Archive for June, 2009

“Doggone Demonstration”

Posted in Military Working Dogs with tags , , , , , on June 28, 2009 by wardogmarine

Call them War Dogs, K-9s, Military Police dogs, or Hell Hounds.
By any name, they are an important part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Recently the dogs brought along their handlers and put on a demonstration aboard Al Asad Air Base in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province.
Meet Diva, Rex and Bach.
Produced by Randy Garsee.

K-9 cop keeps military safe

Posted in Military Working Dogs with tags , , , , , on June 20, 2009 by wardogmarine

Howdy Stout – Staff Writer

“We’ve got a bomb threat at the shoppette,” the Airman says. “Who do you want to send?” Tech. Sgt. Michael Jones thinks for a second. “I’ll go with Blacky,” he says.

It takes only a few minutes for Sergeant Jones, the kennelmaster for the 72nd Security Forces Squadron to locate his partner, an all-black German Shepherd. Blacky leaps into the rear cab of the truck and the two — cop and canine — are on the way.

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Tech Sgt. Michael Jones and military working dog Blacky pause during patrol in Iraq for a water break. (Courtesy photo)

“We don’t normally get those on base,” Sergeant Jones says of the bomb threat. “They’ll have set up a cordon and then we’ll go in and search it out.”

For Sergeant Jones and Blacky, their Monday morning call to duty is another day of a partnership that started several years ago and included two eventful tours of duty in Iraq, for which Sergeant Jones received the Air Force Combat Action Medal, three Army Commendation Medals and the Army Combat Action Badge.

“Both times I was there, we were on nothing but combat missions,” Sergeant Jones said. “We’d go out on patrol and see what the dog would find.”

Like other military working dogs, Blacky is trained in a number of skills, including searching out explosives, drugs, weapons and people.

Trained with other canines destined for military service, Blacky learned his basic skills at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Assigned to Tinker, with Sergeant Jones as his handler, Blacky refined those skills before he and Sergeant Jones were deployed to Iraq in September 2006.

As one of only two dog teams supporting an entire Army Brigade, Sergeant Jones said the days were busy. “We did everything,” he said. “A wide array of jobs.”

Using Blacky’s training and superior sense of smell, the German Sheppard could sniff out IEDs, illegally-cached weapons and even terrorist suspects. On raids of suspected terrorist hideouts, Sergeant Jones said he and Blacky would often wait outside in case the suspect tried to flee. Dogs, of course, are faster than humans.

“That’s where a dog comes in handy,” Sergeant Jones says.

Patrols were conducted in Hummvees, Stryker armored vehicles or by helicopter. “Which is pretty interesting with a dog who’s never been in a helicopter before,” Sergeant Jones said. Like any combat newcomer, Sergeant Jones said Blacky was a bit skittish at first. “Going from here to the streets of Baghdad, it’s a completely different environment.”

Gone were the air-conditioned K-9 trailers and patrol vehicles. In their place were dusty vehicles loaded with fellow warfighters.

“They adapt to the environment just like we do,” Sergeant Jones said. “By the second deployment, he was like a vet.”

Returning home in May 2007, Sergeant Jones and Blacky had a six-month respite before returning to Iraq in November 2007. This time, Sergeant Jones oversaw 13 teams of dogs and handlers and spent much of his time assisting Special Forces in locating insurgents. Although they were a experienced team, the work was still dangerous.

“We were out on a search and we got ambushed by insurgents,” Sergeant Jones said. “At first, it was like in slow motion…I could see the rounds hitting the street and I remember thinking, ‘Are they shooting at me?’”

Faced with a firefight, the insurgents fled.

“We went to another location, searched it, and it happened again,” he said. That day, Sergeant Jones said, “was eventful.”

Sergeant Jones said insurgents often used hit-and-run tactics as they knew they couldn’t win a stand-up firefight. And they especially respected the capabilities of trained military dogs. “They looked at our dogs as completely different,” he said. “And for some reason, they don’t like black dogs.”

Dogs were a good tool to keep people from congregating in one place, making themselves good targets for suicide bombers. In addition, the psychological effect of a dog’s presence often deterred aggression.

“That’s the biggest part of our capability is psychological deterrence,” Sergeant Jones says.

Returning to Tinker in May 2008, Sergeant Jones and Blacky resumed their duties of supporting the base’s security forces and even patrolling as “ordinary” police. As the Kennelmaster at Tinker, Sergeant Jones oversees the 12 teams of handlers and dogs. Every day is a training day for the handlers and the dogs as they continually build on their skills and practice their proficiency. The dogs must maintain the ability to identify explosives with 95 percent accuracy and identify drugs with 90 degree percent accuracy.

“It’s our job to progress the dog through training,” Sergeant Jones says. “Once a handler is assigned a dog, they’re responsible for everything concerning that dog, from grooming to washing to training.”

Dogs too old or ill to work are often adopted by handlers. Sergeant Jones adopted one, Sonja, after her retirement. But sometimes they don’t make it to retirement. In 2007 Marco was electrocuted and killed during a building search in Iraq. “He’s our only combat casualty,” Sergeant Jones said.

However, the work continues, with the odd bomb threat to vary the routine.

“I bet they don’t run no exercises on us today,” says one Airman as he and his partner eyeball Sergeant Jones and Blacky searching the suspected bomb area.

“It was nothing,” Sergeant Jones says of their search. “But I’d rather do that than do paperwork.” Blacky jumps back into his spot in the truck and quickly snuggles down. “And that’s a day’s work.”

(June 19, 2009)

Attacked by dogs!!!

Posted in Military Working Dogs with tags , , on June 20, 2009 by wardogmarine

Flight becomes first foster unit to military working puppy

Posted in Military Working Dogs with tags , , , , on June 20, 2009 by wardogmarine

by Patrick Desmond
37th Training Wing Public Affairs

6/18/2009 – LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS)  — After three weeks, the newest member of the 37th Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness Flight knows her way around the three-story building and often bounds through open doors on surprise visits.

Aamee, a four-month old Belgian Malinois, is the first puppy to be fostered by a unit at Lackland through the military working dog foster program.
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Sharon Witter and Master Sgt. Don Friemel, both with the 37th Force Support Squadron, go over paperwork while Aamee plays with a tennis ball. The Airman and Family Readiness Flight is fostering Aamee, exposing her to a variety of social settings, and caring for her until she is ready for military working dog training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robbin Cresswell)

The foster program socializes potential working dogs to different people and environments to prepare them for a life of various handlers and locations. Aamee has been with the flight on a pilot test since May 1.

Sharon Witter, Airman and Family Readiness Flight chief, said it provides a different work atmosphere.

“It is a stress reliever, I think, for everybody,” she said. “We definitely have to communicate more. You can’t just leave her alone.”

When broaching the program’s pilot test of unit care, Ms. Witter, a dog lover with two of her own, admitted she likes to do things a little differently and jumped at the chance to support the program.

“When I started thinking about doing this for the office, I saw it as a win-win for everyone involved,” she said. “The puppy gets the attention and socialization, and the Department of Defense puppy foster program wins. Eventually they will go do their job as a military working dog. They are just military working puppies right now.”

The deciding factor was the ability to split responsibility between Ms. Witter, Master Sgts. Jason Hohenstreiter and Don Friemel, both assigned to the Readiness Flight, with the program’s option for joint custody.

“(Adopting a puppy) can be a really big undertaking,” Sergeant Hohenstreiter said. “Being able to take a break works out better for everybody, especially for the dog. Then the dog is getting all the attention it needs and is not becoming a burden.”

Aamee, knows her way around the building, but she is getting to know the base as well. She’s gone to commander’s call, Veterans in the Classroom training and the Skylark Bowling Center.

“People love the visits,” Ms. Witter said. “The puppy draws a crowd. We don’t have to say ‘Hey, here, look! It’s the puppy!’ The more visibility we provide her, the more people see her and the more people understand the program and ask about it.”

The foster program requires constant puppy supervision and specific guidelines for care.

“You are trying to prepare the dog for training,” Sergeant Hohenstreiter said. “You are getting it ready for school, almost like pre-K; you just want to help them develop the skills that are going to help them succeed.”

Ms. Witter said the large kennel whether in the office or at home, is the puppy’s main base so she gets accustomed to living in tight quarters.

“She has to eat and sleep in her crate,” she said. “That’s her home whether it’s in my house or in Iraq. They want her to be comfortable in that adjustment.”

Even playtime is more about building motor skills than having fun. Sergeant Hohenstreiter said playing fetch has rules; too, you never pull the tennis ball out of her mouth.

Describing tug-o-war, Ms. Witter added, “Puppy always wins.”

Though caring for Aamee is demanding of time and patience, Ms. Witter said she’s looking at the big picture.

“One day she might save a life; that’s what these puppies are eventually trained to do in Iraq, Afghanistan or even an airport,” she said. “When I see the grown dogs doing their thing, I’m just amazed and in awe of how they do it. Now, to be a part of how they develop and how they get there, it’s just a good feeling.”

Aamee returns to the military working dog program in August to undergo patrol or drug and explosive detection training.

A soldier’s best friend

Posted in Military Working Dogs with tags , , , , , , on June 20, 2009 by wardogmarine

Batavia native trains to be military dog handler
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Jessica Switzer Joint Hometown News ServiceSaturday, June 20, 2009 6:19 AM EDT

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — It can be a terrifying thing to see a dog streaking toward you across a field, fast and low to the ground, lips peeled back from a mouth filled with huge white teeth.
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Dog handlers wait with their dogs before participating in a series of tests determining the handler’s control on a working environment at the Military Working Dog Hospital at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Center, Lackland AFB, Texas. (Photo by Michael Tolzmann)

But for the son of a Batavia couple, all he can think about as the 80-pound animal leaps toward his arm is making sure the dog gets a good bite.

Air Force Senior Airman Joseph Teresi, son of Joseph and Mary Beth Teresi of Lewiston Road, is a student military working dog handler with the 341st Training Squadron, the largest canine training center of its kind in the world.
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Air Force Senior Airman Joseph Teresi, a Batavia native, is a student military working dog handler. He is learning to become a handler at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog center at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. (Photo by Senior Airman Christopher Griffin)

The Department of Defense Military Working Dog Center has courses that train both new dogs and new handlers to work together as sentries and bomb and drug sniffers. The human students spend 11 weeks working with veteran dogs learning how to control and understand their future canine partners. The new dogs work with veteran handlers to learn patrol work and to recognize the scents of drugs and explosives and the behaviors that will tell their handlers they’ve found something.

The dogs learn to identify the scents of a variety of explosives and drugs, many of which are odorless to humans. The dogs also learn how to patrol and are taught “controlled aggression” — when it is and is not appropriate to bite a human and to let go of someone they have bitten, on command and with no hesitation.
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A military working dog attacks a handler on command at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Center, Lackland AFB, Texas. Military working dogs are taught deterrence and how to protect their handler. (Photo by Senior Airman Christopher Griffin)

“I work with a dog every day and put in long hours of dog training and grooming,” said Teresi, a 2006 graduate of Notre Dame High School. “I also conduct police patrols with my four-legged partner.”

Working with canines is a completely different military experience.

“It doesn’t matter how badly a day is going or how long I’ve been working, when I look down my leash there’s always a tail wagging,” said Teresi. “A dog doesn’t care about the bad; he’s there by your side. He becomes a four-legged best friend.”
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Military working dogs bark as handlers walk by the kennels at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Center, Lackland AFB, Texas. (Photo by Senior Airman Christopher Griffin)

Human students at the school learn the basics of their future partners including safety procedures, managing health, the gear they will be using, general record keeping for the animals and the principles of behavioral conditioning.

Then they begin to work with the dogs, learning basic obedience commands, how to control the animals, procedures for patrolling and searching an area and how to keep a working dog in top form.
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A military working dog handler instructs his dog to detect explosives around vehicles at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Center, Lackland AFB, Texas. (Photo by Senior Airman Christopher Griffin)

“Military working dogs are a vital resource unmatched by any piece of equipment,” said Teresi, who has been in the Air Force for three years and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. “Sure, some day a machine may be able to smell a bomb, but it will never have a heart or the will to keep going.”

Four-legged Soldiers Sniff Out Insurgent Activities in 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team Area of Operations

Posted in Army Dog teams with tags , , , , , on June 12, 2009 by wardogmarine

30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team
Story and Photos by Capt. Richard Scoggins

BAGHDAD — The four-legged Soldiers of Forward Operating Base Falcon’s military police K-9 section working with the 30th “Old Hickory” Heavy Brigade Combat Team, are making a name for themselves by patrolling for explosives and conducting combat tracking.

The section is led by Staff Sgt. Christopher Jasper of Everett, Wash., and includes fellow handlers Sgt. Kyle Harris of Essex, Conn. and Sgt. Jeff Todoroff of Willis, Texas.
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Willis, Texas native, Sgt. Jeff Todoroff, with a military police K-9 section attached to the 30th “Old Hickory” Heavy Brigade Combat Team, walks military working dog, Kain, through Forward Operating Base Falcon, June 9. Kain is a patrol explosive dog and is responsible for helping Soldiers locate explosive material.

The group has six years of combined experience with their dog partners. Jasper’s K-9 section covers the entire 30th HBCT’s area of responsibility, and during the past eight months, has participated in almost 100 missions for two brigade combat teams.

There are three types of missions all military dogs can train for— patrol explosive, specialized search and combat tracking. The dogs are certified in a specialty, then deploy with their handlers, creating a solid bond between Soldier and animal.

The dogs at Falcon go on explosive detection missions that range from suspected weapons caches to suspected weapons or explosives smuggling operations.

“These dogs are on point every mission,” Harris said. “They are here to find explosives before humans do.”

The dogs’ jobs are very physical. Patrol explosive detector dogs can work without a leash to warn Soldiers before the Soldiers get too close. The dogs find explosive materials by scent. The dog’s sense of smell is extremely precise.

“When we smell hot stew, all we smell is the stew,” Todoroff said. “But the dog smells all of the ingredients.”

The military dogs track scents close to the ground, and can identify whether a person is running or walking, and whether that person is under stress or at ease.

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Sgt. James Harrington, with a military police K-9 section attached to the 30th “Old Hickory” Heavy Brigade Combat Team, coaxes his military working dog, Ryky, to bark on command at Forward Operating Base Falcon, June 9. Ryky is a combat tracking dog and is trained to find people.

The dogs’ special skills put them in danger, but the skills also earn the dogs respect from the locals. Not an easy feat, as most Iraqis have a general dislike of dogs. Even the word itself is hurled as an insult.

“They are scared to death [of the dogs], but extraordinarily intrigued.” Harris said. When Harris’s team goes on patrol, people often move to give the dogs plenty of space.

To further increase their mission involvement, Jasper’s team is planning a demonstration geared for company and battalion level leaders to educate them on the capabilities of the teams, and how these animals can give Soldiers an advantage over our enemies.

By highlighting the dog’s abilities and continuing to seek new missions from units, Jasper and his team hopes that units will understand the K-9 section’s capabilities and continue to utilize their services.

Friends and trainers honor working dogs

Posted in police dog teams, police dogs with tags , , , , on June 7, 2009 by wardogmarine

By LAVINIA DeCASTRO • Courier-Post Staff

Sirius ran into the World Trade Center’s Tower 1 on Sept. 11, 2001, and never came out.

Grace searched for people in the ruins left behind by hurricanes Ike, Hannah and Gustav.
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CHRIS LaCHALL/Courier-Post
Gloucester Township Patrolman Mark Pickard shakes hands Saturday with Dave Hahn of Pitman. Hahn’s German shepherd, Schultz, was one of the guests of honor.

Elias apprehended a burglar inside a service station and helped keep $75,000 worth of drugs off the streets.

All three are service dogs.

All three were among the first 20 canines to be inducted in the area’s first wall of fame dedicated to service dogs during a ceremony on Saturday in Gloucester Township.

“Our canine heroes have a home now in Gloucester Township,” Mayor Cindy Rau-Hatton said.

The ceremony, held at Veteran’s Park, took place during the annual Gloucester Township day.

This is the fourth consecutive year in which service dogs were honored in the township, but the first time a wall of fame was dedicated to them.

“Every year, it gets larger and larger and we include more dogs,” said Lillian Kline, president and founder of Our K9 Heroes, the nonprofit organization that sponsored the event.

The wall of fame with the names of the first inductees will be located inside the municipal building, Kline said.

“They’re all dogs that we have honored in the past,” Kline said.
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CHRIS LaCHAL
Lillian Kline of Pine Hill and her German shepherd, Hope, take part in a procession honoring working dogs. Kline is president and founder of Our K9 Heroes, which sponsored Saturday’s event in Gloucester Township.

Inductees include dogs from New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Kline said. Among them were two Philadelphia Police Department dogs, four Camden County Department of Corrections dogs, an Evesham Township Police Department dog, two Gloucester Township Police Department dogs and various therapy and mobility assistance dogs, including Kline’s own dog Hope.

Kline, who suffers from cerebral palsy and arthritis, has had six service dogs.

The idea to honor her canine companions came after one of her dogs, Tara, was attacked.

“They were a bunch of young punks,” Kline said of the attackers. “They wanted to see if she would bite.”

After the 1994 incident, Tara was too traumatized to return to work, but Kline kept her until she died at the age of 12.

“After her assault, I made a promise to her that I would honor those who were like her,” Kline said.

Her work resulted in the first ceremony of its kind — dedicated to all working dogs, not those those that performed extraordinary deeds.

“This is very nice, to honor the police dogs and the service dogs, especially the service dogs,” said Bobbie Snyder of Williamstown, who has three yellow Labradors trained to perform various duties. “A lot of people would be lost without their service dogs.”

Kline also received an award for the time and effort to recognize these often neglected canine heroes.

“This is a woman who has not let her disability keep her from giving back to the community,” Councilwoman Crystal Evans said.

Reach Lavinia DeCastro at (856) 486-2652 or ldecastro@courierpostonline.com