Constellation, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, has been training in Key West with three of her teammates as part of the Navy's Marine Mammal program, based in San Diego, reports WLRN

Constellation's job is vital — she and her dolphin teammates search for mines on the ocean floor and drop transponders that allow the crews to safely retrieve the explosives.

"Probably their most impressive capability is their ability to find objects that are completely buried underneath the seafloor," said Bob Olds, business manager for the Marine Mammal program.

The Navy typically takes the dolphins to Hawaii for training in warmer waters, but this year, they traveled to Key West.

"We like to introduce them to different environments as part of their training cycle," Olds said.

"They get the warm water, they get the reef type environment, which we don't have in San Diego, the coral heads and things. We're working with their sonar so different sonar pictures are good for them to get trained up against them and here, you've got a pretty cluttered bottom when it comes to the coral heads."

Cmdr. John Fairweather, the surface and subsurface operations officer for Naval Air Station Key West, says the team is like any other special operations team that trains there.

"They're amazing, to watch these animals work and do the job that they do," Fairweather said. "They're part of the whole team of special operations and they have their niche to fill."

There are some who hope this niche will be filled by other means, including former Navy dolphin trainer, Rick Trout, who rallies against the program.

"We've got better technology," Trout said. "And Lord knows, we've got to save our tax dollars and put them towards good national security instead of depending on Flipper for national security."

Mackenzie Wolf is an editorial intern for Military Times.

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