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PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. In Afghanistan, summer temperatures soar to 120 degrees and winter temperatures dip into the teens.
Mix in some blinding sandstorms and one can appreciate the importance of adequate military shelter not only for Soldiers, but also for military working dogs.
To keep the working dogs healthier and more comfortable during deployments, Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center engineers from Picatinny and Rock Island are developing kennels for environments with temperature extremes, said Project Officer Frank Altamura, who is with the Program Executive Office for Ammunition.
The duties of military working dogs include patrolling and searching for explosive and narcotics.
Military working dogs have been used for different missions within the Army since Vietnam, and they are probably the most reliable source of explosive detection that the Army has, Altamura said.
The new, portable kennels will have a forced-air system that provides fresh air circulation inside the shelter in the absence of natural breezes, heated air during extreme cold and cooled air during extreme heat.
The operating temperatures inside the kennel are a minimum of 45 degrees when the temperature outside the kennel is 5 degrees. When the temperature is 120 degrees outside, the inside temperature cannot exceed 85 degrees.
The temperature requirements were approved by the Army Veterinary Corps headquartered at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Because the current portable kennels, called Vari Kennels, are open-air, they must be kept in the barracks with troops so that the temperature is controlled.
The new kennel gives the dog his own place, while not being cramped in the Vari Kennel in the troops quarters, Altamura said.
In addition, the new kennel includes a shelter and along with a run or exercise area that allows dogs to stretch their legs. The dogs will access the run area through a doggie door that lets them enter and exit the shelter as they please.
The length of a mission determines what type of kennel is used, explained Deputy Project Officer Tom Case. On missions that last up to 30 days, the dogs stay in Vari Kennels. The new deployable kennel will house the dogs when they are on missions that last from 30 to 180 days.
Beyond 180 days, the dogs are housed in brick and mortar structures. The kennel can be used independent of the run area and is designed to be transported on quick notice on the back of a truck. If a Soldier needs to take the dog to a forward operating base, he can remove the run and only take the kennel if the mission will be under 30 days.
The kennels are modular and can be assembled by two people in less than 15 minutes with relatively few tools. The kennels are 48 inches long, by 24 inches wide, by 40 inches high and the attachable run is 6 feet long, by 4 feet wide, by 4 feet high. The new kennels have passed numerous environmental tests at Aberdeen Test Center in Aberdeen, Md. In addition, testing with dogs has contributed to changes in kennel design.
The doggie door at one time was aluminum skinned, like the walls, with insulation inside to keep the heat and cold in, Altamura said. But we discovered that the door was too heavy and it kept hitting the dog. After a few times going in and out, the dogs refused to go through it. So that was a major change we had to make.
The program is preparing to seek bids for production. The kennels are scheduled for deployment abroad and to training facilities in December with fielding and logistics support from the TACOM Life Cycle Management Command.
PEO Ammunition was assigned the management of the Family of Military Working Dog Equipment Program for the Army, and is a participant in the Department of Defense working group.