The recent Christmas “almost bombing” of Northwest Flight 253 was a little too “close to home” for me. I’m an Iraq-based contractor who usually flies the same exact route at the holidays and, like thousands of others, find myself shaking my head at the insanity of the situation.

All of the “security theater,” all of the “no-fly lists,” the “expensive technological arrays and X-rays” … the very fact that the terrorist in question, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had been “dimed out” by his own father as a radicalized potential “problem” and was still allowed to get onboard a West-bound international flight without any suspicion or extra oversight. Thankfully, he was incompetent and the alert passengers onboard prevented him from accomplishing his demonic mission.

I’d say it’s time to get back to basics. Real basic basics. In this, I mean man’s best friend, the faithful and highly effective K-9. In the James Cameron “Terminator” series, the surviving humans utilize dogs, (which have upwards of 220 million olfactory sense organs, compared to a paltry human 4 million) to “sniff out” infiltration/Terminator units and raise the alarm. When I cross into customs in the U.S., I’m usually greeted by a beagle puppy who crawls all over my bags to insure I’m not bringing any contraband food/veggies/what have you from my foreign adventures. He’s a cute lil cuss and very eager and dedicated to do his job, as it’s what he literally lives for.

Dogs in Iraq have been highly successful in stopping and finding IEDs and suicide bombers for the past six years. In one case I personally witnessed, the dogs could smell the approaching Vehicle Borne Explosive Device almost 400 meters away from the checkpoint (they were going crazy, even the “off duty” dogs in the cages), and because of this, said Mad Bomber detonated far too early to actually inflict any damage on the Coalition forces manning the checkpoint. They were “locked and loaded,” aiming at the car because the dogs had singled out the lone car and its payload of death. Needless to say, I brought back some extra hamburgers from the chow hall to spoil them afterwards, which is all the reward they could ever want.

Why spend millions and millions of dollars on questionable, unproven technology when we have proven that a dog can, and will (eagerly if the treat is the prize), smell out PET-N, RDX or C-4 for a mere fraction of the cost? We have dogs that are routinely “retired” from Iraq duty and are farmed out to loving families back in the states, and some of these “Force Protection Dogs” are still in the prime of their lives. Why? Not to mention employing the handlers, many of whom who spent at least one if not multiple tours in the war zone helping to sniff out exactly these sort of “bad guys.”

The current state of the TSA is made up of people who have never been in “the real war” and couldn’t tell a “tweaker,” as we call them, from a nervous tourist. Better you have pros who have had boots-on-the-ground experience and a pooch who’s only devotion in life is to find the “target,” as it means he gets a belly rub and a cookie. Experience counts, and the handlers and dogs I’ve seen in action are the best deterrent you could want.

Get rid of the “Buck Rogers Gee-Whiz Hi-Tech Multi-Zillion-Dollar” toys. Station a pair of explosive scent-trained dogs and experienced handlers at the gates. The dogs can be rotated when they get tired, and the cost for six pairs of handlers, kibble and the rest per airport is far cheaper than one Buck Rogers toy that may or, in this case, may NOT actually work. If the cultural aspects of a K-9 offend the Muslim sensitivities, well, I hate to be un-PC about it, but the current Muslim propensity for trying to blow up aircraft offends the hell out of me, and they should just adjust to it. Just like I had to adjust when it came to removing my shoes, laptop, belt and almost everything else when I fly, they need to get over it.

William “Big Country” Coughlin

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