Hardwired for camaraderie, dogs have an innate dedication to teamwork that makes them ideal candidates for military service.
Some Navy SEAL dogs are trained parachutists, and the SEAL who trains them to get down (good boy!) from high in the sky is pictured here breaking the world record for man-dog parachute jumps with an altitude of over 30,000 feet.
Seems scary jumping from five miles high, right? But both chute guru Mike Forsythe and pooch Cara are wearing oxygen masks and skin protectors for the big jump.
Not every dog gets asked to meet the president, but then again not every dog gets to help bring down Osama bin Laden.
That was Cairo's gig with Navy SEAL Team 6: getting lowered from a MH-60S helicopter into Abottabad, Pakistan, as part of Operation Neptune Spear. It's believed that Cairo wore a vest like this K9 Storm Intruder, said to be able to send encrypted signals through thick concrete and other barriers.
The Canine Tactical Assault Vest pictured above is Kevlar-lined, and is packed with goodies including night vision and infrared cameras, which can be remotely monitored from up to a thousand yards away.
Top-level K9 harnesses cost at least $20,000 and come with mics and speakers, so that humans can, ahem, bark orders via remote.
Though it wasn't always the case, the Department of Defense now pays for all active duty military dogs to fly home, though some who get retired overseas (and those used by military contractors) aren't covered.
A bill in Congress would have remedied this situation but, shocker, they didn't follow through.
Special demands put on military dogs tend to favor certain breeds with the right mix of strength, smarts and spirit.
High on the list of current attack dog recruits are German shepherds and the slightly stumpier and more muscular Belgian malinois (like the one pictured here), though labradors, dobermans and rottweilers are also often recruited.
Regardless of breed, experts say a typical war dog can save the lives of 150 soldiers over the course of its service.
For every bit of technological magic these dogs get their paws on, they're also versed in all the basic physical skills needed to get the job done. Case in point: KKowalski—let's call him Killer—working the obstacle course with K-9 handler Master-at-Arms Seaman Sharon Berg at a base kennel in Mayport, Fla.
Berg and Killer work the course several times a day to promote endurance and hone the dog's motor skills.
Published:Caption:Jefferson ReidPhoto:Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Damian Berg/U.S. Navy
Beyond the basics in training
Like all newbie recruits, dogs have to endure the hardships of basic training before they specialize and learn how to strap on all the high-tech tools that power elite forces like the Navy SEALs -- whether they walk on two legs or four.
Don't tell anyone, but it looks like this pooch is dogging it on the pushups.
Sniffing out improvised explosive devices all day or going on patrol in a war zone can stress out soldiers of any species, which makes a moment of relaxation in the mountains of Afghanistan seem all the sweeter.
Navy dogs hit retirement after 10 years on the job, and they often transition to the same line of work as many humans in the military: law enforcement. With their costly canine training and a nose thousands of times more sensitive than ours, it's not surprising they land gigs as bomb sniffers, trackers and intruder detectors.
But unlike other ex-military types turned cops, we're sure that the dogs know which doughnuts are the freshest.