Canine comrades

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 19:00
Airmen keep own, military dogs’ skills sharp
Air Force Staff Sgt. Kathleen Lee, 673d Security Forces Squadron, military working dog trainer, plays the role of a fugitive during a dog-handling exercise at the Eagleglen golf course Feb. 6. Security forces military dog handlers perform handlers training everyday with each day involving different exercises.

Loud barks could be heard yards away as 673d Security Forces Squadron dog handlers prepared their assigned dogs for standard dog training at the Eagleglen golf course on JBER.

“Certain requirements are levied when it comes to qualifying as a military dog-handler,” said Tech Sgt. Scott Heise, 673d Security Squadron military dog kennel master.

“Not only do you have to be willing to show the effort to become a military dog handler,” Heise said. “You also have to be a three-year experienced security forces member, possess your 5-level skill training and have an open cross-training window.”

Heise led the training for scheduled personnel to demonstrate various dog handling techniques.

Heise said SFS Airmen attend dog handling school at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

“[Joint Base San Antonio] is the official Department of Defense dog handling center, where all military working dogs from across the five branches of service come and are molded to be trained professional working dogs,” Heise said.

The dog handler school is a three month course used to train and develop skills for Security Forces military dogs and eligible service members. The school features courses such as protection training, where personnel learn how to detect explosive devices and narcotics. Another feature of the school is patrol training, where service members and dogs learn the proper procedures for patrolling a designated area such as on a deployed location or at a home duty station and learn the ways of apprehending a fugitive or suspect.

One aspect of the protection training course is the Play-At-Source technique, used to leverage a dog’s play and prey (hunt) drives, while also clearly teaching the dog the desire to be obedient to odor through “game.”

During the past few years, JBER security personnel have worked with various other agencies such as Transportation Security Administration dog-handlers in an effort to share ideas and strategies, as well as set more proficient standards for dog-handling.

Dog handlers use several locations around the JBER installation to train; each location uses the different skill sets of the military working dog.

Military members go through the process of placing an odor, unknown to the dog, and then have the dog search for the hidden scent.

When the dog catches the scent, it will immediately show the handler by moving sporadically. The handler will then prompt the dog to heel. If the dog reacts correctly, it will be rewarded with a treat. If done poorly, it will repeat the process until done properly.

There are currently 11 security forces dog teams on JBER.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Kathleen Lee, 673d SFS military dog trainer, demonstrated first-hand the strategy and zeal it takes as she volunteered to play the role of the fugitive during the dog-handling exercise. Other security forces dog handlers scouted for the fugitive in an exercise zone. When the working dog alerted it’s handler of the fugitive’s presence, the handler gave the signal to attack and subdue Lee.

At the end of the training session, Lee brought training participants together and discussed techniques, which needed improvement and what methods worked in critical situations.

“I think it’s one of the very few career fields that allow you to witness the benefits of your labor,” Lee said.

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