BY Airman 1st Class Mercedes Taylor
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
A pack of K-9 units from 20 law enforcement agencies assembled at Camp Warlord here for a first time meeting.
The training day offered handlers an opportunity to share techniques and tactics to improve K-9 operations between agencies.
“We wanted to bring other police agencies on base so we could see what kind of knowledge they have and what kind of training they do with their dogs,” said Tech. Sgt. David Macdonald, 19th Security Forces Squadron military working dog kennel master.
The K-9 combine paced the pups through multiple scenarios such as traffic stops, patrol work, building searches, narcotic searches and tracking searches. After each event, the K-9 units would receive feedback from the master trainer running the exercise.
“Master trainers are dog handlers certified by the state on the civilian side,” Macdonald said. “We wanted to work with those certified officials so they could share our knowledge with us and we could share our knowledge.”
Sharing knowledge proved to be beneficial for the 19th K-9 section and for local police agencies.
“The training helped me by seeing more things that my dog can handle,” said Matt Barber, North Little Rock Police Department K-9 officer. “It also gives me the confidence in him to do those situations on the street. It also helps by working with other handlers and seeing what all they can do with their dogs. It gives me new ideas to work with my dog on and make us a better team.”
Although military and civilian K-9 units have many similarities, there are some differences when it comes to training – specifically combat-related duties.
“The local police agencies train their dogs for law enforcement,” Macdonald said. “They train for working on the road, enforcing the law and working with the special weapons and tactics teams. We have to train our dogs for not only street operations, but also for combat operations and for search operations down range.”
Not only can certain methods improve the effectiveness of working with a dog, having patience with a military working dog will not only allow it to work better, but will build a stronger bond between K-9 and handler.
“It takes patience to be a dog handler,” Macdonald said. “It actually takes a devotion to duty to be a dog handler. It’s not a piece of equipment you pick up or manipulate to work; it’s an animal. You have to figure out why he’s doing what he’s doing and try to get him to do what you want him to do.”
The event increased K-9 capabilities and built partnerships with local police forces.
“We wanted to partner with as many police agencies as we could bring on base and see what kind of training they do – really just reach out,” said Macdonald. “Lessons learned can help us better support Combat Airlift and support them in whatever ways the community may need us.”