Over the period 24 May to 28 June 2018, D Company, 1st Military Police Battalion (1 MP Bn) provided two Military Police Dog Teams (MPDT) to provide close support to 8th/9th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, configured as Battlegroup (BG) RAM, part of the ground combat element (GCE) of the Australian Army’s Amphibious Task Group (ATG). The GCE consisted of approximately 900 personnel from a variety of units within 7th Brigade (7 Bde) that embarked on HMAS Canberra.
This was the first time the military police dog (MPD) capability embarked on the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) amphibious assault ships and the first time that MPDTs had conducted large scale amphibious operations. This was also the first time that Royal Australian Engineers (RAE) had deployed explosive detection dogs (EDD) under the above conditions.
Key activities undertaken
Over the duration of the activity, the MPDTs undertook a variety of tasks including: MPD capability briefs and demonstrations to all levels of command across the ATG; wet and dry environmental rehearsals utilising the Multi-Role Helicopter 90 (MRH 90-Taipan) and CH47-Chinook for air insertion as well as Army Landing Craft Mechanised (LCM)-8 and Navy LCM-1E for surface insertion (conducted both day and night); canine casualty care briefs to Army and Navy medical personnel; community engagement activities within the town of Bowen; and the provision of MPD effects.
Outcomes of the activity
Overall the MPDTs were successful in demonstrating MPD and 1 MP Bn’s capability, particularly in terms of achieving the following:
Embedding MPDTs as a part of the GCE. This was achieved despite several issues arising during the planning phase:
- MP and MPDTs did not force concentrate with BG RAM until three weeks before the exercise. This meant force-assigned members still had some training deficiencies at the time of embarkation.
- In the event HMAS Canberra left Australian waters, there was a requirement for import/export permits from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) for the MPDs . The compressed timeline and funding constraints made this problematic, but not impossible as DAWR staff agreed to work outside of their allocated timelines to issue the permits.
- Timings also prevented a physical reconnaissance of HMAS Canberra in order to confirm suitable kenneling options prior to embarkation.
These initial issues were overcome through planning and liaison between the MP Liaison Officer (MPLO), MPD section School of Military Education, and HMAS Canberra’s Ships Army Detachment officers. Some issues were also resolved through requests for information to Special Operations Command’s military working dog (MWD) capability to provide insight into the extended embarkation of working dogs on RAN ships. This allowed for the two MPDTs to adequately prepare the dogs and all required equipment for embarkation.
The key lesson learned from this initial embedding was that early integration and force concentration is required to enable all necessary planning and preparations to occur within the required time-frame. Additionally, funding allocation is required from Army Headquarters to ensure that MPDTs are ‘DAWR import/ export prepared’ prior to entering the ‘Ready’ phase. Finally, the development of standard operating procedures was also identified as a priority to aid future elements in preparing for embarkation.
Effective integration into combat teams. This was successful and largely achieved through the MPLO’s inclusion of MPD handlers during planning phases, the ability of the MPDTs to be detached from other MP call signs, the MPDTs experience in incorporating the dogs within a combined arms combat team and the ability to achieve this within a compressed time-frame.
Providing MPD effects in close support of infantry force elements across all spectrums of conflict. This was achieved through MPD handlers and the MPLO providing MPD capability briefs to commanders at all levels within the BG as well as the handlers having an understanding of the commander’s intent and intimate knowledge of MPD effects (detect, deter and apprehend). Together these enhanced the commander’s plan and mission.
Despite initial challenges, MPDs were successfully embarked on the new amphibious assault ships for the first time. This activity provided an excellent opportunity to test new concepts and develop procedures for the use of MPDs within an amphibious force. It provided a platform for D Company’s MPD element to establish new relationships with other combat units within 7 Bde and enabled the MP and MPD capabilities to prove their effectiveness as part of amphibious operations.
About the Author: Chris Genn began his military career as a driver in the Royal Australian Corps of Transport. Since transferring to the Royal Australian Corps of Military Police he has been posted to 1 MP Bn as a Specialist Dog Handler and 2nd Commando Regiment Special Operations Military Working Dog section. In 2018 he returned to D Company 1 MP Bn as the MP Dog Element Sergeant.