FORT LEE, VA (WWBT) - Cadaver dogs are the gold standard for detecting and recovering bodies in earthquakes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. On Wednesday, some Fort Lee soldiers got a hands-on lesson in how it all works.
Dozens of soldiers from across the country gathered at the post for a training program on locating and excavating buried human remains.
"We try to find the remains -- make sure we ID them and bring them back to their loved ones," said Staff Sgt. Eric Thomsen.
Thomsen is one of several mortuary affairs soldiers taking part in "Unidentified Human Remains training", a seminar Fort Lee is hosting.
Thomsen has been deployed to Iraq twice to find human remains. He says training likes this helps him do his job better.
"We really never know where we're going to be deployed - for example, 9/11 the Pentagon," said Thomsen.
As part of the training a 3-year-old cadaver dog, called Nash, was brought in to lend a hand. Human bones were hidden. Soldiers learned how Nash's trainer used wind and other factors to help Nash find those remains.
"They have a wonderful sense of smell and they can detect things we may not and if we did it would take much longer to unearth some of those clandestine graves," said K-9 Trainer, L. Roos.
Nash sits when he locates the remains.
"They have a target odor. Their target odor is decomposing flesh - including bone," said Roos.
Cadaver dogs are widely used to help sniff out bodies during a natural disaster. They're also used at crime scenes and war zones.
As for Thomsen and other soldiers they say they want to get the most out of the training so they can put it to use when it counts.
Thirty soldiers are taking part in the training which wraps up on Friday.