Military working dogs provide vital security support in Kosovo | Article
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – They say a dog is a man’s best friend, but for some it’s also a partner. The army has military working dogs or MWDs that help in operations both at home and abroad.
There are two different types of dogs. One is a Patrol Explosives Detector and the other is a Patrol Drug Detector Dog. The team’s job is to be a physiological deterrent at the gates, sweep vehicles for VIPs and health and wellness checks. The dogs spend approximately two months in training, where they receive their dual certification in their specific detection and controlled aggression. From there, they are assigned to a kennel and then to their handler.
“We’re a great psychological deterrent,” Pfc said. Kyle Johnson, an MWD manager based at Camp Bondsteel. “People see us at the gate and they notice the dogs and know they can’t bring explosives onto the base because they will be detected. We stay up to date by training every day, so that the dog is always at the best level of performance.
All MWDs are dual certified in their detection capabilities as well as aggression control, where they are trained to chase, bite and control a suspect. If necessary, the dogs can apprehend an uncooperative suspect after the military police have exhausted all other levels of mediation.
“We use special suits to use when training the dog to bite the suspects and we can help them control where they bite the person on the body,” Johnson said.
Johnson is a military working dog handler currently deployed to Kosovo’s Eastern Regional Command. He is attached to the 100th Military Police Military Working Dog Detachment in Stuttgart, Germany.
A native of California, Johnson waited an entire year to get the MWD job because it was a relatively small career field within the military. He became a manager so that he could apply the experience towards the civilian sector once he left the army. Becoming a dog handler takes almost six months after all the necessary training.
“Being a military working dog handler is hard work,” Johnson said. “You are not only responsible for yourself but also for the dog.”
The dog Johnson works with, Nandy, is a patrol explosives detection dog. Together they work at the entrance gates to Camp Bondsteel and perform random checks for possible explosives on vehicles entering the base.
When not on duty, the dogs stay in kennels where they are housed, fed and showered. Every morning, Johnson feeds Nandy then lets the food settle before starting her shift. The base also has a veterinarian if the dogs have health problems or injuries.
When training, handlers like Johnson use simulated explosives containing the scent of real explosives to ensure dogs stay sharp and on top of their game. They keep dogs on a strict healthy diet and an exercise routine. They also receive monthly checkups and spend a lot of time training in their obedience class.
All initial MWD training is conducted at the 341st Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland for handlers and dogs. There are currently two programs at the Texas facility, one where the military breeds military working dogs, and one where they purchase them from civilian contractors. Dogs can serve for up to twelve years provided they can continue to work and remain certified.