News: Staying to standard and securing our safety
Story by Sgt. Samuel Northrup
FORT HOOD, Texas –Time was against Sgt. Ryan McKenzie as he and his dog searched down the corridors and open areas. Palmer Theater received a bomb threat, so they were brought in to find it. He gave Shadow (his dog) commands to search different areas, trying desperately to find the threat. Hopefully it was all a hoax.
It was then his worse fears were confirmed: Shadow found the explosive device behind the stage of Palmer Theater.
Though it was not a hoax as McKenzie, a military working dog handler with the 513th Military Police Detachment, hoped for, it was an effective training scenario (one of many) nine military working dog teams would have to complete in order to pass their annual certification.
“Today is the first day of certification and we are doing a theater sweep for explosives detection,” said Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Macagg, the military working dog plans noncommissioned officer for Forces Command Headquarters. “This will simulate a VIP venue area-type sweep.”
The certification tests the dog teams’ proficiency in patrol and detection work. In order to pass the dog teams have to complete a series of tasks: an odor recognition test, a demonstration that the dogs can respond and identify particular odors; obedience, an evaluation of the handler’s ability to control the dog off leash while going through an obstacle course; response to gun fire, an assessment to see if the dogs show any signs of fear around gunfire; and building and road searches, which comprise of searching for personnel or explosives
“The purpose of the certification is to establish legal credibility,” said Macagg. “This ensures that these dog teams have met the baseline so they are ready when called to do law enforcement, secret service missions and deployments.”
According to Sgt. 1st Class Randall Blanchard, the kennel master for the 226th MWD Detachment, the MWD teams have the ability to support missions worldwide and every chain of command on Fort Hood. The teams support anyone from the President of the United States to VIPs in central Texas.
“Military working dog teams are a force multiplier,” said Blanchard. “A dog’s odor detection capability allows us to search areas faster and provide better support to the communities in a law enforcement and security capacity.”
In a deployed capacity the dog teams can do anything from help provide camp security by doing explosive detection at the entry control points, to going out with other elements and conducting roadway sweeps, said Master Sgt. Richard Brentson, the Brigade MWD liaison for the 89th Military Police Brigade.
“The dog teams perform similar missions here on Fort Hood,” Brentson said. “If there is any type of bomb threat these dog teams will go out and conduct a sweep of the threat areas. Even in normal circumstances the dog teams can go out to the gates and conduct random anti-terrorism operations by randomly selecting vehicles that come through.”
“The dogs also provide a psychological deterrent to anyone on the outside who may be looking in if they see the dog team at the gate,” said Brentson. “They may be less likely to visit the gate if they are trying to do harm on the installation.”
In the past regular MPs were selected to be dog handlers, but starting October 2014 military working dog handlers will become a military occupational specialty, Blanchard said. This will be beneficial to the MWD handlers.
“The benefit of having a dog handler MOS is that we will have longevity in the dog program,” Blanchard said. “Before, if you were an E6 in the dog handler program who wanted to get promoted, you had to leave the dog program in order to get platoon sergeant and first sergeant experience. Now we will keep the subject matter experts within the program and we will not lose them to career progression.”
As the MWD teams move forward with these changes in their career field, one thing is certain: they will continue to secure the safety of our communities and the safety of those deployed.