Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command is purchasing a new field-expedient X-ray machine for use on animals.
The machine is for the organization’s preferred working dogs, Belgian Malinois and German shepherds, according to Staff Sgt. Robert Storm, a MARSOC spokesman. The 15-pound device, about the size of a breadbox, is commonly used in the field by civilian veterinarians for horses, pack animals and other livestock used occasionally by elite operators in rugged environments.
Storm declined to say whether MARSOC personnel may use the equipment on other types of animals.
“The dogs here at MARSOC are multipurpose K-9s,” Storm said. “They have the ability to track an individual ... and detect explosive threats within the same area. The greatest display is their ability to switch between tasks within the same mission.”
That makes caring for them a priority.
The X-ray machine MARSOC seeks — the DR 2500 Flat Panel Digital Navigator System, or equivalent — is billed as the smallest, highest-detail self-contained digital imaging system available. Unlike traditional X-ray machines, it does not rely on film that must be developed. It provides a digital image of a patient’s injuries within seconds.
According to MARSOC’s solicitation to the defense industry, the equipment must be:
■ Portable and field expedient.
■ Produce no odors or hazardous waste.
■ Capable of transmitting images via email.
■ Allow for storage of 20,000 images.
■ Come with a laptop and digital X-ray software.
For Marine special operators in Afghanistan and preparing for a transition to the jungles of the Asia-Pacific region, dogs will continue to prove a critical asset while pack animals could offer quiet, sure-footed transportation that can traverse terrain even the most rugged of wheeled vehicles cannot.
Although MARSOC would confirm only that the X-ray machine is for dogs, U.S. forces continue to use horses and mules, as well.
During the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, weeks before the brunt of Marine forces deployed, CIA operatives and special operations personnel attacked Taliban positions from horseback.
Marines train with mules at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., where they learn to properly load pack animals, care for them and leverage their strengths to complete missions.