US Marine Corps Employing Dogs to Detect IEDs 06-Aug-2009 12:59 EDT The US Marine Corps is buying dogs that can detect improvised explosive devices (IEDs) for deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. The USMC Regional Contracting Office National Capitol Region in Quantico, VA awarded an $8.7 million firm-fixed price contract to K2 Solutions in Southern Pines, NC for the purchase of 112 trained and certified IED detector dogs. The contract also covers maintaining a pool of 247 dogs as well as training for the dogs and handlers. The contract includes kenneling of the dogs, including feeding and medical care during the period of performance; team integration training for 4 weeks at a training venue designated by the USMC, currently Twenty-Nine Palms in California; and contractor field support services to assist the USMC after deployment. The contract has an option for the procurement of replacement dogs, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $8.8 million. K2 will perform the work at Southern Pines and Twenty-Nine Palms and expects to complete it by Aug 4/10. The contract was competitively procured via a request for proposals, with 3 proposals solicited and received by the USMC Regional Contracting Office National Capitol Region (M00264-09-C-0028). USMCâ€™s Military Working Dog Program, which trains explosive detection dogs and handlers, was first developed during World War 2â€¦ The USMC started to train dogs and their handlers to be capable of scouting and patrolling during combat operations where the dogsâ€™ keen sense of smell enabled Marines to search a larger area in a shorter amount of time. Unlike other branches of the military where service members become dog handlers after several years of enlistment, to become a dog handler in the Marine Corps, Marines go from boot camp to Military Police school and straight on to the dog handling school, after a selective process. While at MP school, individuals interested in the K-9 field must be in the top 10% of their class. After writing an essay on why they want to be a handler, they will then go on an oral board to get selected for the K-9 school. Just like the handlers, the dogs go through a selective process as well. Dogs begin training when they are 9 months to a year old. Like Marines, they go through a basic boot camp to learn the rudimentary skills of being a military working dog. The training can be as quick as a few weeks to as long as several months depending on the dog, but after boot camp itâ€™s up to the handler to make advancements in their skills.