Archive for k-9 unit

State chamber honors two and four-legged heroes

Posted in air force teams, Military Working Dogs with tags , , , , , , on July 10, 2009 by wardogmarine

by Kevin Chandler
97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

7/8/2009 – ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — Staff Sgt. James Hall, 97th Security Forces kennel master, and his military working dog, Endy, were recent recipients of the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce Champions of Freedom award.

The two were recognized, along with six other military members throughout the state, for heroic actions while deployed overseas.
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heroes on patrol
Staff Sgt. James Hall, 97th Security Forces kennel master and military working dog Endy help a convoy during patrols in Afghanistan. While deployed, Sergeant Hall and Endy recovered more than 800 pounds of explosives and weapons and uncovered three pressure plate improvised explosive devices buried in major roadways. The Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce recognized Sergeant Hall and Endy with the Champions of Freedom award in Oklahoma City, Okla June 30. (Courtesy photo)

From October 2008 to April 2009, Sergeant Hall and Endy were deployed to a forward operating location in Afghanistan. Attached to the 7th and 3rd Special Forces Groups, Sergeant Hall and Endy participated in over 25 combat operations, recovering over 800 pounds in weapons and explosives. They also discovered three buried pressure plate improvised explosive devices, enabling convoys to safely traverse the country.

“We were in harm’ s way almost 24/7,” Sergeant Hall said. While his seven years of experience as a K-9 handler prepared him for the demanding assignment, Sergeant Hall says his partner is the one reason he returned home safely.

“He (Endy) saved my life repeatedly,” Sergeant Hall explained, “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.”

According to Sergeant Hall, the duo proved so effective during their deployment as a result of the rapport they developed in the months prior to leaving. Endy, who has been in the military working dog program since 2003, developed such a strong bond with Sergeant Hall that when one sensed danger the other was able to respond. Endy also went to nearby Fort Sill to train on flying in helicopters in preparation for the deployment.

While this was Endy’s first deployment, the kennel here usually deploys four dogs every year. The dogs are trained for security patrols, clearing buildings and detecting drugs and explosives. The kennel currently houses seven dogs, two trained in detecting drugs and five used to detect explosives. The handlers also train rigorously in skills needed for security forces and K-9 handlers. For example, all handlers must be certified in K-9 self aid buddy care. This training proved useful to Sergeant Hall and Endy.

“We were out in the field, far away from any base, when Endy got caught in constantine wire. I got him out of the wire but he was sliced up pretty bad and I had to sew up his wounds right there,” Sergeant Hall said.

One of the more demanding tasks Sergeant Hall encountered upon his arrival to Afghanistan was assimilating into a Total Force unit environment. The unit was largely comprised of Army personnel, requiring Sergeant Hall and his counterparts to adapt to one another to develop cohesion.

“I had to tell them my capabilities so we could lay out how we were going to work together,” he explained. “It took a while for them to get to know me, to know that I would have their back.” Ultimately, it was Endy who broke the ice between Sergeant Hall and the other members of the unit.

“When we found an IED, the walls came down,” Sergeant Hall said with a grin.

While he has received several awards for his actions in Afghanistan, including the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the NATO Medal and the Army Combat Action Badge, Sergeant Hall said this award was something special.

“The state of Oklahoma really supports the military,” he said. “I believe everyone over there and here stateside deserves that kind of recognition.”


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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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

AFTH ‘unleashes’ new recovery program for patients

Posted in air force teams, Working Dog News with tags , , , on May 27, 2009 by wardogmarine

by Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala
332nd AEW Public Affairs

5/27/2009 – JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Trained in explosives detection, narcotics detection and more, military working dogs here are now assisting in a different type of fight: the fight to rehabilitate patients at the Air Force Theater Hospital.

Members of the AFTH medical staff here held the first session of the K-9 Visitation Program, May 15, a program that works to further patient recovery after injury or illness through animal-assisted therapy.
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Spc. Than Kywe, an Air Force Theater Hospital patient, shares a laugh with Cezar, a 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group explosives-detection military working dog, during the first session of the K-9 Visitation Program here May 15. The program works to further patient recovery after injury or illness through animal-assisted therapy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala)

The “pet project” of Staff Sgt. Janice Shipman, 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group intensive care unit aerospace medical technician, the program brings members of the 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group’s K-9 unit and the medical staff together with one goal in mind: patient recovery.

“We are working together to make (the patients) feel good about themselves and about healing,” said Sergeant Shipman, who is deployed here from Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Staff Sgt. Charles Busha, 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group K-9 handler, introduces his narcotics detector dog, Golf, to patients at the Air Force Theater Hospital here May 15 as part of the newly created K-9 Visitation Program. Sergeant Busha and Golf are deployed from Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., and the sergeant is a native of Lake Jackson, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala)

“From my experience, with their injuries, (patients) focus on that so much that just being able to have a distraction even for a little bit helps them heal,” continued the Phenix City, Ala., native. “Seeing brings us good memories, touching brings up good memories as well. If (patients) feel good about themselves and their environment, they can say, ‘hey, I’m included with this’ and they are not just thinking, ‘I’m a patient in a bed.’ It’s therapeutic.”

An AFTH patient, Army Staff Sgt. Vannell Baerrien said his experience with the K-9s has made a difference in his healing process.

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Staff Sgt. Kristen Smith, 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group K-9 handler, and her explosives-detection military working dog, Cezar, put on a demonstration for patients at the Air Force Theater Hospital here May 15 as part of the newly created K-9 Visitation Program. The program works to further patient recovery after injury or illness through animal-assisted therapy. Sergeant Smith and Cezar are deployed here from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., and the sergeant is a native of Johnstown, Pa. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala)

“Being here with the dog has helped me relax a lot more,” he said. “It has helped me to be able to take a deep breath and exhale so to speak. This has been a wonderful and welcomed event.”

Army Sgt. Marc Dowd, also a wounded warrior at the AFTH, shared common feelings regarding the K-9 Visitation Program: “(The program) gave me a chance to get out. Being able to get out here, especially with a working dog, is a great environment to be in. It helped me out. It made me forget about the pain just to have the dog around. It was really nice.”

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Staff Sgt. Janice Shipman, 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group intensive care unit aerospace medical technician, explains to Air Force Theater Hospital patients here the purpose of the K-9 Visitation Program May 15. The program works to further patient recovery after injury or illness through animal-assisted therapy. Sergeant Shipman is deployed here from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and is a Phenix City, Ala., native. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala)

The use of animals for therapeutic purposes goes as far back as 1699 when the English philosopher John Locke suggested the importance of children interacting with animals. The U.S. military began pushing for the use of therapy dogs in 1919 after success with World War I Soldiers.

Today, therapy dogs fall under the category of animal assisted therapy. While MWDs here are not specifically trained as therapy dogs, the program here serves to augment their given military duties as explosives-detection and narcotic s-detection dogs, in addition to serving as therapy to wounded servicemembers.

Overall, the program gives K-9 handlers a great chance to train their dogs to work closely with others besides the handlers, said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Throgmorton, 332nd ESFG kennel-master.

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Cezar, 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group explosives-detection military working dog, enjoys having his ears scratched as he sits at the feet of an Air Force Theater Hospital patient here. Cezar was one of two MWDs that participated in the newly created K-9 Visitation Program at the AFTH. The program works to further patient recovery after injury or illness through animal-assisted therapy. Patients are able to interact with the K-9s and their handlers twice a month. Cezar is deployed here from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala)

“These are military working dogs; when they are on duty on-base, we generally do not let people pet them,” said Sergeant Throgmorton, who is deployed here from Hill AFB, Utah. “However, we have a unique mission here. Our dogs are working with non-K-9 handlers in close quarters of vehicles off-base and need to become comfortable around others.”

The program has done just that for Staff Sgt. Kristen Smith, 332nd ESFG K-9 handler, and her explosives detection MWD, Cezar.

“Whenever you’re training the dog around Coalition forces, you want to make sure he’s not aggressing on people you don’t want him to aggress on,” Sergeant Smith said. “This (program) furthers that training because when we are riding in HMMWVs and we are out patrolling, we try to train them (MWD) on how they are going to act around Coalition forces so they’re only going to do (aggress someone) whenever he (MWD) feels threatened, his handler is threatened or when given the actual command.”

Sergeant Smith and Cezar were one of two K-9 teams to participate in the initial session of the program. The other was Staff Sgt. Charles Busha, and his narcotics detector dog, Golf, deployed herefrom Fairchild AFB, Wash., and a native of Lake Jackson, Texas.

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Staff Sgt. Kristen Smith, 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group K-9 handler, gives verbal positive reinforcement to her explosives-detection military working dog, Cezar, for his conduct during his participation in the K-9 Visitation Program at the Air Force Theater Hospital here May 15. The newly created program allows AFTH patients to interact with K-9s to help further their recovery after injury or illness as a form of animal-assisted therapy. The program also furthers the MWD’s training, as they work in close proximity with Coalition forces here during their day-to-day mission. Sergeant Smith and Cezar are deployed here from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., and the sergeant is a native of Johnstown, Pa. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala)

Scheduled to be held at the AFTH twice a month at a minimum depending on the K-9 unit’s operations tempo, the visitation program will be available to other 332nd ESFG K-9 handlers and their MWDs. Sergeant Smith said she was happy to have participated in the first session and hopes to continue participating.

“If the patients want to see Cezar, I will bring him over,” she said, who is deployed here from McGuire AFB, N.J. “I think this is a really good program. It furthers our training and helps the patients.

Furthermore, the native of Johnstown, Pa., said participating in this program has helped her see the fruits of their training.

“(Being a part of this program) boosted my confidence that the training we are doing is paying off,” she said. “Cezar is already good around people, but any additional training is always good for the dog.

“(Cezar) is an explosives detection dog; we’re always conducting training to make sure he recognizes all odors so when you’re out patrolling, he can pick up an odor from far away and he’ll respond to it to let you know and to let fellow Soldiers know that there’s something out there,” she added. “They are all well-trained animals and as long as their handler’s around and they ask the handler’s permission, they are approachable and their purpose can be that of a therapy dog as well.”

In addition to helping patients in their recovery process and the K-9s in their training, Sergeant Shipman said she hopes the program will serve yet another purpose: educate both the medical staff and the security forces members about each other’s missions. Following patient interaction with the K-9s, the medical staff is able to view a K-9 demonstration, showcasing some of their (MWD) daily training.

“I hope this will give people a new understanding about what the K-9 unit does and help in bringing us together,” she said. “The K-9 unit will see what we do as a medical staff, and us as a medical staff will see what they do. They save lives just like we do. We will work together with the common goal to heal our patients.”

Update on Sgt 1st Class Gregory Rodriguez

Posted in fallen handlers, military working dog handlers with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2008 by wardogmarine

Rodriguez to be buried in Arlington

Sgt. 1st Class Gregory A. Rodriguez, 35, died when his unit came under fire in central Afghanistan on Tuesday, according to the Department of Defense.

“I asked Greg if anything ever happened to him where he’d prefer to be buried,” said his wife, Laura Rodriguez, “and he told me Arlington, as he wanted to be among the best and the brave.”

Sgt. Rodriguez graduated from Mt. Pleasant High School in 1991. He didn’t immediately join the service, his wife said.

But about three years later, he joined the Army Reserve. The military life agreed with him, and he went on full-time active duty in December 1996. “We have been stationed in Hawaii, Missouri, Alaska, Texas, and Germany,” Laura said. She is a native of Merrill.

Laura now lives in San Antonio, Texas, site of Lackland Air Force Base, which houses the military’s working dog programs. Her husband was a military police dog handler.

Sgt. Rodriguez and his dog, Jacko (pronounced “Jocko”), were a military special search dog team. Jacko survived the ambush in Ana Kalay, Afghanistan, and Laura said she hopes the Pentagon will release the dog to the family.

“He was Greg’s best companion for the past couple of years,” she said. “He’d been sleeping with Greg every night since they landed in Afghanistan.”

The team was assigned to the K-9 unit of the 527th Military Police Co., 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th MP Brigade, based in Ansbach, Germany.

Sgt. Rodriguez’s mother, Virginia Richardson of Lake Isabella, is a support staff member at Chippewa Hills High School. Chippewa Hills Superintendent Shirley Howard said she and another staffer helped the military team that delivered the news find the Richardson home, and staffers at Chippewa Hills have given donations for the family.

Greg and Laura Rodriguez were married in Honolulu in January 1999, and have three young children.

“Greg is the best dad, a loving husband, and an awesome soldier who loved being able to train and handle his K9 companions,” Laura said.

“Rod,” as he was known to his Army buddies, was a Red Wings fan who loved to hassle fans of other hockey teams he met during his military career, she said.

“Greg loved to push everyone’s buttons and get people going with his rare, unique sense of sarcasm,” she said. At the same time, her husband was “a very committed, loyal individual and could be counted on whenever needed.”

Fred Dorr, president of the Vietnam Dog Handlers Association, said a memorial service was being scheduled for Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

A Mt. Pleasant memorial service also is likely to take place, but has not yet been scheduled.


Camp Pendleton K9

Posted in Marine dog teams, Military Working Dogs, various k9 videos with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2008 by wardogmarine

Awesome video here, I served with both Sgt Gehring and Sgt Maple at Camp Pendleton. Both are fantastic handlers and great Marines. Quick story about Sgt Ben Maple below the video.

Sgt Maple and I went through the same military working dog handler’s course at Lackland Air Force base. I’ll never forget the first time he decoyed. We had been in class for about a month and a half and everyone had been taught the basics of decoying and started practicing. Everyone except Maple. Ben’s training dog was handler aggressive so to counter it Ben spent the time trying to build better rapport with his dog while the rest of the class decoyed for eachother in training. No one noticed that he never decoyed.

We had a beast of a training dog in our class named Chaos. Chaos was a prototype Belgian Malinois. He was one of the hardest hitting dogs I had ever seen. A big, strong, athletic dog that seemed to be a perfect working dog. However he had a difficult time certifying as a working dog because he consistently failed two key areas. He would not stop biting when commanded to, and he wouldn’t stop pursuing the suspect when commanded, he would keep going to get the bite and then they had a hard time getting him off the bite. If you ever decoyed for this dog you felt like a train wreck afterward and you certainly would not be standing up anymore.

Well our instructor asked Ben to decoy for Chaos one day not knowing Ben had not practiced decoying before. Ben didn’t mention he never decoyed because he figured it was simple. The only gear he used was a bite sleeve he put on his left arm. As Ben took off facing away from us he ran at half speed. He never looked back to see the dog coming at him he just ran at half speed with his back completely turned thinking the dog was trained to bite the gear and not the actual person.

Chaos was released and shot away like a bullet across the field-seriously, if there was a dog I thought that could go through a brick wall it would be him. As we watch we are saying quietly “present the sleeve” thinking Maple was going to present the sleeve just before Chaos jumped. The sleeve was never presented and Chaos hit him at full speed right in the middle of his back-direct hit.

Maple flew a good fifteen feet or so forward with Chaos’ jaws locked in his back. In unison we all started yell the command to release “out! out! out!.” But Chaos’ number one problem was not releasing on commmand and he stayed locked onto Maple. Maple finally had the sense to lift his arm up with the sleeve and shake it and Chaos ended up transitioning onto the sleeve releasing the flesh in his back.

He had hit Maple so hard we thought he might be seriously injured. However, other than a few canine holes and cuts he was ok. Once we found out he was alright, we laughed about it for the rest of the day-actually the rest of the three months we were there… Priceless

Obviously Maple has come a long way since then. He has done multiple tours in Iraq and has established himself as a premier handler in the Marines. He is also the recipient of a purple heart after taking shrapnel through his throat when a raodside bomb detonated next to his vehicle. I visited him before I left Camp Pendleton and he showed me a picture of him and about a dozen Marines he worked with while in Iraq. He mentioned out of all those Marines in the picture, he is the only one still alive today. Semper Fi