News: Canines, handlers keep FOB Gamberi safe
Story by Staff Sgt. Richard Andrade
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - With their intimidating presence and an extraordinary sense of smell, canines are one of the best force protection assets used at Forward Operating Base Gamberi.
Any vehicle entering FOB Gamberi is not only examined by security guards but also inspected thoroughly by American K9 Detection Services explosive/narcotics detection teams at the entry control point.
AMK9 is a civilian dog handling company contracted to keep civilians and Soldiers out of harm’s way. The two dog teams use their heightened sense of smell to detect narcotics and explosives before vehicles enter the FOB, and in so doing, help save lives.
Mark Ahrents and Fox, his canine partner, are a Narcotic Detection Dog team working at the FOB Gamberi ECP. Fox is a German shepherd and both are expertly trained and licensed by the Drug Enforcement Agency. They also conduct patrols throughout the FOB looking for illegal substances.
While on patrol around FOB Gamberi, the dog sometimes brings a smile to people’s faces, some even stop to pet Fox.
During their patrol they check around buildings, mail packages that arrive via helicopter, and basically any area where people congregate on the FOB.
When Ahrents walks around the base and Fox detects a trace of what he is trained for, the dog sits and looks at his supervisor. Sitting down during a search is one of many ways Fox communicates with his handler.
In his opinion, Ahrents said he feels lucky working at FOB Gamberi. At other bases he has worked, dog detection teams have found hashish and even explosive residue during vehicle inspections.
During his time here, Ahrents said FOB Gamberi is quiet but said he does not get complacent. He constantly tests Fox’s proficiency. The native of Capetown, South Africa, said he regularly hides small amounts of contraband in various places to keep Fox’s skills sharp.
Once he finds the hidden paraphernalia, Fox is rewarded with a plastic chew toy. Ahrents tosses the toy to praise Fox, letting him know he has done a good job.
Ahrents and Fox do not go near a vehicle before his partner, Carlos Liriano, and his dog gives him the green-light. Liriano is an AMK-9 Detection Services handler. He and his canine, Arco, are an Explosive Detection Dog team, sometimes referred to as bomb dogs.
During a vehicle inspection the driver must shut off the engine. Next, the occupants are asked to step out of the vehicle to a secured location at the ECP. Liriano then dons his protective gear so he and Arco can conduct a methodical inspection of the vehicle.
“After he comes back from his inspection and tells me it’s safe, I go out and do my search,” said Ahrents. “I trust his dog 100 percent.”
Ahrents slowly walks around the vehicle while Fox smells inside and under the vehicle. Once the vehicle is cleared by the two teams the occupants can reenter the vehicle and are allowed into the base.
U.S. Army Pfc. Demorria Clark, works at the ECP, controlling the gate that allows vehicles to enter FOB Gamberi. Clark Serves as a field artillery automated tactical data systems specialist, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based out of Fort Hood, Texas.
Clark said the AMK9 EDD Teams working at the ECP next to him have a good sense of humor.
“They like to joke around but they also take their job seriously,” said Clark.
He said he sometimes helps the dog handler teams test the sensitivity and responsiveness of the canines by hiding small quantities of fake explosives or narcotics around the ECP.
“I try to find a new and difficult spot, but the dog finds it every time,” said Clark.
Ahrents said he likes working with soldiers, he calls them “kids,” because of the age difference.
He said it is a pleasure working with his partner, Fox.
“He is a very good dog, very friendly. If you are having a long day, if you just see the dog is happy…wow.” Ahrents said, as his smile turned into a laugh. “They are just wonderful creatures to work with.”
Clark said the dog teams are on-call and are used a lot around FOB Gamberi.
“They do their job to keep the FOB safe, and that’s all that matters,” said Clark.
Liriano, a native of Santiago, Dominican Republic, said he enjoys his job. He said he has also deployed to Iraq as a dog handler. He said he and Arco are always on call and has been called numerous times, after his shift was over, to go to the ECP to inspect a vehicle.
He and Arco are not limited to the ECP. When U.S. and Afghan National Army soldiers plan to meet, they call Liriano to inspect and clear the building for explosives prior to meetings.
The explosives and narcotics dogs and their handlers stay busy at FOB Gamberi and are an effective part of the force protection measures employed on the base.