Hero rat wins medal and mention in dispatches

This rat is a hero, and he’s now been decorated and mentioned in dispatches.

There are several ways to clear landmines. The simplest, quickest, and least desirable way is by stepping on them. This has obvious disadvantages. So a variant of this method has been developed that consists of making prisoners walk in front of the infantry (or, in Iranian practice, Revolutionary Guards). This still has disadvantages, in that the prisoners might not find them all, or might go around them, leaving them for you to find yourself.

The next method is by using specially trained and equipped personnel to meticulously search the suspected mined area. In some cases, “specially trained and equipped” may be nothing more than some unfortunate private crawling forward on his belly and probing the ground with a bayonet. Or the mine clearing squad may use minesweeping equipment, and include a dog and handler. The problem with this is it’s very slow.

After the war is over, the militaries if they still exist have no incentive to find the mines left behind. At this point, mine clearing typically is carried on by the area’s civilian inhabitants, which has the same disadvantages as outlined above, with the added disadvantage of children in the mix. For this reason, there are civilian organizations, sometimes government-funded and sometimes not, who specialize in clearing mines. This can be hazardous work, as I recently pointed out here.

Enter the trained rat. Yes, rat. Because rats (a) are too small to set them off, (b) have very keen senses of smell, (c) can be trained to squeak for a food reward when they sniff explosives, (d) don’t have to be paid fancy salaries (who, besides a rat, would do this work for minimum wage?), and (e) work much faster than humans, covering the same ground in 30 minutes that would take a human 4 days. And if the rat is good at it, he gets a medal and a mention in dispatches (read story here).

I see a potential military application here. Having been in a combat zone, I can assure you that outside of the arctic, rats are plentiful in combat zones. All you’d have to do is catch and train them. They’ll even sleep with you, whether or not you want them to.

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