Exercise Hamel at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area.
Exercise Hamel at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area. Allan Reinikka ROK190618ahamel53

WATCH: Military police dogs play big part in combat

WORKING side by side for the past four years, Private Aleksander Nigalis and his military police dog Nitro have formed a close bond.

Their understanding as a pair was put to the test in Shoalwater Bay during a training scenario as a part of exercise Hamel.

Exercise Hamel is a major Army exercise that is designed to evaluate the war fighting skills of a Brigade.

 

The scenario, which tested the skills of casualty evacuation, is one of many that have taken place so far during the yearly operation.

This year troops from the Australian Army, Navy and Air Force, New Zealand Army, and US Marines descended on the military training area just north of Rockhampton.

Private Nigalis was among 8,500 soldiers who attended the large-scale exercise which is the last session for a number of Australian soldiers before they are deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in August.

During this particular scenario, Australian Defence Force troops were driving down dirt roads when they were ambushed by the enemy.

 

Pt Aleksander Nigalis with military police dog Nitro.
Pt Aleksander Nigalis with military police dog Nitro. Allan Reinikka ROK270618anitro1

During the battle, civilians, the enemy and their own troops were injured.

ADF troops then practised their land base trauma systems including medical care and evacuating casualties via helicopter to the HMAS Canberra, a ship sitting off-shore.

Private Nigalis said as a military police dog handler, his job was to "help enforce the rule of law" and keep troops safe by utilising the dog's attack skills.

"We obviously don't want to injure other members of the Defence Force so to avoid us getting injured we send the dog in first, he then knocks the enemy to the ground and we take it from there," he said.

 

Exercise Hamel at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area.
Exercise Hamel at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area. Allan Reinikka ROK190618ahamel36

"In this sort of situation the enemy may have rifles but they're not using them, so they're not going to engage with us or shoot at us, that is where the dogs are most useful."

Private Nigalis said all of the dogs were highly disciplined but were like any other dog when off-duty.

"We get our dogs at about 18 months of age with a basic understanding of bite work and obedience and then we train them for their entire career," he said.

 

Exercise Hamel at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area.
Exercise Hamel at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area. Allan Reinikka ROK190618ahamel50

"Most handlers will stay with their dog for four to five years.

"To get to the standard that myself and Nitro are at we've been together now for four years and we've been training the whole time."

Private Nigalis said handlers and their dogs shared a close bond as they spent a large amount of time working together.

"A lot of people are jealous of my career and want to come over and play with the dog and I'm happy to bring extra morale to the field," he said.

 

Exercise Hamel at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area.
Exercise Hamel at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area. Allan Reinikka ROK190618ahamel8

At night the dogs are put in a more relaxed environment where they have free time and can unwind from the day's work.

"Just like any other dog in his spare time, Nitro likes to smell trees, pee on stuff and chase balls on open fields.

"He also loves swimming and chasing sticks."



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