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    The Nose Knows: NHB Sailors Help Train Search and Rescue Dogs

    The Nose Knows: NHB Sailors Help Train Search and Rescue Dogs

    Photo By Petty Officer 3rd Class Meagan Christoph | 190907-N-XT693-0195 BREMERTON, Wash. (Sept. 07, 2019) Terry Lerma, medical treatment...... read more read more



    Story by Seaman Meagan Christoph 

    Naval Hospital Bremerton

    A group of people wearing raincoats sipped coffee next to a line of trucks laden with backpacks, cages, and ropes near the muddy fields of Pendergast Park in Bremerton, Wash., as a muffled, low howl came from nearby.

    The howl was from a dog inside of one of the trucks as it anxiously waited to start search and rescue training that would take place that morning.

    The dog is one of many involved with Kitsap County Search Dogs. The group is comprised of handlers and their dogs, as well as volunteers who gather weekly to participate in search and rescue training in urban and wilderness environments.

    Among the many volunteers that participate in the training is Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Noah Frazier, assigned to Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB). Frazier has been volunteering with the team for approximately a year and participates in hiding for the team so that the search dogs can practice finding him using his scent.

    “I’ll hike for a couple of miles out into the middle of nowhere and sit down, relax, read a book, meditate, do whatever, and wait for the dog to find me,” said Frazier.

    The dogs are trained by their handlers and specialize in different types of tracking. Terry Lerma, medical treatment facility emergency manager at NHB, is one of the volunteer handlers who has his dog Harley that actively participates in the training and response units around the county.

    “We have specific trailing dogs, air scent dogs and human remains detection dogs,” said Lerma.

    Trailing dogs are trained to smell a particular article of clothing or a belonging of a human and then track that human by smelling the ground and following their scent. Air scent dogs go out and find a human by following a scent in the air. Air scent dogs will find any human in a given area as opposed to trailing dogs that find one specific human they are told to find. Human remains detection dogs – as the name suggests - are trained to find someone recently deceased or has been deceased for a long time.

    “I like doing the trailing work, because it’s very mentally stimulating for the dog and myself,” said Lerma.

    Lerma got involved with search and rescue training after 9/11, after his wife watched the news and saw the dogs working at the Twin Towers scene. They found out that only five percent of the handlers and dogs working were professional and the rest were volunteers. It inspired them to get certified. Since then they have been involved by actively participating in search and rescue training, and recruiting volunteers to hide and be found by the team’s dogs.

    Lerma explained that every volunteer experience is different, because the dogs are all at different levels in their training and have personalities of their own, just like humans.

    “My very first time out hiding, there was a puppy and I was just sitting there waiting,” related Frazier. “I kept hearing the bell on his collar jingling as he ran around and around me. The next thing you know I heard a large crashing noise to my right and this dog jumps right out of the bush and landed on me. As soon as he hit me he went running off and grabbed the handler and led them to me.”

    The training is serious and important work for the dogs and handlers, but it is also fun. The dogs enjoy the work and are rewarded for a job well done.

    “We give them lots of treats, play a game with them and get them excited, because their work is play,” said Frazier. “You’re rewarding them and it’s well deserved.”

    Infection and Prevention Coordinator for NHB, Amy Salzsieder, is another handler that participates with her dog, Ellie Mae, in the training. Salzsieder retired from the Navy in 2017 and got the bloodhound puppy. She knew the breed needs to work and be active, and thought search and rescue training would be perfect.

    “I got a bloodhound puppy and to her it’s a game,” said Salzsieder. “I’m a retired nurse and was an Intensive Care Unit trauma nurse for many years. If I found someone hurt in the woods with my dog I would feel very comfortable helping someone out and getting them out of the woods.”

    It is important to handlers like Salzsieder and Lerma to have volunteers come out to hide for them and their dogs.

    “I like working with corpsmen, because they’re new, living in the barracks, and don’t know where to go,” said Salzsieder. “A lot of the volunteers are retired military so we have good influences for the younger minds, you know, it gets the generation gap in there.”

    Hospitalman Zaniya Jones, also assigned to NHB, recently volunteered for the first time as a hider for the team after learning about the training from Frazier.

    “I really enjoyed the training and the dogs,” said Jones. “The trainers showed us how the search and rescue dogs follow our scent by smelling our dead skin cells. It’s really amazing when you think about it. It showed that the dogs knew what they were doing and who they were looking for.”

    Jones volunteered to hide on a playground. This type of training in an urban environment prepares the dogs to search for lost children or elderly people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

    “A lot of people think about searching for people in the woods, but kids get lost sometimes or run away, and elderly patients with Alzheimer’s go wandering off in urban areas,” said Frazier.

    The search and rescue team participates in training every month and is welcoming to new volunteers.

    “It’s a great opportunity to get involved with if you’re new to the command or new to the Pacific Northwest,” said Frazier. “You get to go out and find all sorts of new trails and spend time outdoors networking and making connections with people that you wouldn’t usually meet. The information you learn with the team is also great, because if you go outdoors and get lost you have more of a background on what to do.”

    For those interested in volunteering, go to:



    Date Taken: 09.20.2019
    Date Posted: 09.20.2019 09:18
    Story ID: 342572
    Location: BREMERTON, WA, US 

    Web Views: 170
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