Two, One, Six or Ten. It doesn’t matter. All SEALS are equally elite – Howard E. Wasdin
The training and selection program for Navy SEALS is one of the toughest in the world, and the natural attrition rate for any service personnel trying to earn a Trident and a place on the Teams is around seventy-five percent.
Three quarters of the sailors who set to be a SEAL end up ringing the bell before basic training finishes.
And it isn’t just sailors who wash out either, as ninety-nine percent of the dogs who are put through training to join the teams wash out too, meaning that the one percent who do make it, have well and truly earned their place in the ranks of the most elite special forces operators in the world.
Wait a minute, did we just say that dogs served in the SEAL Teams? That’s right, we did, and they do.
Although it wasn’t common knowledge that they played a vital role in the missions that the SEALS undertook until the list of personnel who were involved in the May, 2011 mission (nicknamed Operation Neptune Spear) to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden was revealed, and one name stood out among all the others.
That name was Cairo, the only canine member of SEAL Team Six. And Cairo, just like every other dog who has served with the teams, was a Belgian Malinois.
Why Do SEALS Use Belgian Malinois?
Out of all the working dogs in the world, why would the SEALS choose to exclusively use one of the four varieties of Belgian Shepherd?
It isn’t as though the military and other services and law enforcement agencies haven’t used other working dogs throughout their long and storied histories, so why would the SEALS choose to use Malinois’ rather than the customary German Shepherds, Labradors, or Spaniels?
It’s because the Malinois, unlike the other dogs that have traditionally filled those roles, is uniquely suited for special operations and clandestine missions due to its size.
While it possesses the same degree of intelligence, endurance, and a similar level of strength as a German Shepherd, as it’s a medium size dog, it’s smaller than a Shepherd which means that it’s easier to transport than its larger German cousin.
As it was initially bred to be a herding and tracking dog, it also has an incredible sense of smell, which means that it can lead the members of its team to its destination, and track a quarry from a single item of clothing.
And, because it’s naturally bright, highly motivated, and has an instinctive desire to please its handlers, the Malinois is easy to train, which is a useful characteristic for any special forces operator.
Malinois have also earned the nickname ‘maligators’ because when they latch on, they rarely let go until they’re told to by their handler, and as they’re predisposed to protect those closest to them and the members of their pack, they’re a good soldier to have on your side if you get into hand-to-hand combat.
They’re tough, reliable dogs who are able to hike and swim the same distance as the rest of their team, and still be ready to fight and do whatever their handler needs them to when they reach their objective.
Training A Malinois The SEAL Way
Most sailors aren’t cut out to be SEALS, and most Malinois aren’t cut out to serve on the Teams either.
Making the grade, or being up to the task is something that only one percent of the dogs picked are able to do, and their training starts the week that they’re born.
The puppies that are selected are taken from their mothers a week after they enter the world, in order for them to imprint on their handler, and see him as their mother.
The puppies are subjected to a wide variety of sensory overload and deprivation tests that are designed to test whether or not they’ll be able to cope with the always demanding and stressful conditions of frontline operations.
If they pass those tests, between four and six weeks old they’re taught to swim and once they’re strong enough, they’re tested in open water.
If the dogs being trained can and will swim with their handlers and will put their trust and lives in their hands without question and without being able to focus on a coastline, they’ll have passed the initial tests and will be ready to move on to advanced training.
What does advanced training involve?
It involves the Malinois being taught how to parachute out of a helicopter, how to latch on to an enemy combatant on command and do what it has to do in the heat of battle, and how to ignore, and continue to function as a member of a team while surrounded by gunfire.
And that’s in addition to the obedience and agility classes that are part and parcel of its everyday life as a member of the world’s most elite, and effective, special forces unit.
We know what you’re thinking, what happens to the dogs that don’t make the cut? What happens to the ninety-nine percent of Malinois who wash out and don’t make it on to the Teams?
Don’t worry, most of the time, the reason why a dog doesn’t make the grade as a member of the teams is that it isn’t cut out for a life in the military and would be more at home as a family dog or pet, and those dogs are signed over to organizations like Freedom Service Dogs.
Freedom Service Dogs exists to find new homes for ex-service dogs who are either unsuitable for service or are looking for homes after they’ve retired.
If you’re interested in either adopting a well-trained and cared for military veteran from them, or helping to support the incredible work that they do, then drop them a line and get in touch with them, as they’d love to hear from you.
And the loyal, loving, and protective companion that you and your family have been searching for, could be just a phone call and an application form away from joining your household.