Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Taresha Hill
8th Military Police Brigade Public Affairs
8th Theater Sustainment Command
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Spc. Arianna Dotson and her K-9 partner, Dunco, stand outside the Sgt. Smith Theater, here, where a possible bomb may be hidden.
After several minutes, Dotson gives Dunco the command he’s been waiting for.
With that, the test begins and the team enters the theater to begin the search for possible threats.
Dotson is a dog handler with the 520th Military Working Dog (MWD) Detachment, 728th Military Police Battalion, 8th MP Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command. Dunco is a patrol explosive detector dog, or PEDD.
The theater was just one of many different locations that Dotson and Dunco, along with three other military police teams with the 520th MWD Det., had to search in May, as they worked to earn their K-9 team certifications.
Like every Soldier in the Army who is trained for the job they perform daily, each K-9 has a special job. MWDs can be trained to be a PEDD, a patrol drug detector dog (PDDD) or a specialized search dog (SDD).
As with some special jobs, certification becomes a requirement, and for MWDs it is a yearly requirement.
“If we don’t certify, we can’t do our jobs,” said Staff Sgt. Nathan Stanton, PDDD handler. “(Otherwise,) we can’t support our garrison or deployment missions.”
Overseeing the certification, Master Sgt. William Etheridge, MWD program manager, Headquarters and Headquarters Bn., U.S. Army-Pacific, said that, in addition to being able to work cohesively as a team, the K-9s must demonstrate detection proficiency in five different areas.
“The areas can be warehouses, vehicles, barracks, roadways or aircraft,” Etheridge said. “It varies from installation.”
In addition to detection proficiency, the handlers with PEDD and PDDD K-9s are tested on their aggression control, also called “bite work.”
“Once a handler has released his K-9, the handler has to be able to call him off before he bites a suspect who has given up,” Etheridge said.
Etheridge added that this was a critical task a team could not fail.
For SDD handler Spc. Brandon Spears, this was one task he and his K-9, Macey, did not have to worry about.
“With an SSD, you don’t have to worry about the dog going after people or animals,” Spears said. “There’s no bite training involved.”
While the certification is a weeklong process, Stanton said that it was no different than the training they do every day.
“The only difference is the program manager is here to see if we’re proficient with our dogs and if we make a good team,” he added.
Finally, after the weeklong testing, three of the four teams received their certification.
Etheridge added, “They still have a lot of training and growing to do.”