Saturday, March 29, 2014

Assets or Prisoners?

Russia's seizure of the Crimean Peninsula included all of Ukraine's military assets - ships, docks, buildings, cars, trucks, and everything else needed to defend the warm water port. These are all considered assets.  There have been no reports of conscription of members of the Ukrainian military forces stationed in Crimea.  And then this: the combat dolphins that were part of the Ukrainian navy have been appropriated by the Russians to train with their Emergencies Ministry divers.  There is no mention in the news of their trainers joining the Russians.  I expect that the poor creatures miss their human friends.

I have had a brief encounter with dolphins.  The only other nation known to employ dolphins in military operations is the United States.   In 2001, the Alaska Command (ALCOM) staged it 26th annual cold climate military joint training exercise in Ketchikan where I lived.  Northern Edge 2001 included a naval exercise which tested shared command of a port facility (our downtown dock) and harbor defense operations in a friendly host nation (Ketchikan).  The highlight of this week long occupation was the use of dolphins to help detect underwater intruders.  The dolphins were housed in a large temporary pool put up in a parking lot in town.  Dolphins are trained using a clicker.   They learn that the sound of the clicker signals an imminent reward.  Their behavior is gradually shaped into the desired task by clicking at just the right time.  People who train dogs use clickers too. I was part of the Ketchikan Dog Training Club, and we were using clickers to teach our dogs to compete in Agility (over jumps, through tunnels, up and down an A-frame and teeter totter).  Ketchikan is a small town.  It was easy to contact the dolphin trainers.  They came over to watch our dogs, and we went by to be introduced to the dolphins.

Here is a snapshot of Northern Edge 2001.  You can't see the dolphins.  They are working.

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