News: Specialized Search Dog Handlers transition in accord with Security Agreement
By 1st Lt. Jacob Peerless
926th Engineer Brigade, Multi-National Division - Baghdad
BAGHDAD, Iraq – "The Specialized Search Dog Handler has become one of the best and most efficient forms of explosive detection in the U.S. military today," commented Sgt. 1st Class Johnathan Harmon, native of Great Falls, Mont. He is the kennel master for the 94th Engineer Detachment, from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
All handlers serve an extremely important wartime mission. The SSD handlers support combat missions involving all forms of search. They support search operations ranging from cache clearance operations to dismounted route clearance operations, to building search operations to vehicle searches. With the new security agreement, the mission for the SSD handlers has evolved from leading the way ensuring that coalition forces are safe to continuing the mission by teaching and assisting host national security forces.
Sgt. Jess Storie, a native of Claremore, Okla., and a SSD handler serving in Iraq, says, "I have transitioned from supporting sole coalition led traffic control points to IP led check points."
The teams will assist the Iraqi police in searching vehicles that the IPs have deemed necessary. Storie assisted the IPs with searching a trunk that was stuck in the lock position. Storie showed the IPs that his dog teams have the ability to search the trunk without breaking it open. This technique helped to show that it is not necessary to damage personal property to conduct a thorough vehicle search. The team supporting the quality assurance or quality control on the traffic control point operation serves a dual purpose; of validating the IPs tactics, techniques and procedures while also training the IPs in conducting the check points how to utilize the other search assets.
Sgt. Jacob Wall, a native of Hyrum, Utah, has conducted many searches in support of joint coalition, Iraqi army and IP operations.
Wall helped teach IA and IP the use of SSDs in building searches. He has explained to host nation forces, "SSD is extremely valuable to use because you don't have to tear the house apart."
He helped to explain that civilians will be hesitant at first, but the final outcome is in the best interest of the Iraqi people. Wall has served a vital role in helping transition from coalition led operations by helping to ensure that host nation forces are trained in the utilization of SSD and other military working dogs for search operations.
SSD handlers will continue to conduct search operations train the host national forces. With more and more IA and IP forces being informed of military working dogs the success of the transition will continue to build on itself.