Joint training develops K-9, handler skills

| February 15, 2018 | 0 Comments

The 520th Military Working Dog Detachment and Honolulu Police Department’s K-9 Unit conducted joint training February 8, 2018 at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. The training emphasized best practices when using a MWD within a stack formation while entering and clearing a building. The K-9s and their handlers were also tested on their abilities to find explosives and drug paraphernalia. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Wynn A. Hoke)

Sgt. 1st Class Wynn A. Hoke
8th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — For military working dogs and their handlers, it is especially crucial for both to be able to work in any environment, any situation.

The 520th Military Working Dog Detachment seized the opportunity to work on urban combat tactics with the Honolulu Police Department K-9 unit, Feb. 8, at the Combined Training Facility urban operations training site, here.

“We have been working for a while to get joint training with HPD and their SWAT K-9 group, as well as the (Transportation Security Agency) and special response teams,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy D. Coleman, the 520th MWD Detachment kennel master. “Being able to implement our dogs for (special response teams), if the situation arises. Having that training prior to execution is essential.”

The 520th Military Working Dog Detachment and Honolulu Police Department’s K-9 Unit conducted joint training February 8, 2018 at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. The training emphasized best practices when using a MWD within a stack formation while entering and clearing a building. The K-9s and their handlers were also tested on their abilities to find explosives and drug paraphernalia. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Wynn A. Hoke)

Incorporating the MWD and handler into a stack formation or SWAT formation when entering a building for search and seizure or apprehension is a tactic new to the detachment. This training will allow the integration of an MWD and handler into Schofield Barracks Police SWAT situations.

“If the dog is never exposed to it, he may or may not freak out or may or may not search,” Coleman said. “The best time to find that out is here during the training rather than downrange. Our takeaways are knowing what our dogs’ weaknesses are when getting in the stack and building on that.”

Becoming a better team

Sgt. Molly M. Montoya, an MWD handler with the 520th MWD Detachment, learned firsthand what the Honolulu police could bring to the training.

Sgt. Molly Montoya, Military Working Dog Handler, 520 Military Working Dog Det. Trains with the Honolulu Police Department K-9 Unit on stack formation search, seizure and apprehension techniques. The 520th Military Working Dog Detachment and Honolulu Police Department’s K-9 Unit conducted joint training February 8, 2018 at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. The training emphasized best practices when using a MWD within a stack formation while entering and clearing a building. The K-9s and their handlers were also tested on their abilities to find explosives and drug paraphernalia. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Wynn A. Hoke)

“HPD is super experienced with implementing a dog team into their stack, and all their SWAT teams have dogs,” Montoya said. “They taught the Schofield Barracks SWAT Team and the canine handlers how to incorporate our dogs into their stack, so we can become a more efficient team here for Schofield (Barracks) and Fort Shafter.”

The second portion of the training had the HPD handlers and K-9s honing their explosives search skills within several multi-story buildings without combat simulated noises like explosions and small arms fire. Simulated combat noise was added later to continue training tactical explosive detector dogs and their handlers in the types of situations they might find themselves in.

“You come in, and whether you run the scenarios really well (or not), there are always something to take from it,” Montoya said. “My dog and I are an experienced canine team, but there is always room for improvement.”

Coleman explained that training has to adapt just like the enemy does. To implement this, he tied a dog toy that the handlers are often seen with to a simulated explosive to see if the dog and handler would recognize the threat. In some cases, the dog went straight to the toy, setting off the simulated explosion.

“The takeaway from the tactical downrange side is what the handlers need to focus on, more so than just finding explosives,” Coleman said. “If they are not checking their doorways or constantly watching their dog and where it is at, the dog could set off the device, in which case both dog and handler could perish.”

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