They rarely get glory. Their funerals aren’t broadcast on TV. And they’ll never ask for praise. But there are 2,700 of these “soldiers” serving in the U.S. military. Who are they? They’re furry, have long noses, and walk on four legs. They are the military’s canines.

In fact, the New York Times reports that one such dog was involved in the raid on Osama bin Laden, sparking a wave of interest in what is becoming an essential tool in the war on terror.

“In 2007, the Marines began a pilot program in Afghanistan with nine bomb-sniffing dogs, a number that has grown to 350 and is expected to reach nearly 650 by the end of the year,” the Times says. “Over all, there are some 2,700 dogs on active duty in the American military. A decade ago, before the Sept. 11 attacks, there were 1,800.”

The dogs are used for everything from tracking, to search-and-rescue, to bomb-sniffing. While the breeds have traditionally been Shepherds, increasingly the military is turning to Labradors:

Within the military, the breeds of choice are generally the German shepherd and a Belgian shepherd, or Malinois, but Marines in Afghanistan rely on pure-bred Labrador retrievers because of the dogs’ good noses and nonaggressive, eager-to-please temperaments. Labs now accompany many Marine foot patrols in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, wandering off-leash 100 yards or more in front as bomb detectors. It is the vital work of an expensively trained canine (the cost to the American military can be as high as $40,000 per dog), but at the end of a sweltering day, sometimes a Lab is still a Lab.

Business Insider has put together a slideshow of inspiring pictures showing the canines at work:

Inspiring Pictures of U.S. Combat Dogs in Action

Inspiring Pictures of U.S. Combat Dogs in Action

Inspiring Pictures of U.S. Combat Dogs in Action

See the rest here.