Cpl. Colin Ingraham, Connecticut National Guard, and dual-purpose military working dog Victor, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, search detection lanes in the game room while being evaluated for annual certification Sept. 16 at the Harrold Youth Center. U.S. Army photo by Stephanie Mahone

Charlotte Richter | Staff Writer

The 67th Military Police Detachment (Military Working Dog), Special Troops Battalion, hosted an annual certification for eight military working dog teams Sept. 13-17.

Participants included MWD teams from Fort Leavenworth and Fort Jackson, S.C., as well as civilian contractors from New York. Seven of the eight teams sought first-time certification.During the week, teams completed exercises such as dog bite work and substance detection to be evaluated on a 100-point scale. Teams qualified for certification by completing training within the 90-95 percentile, depending on the dog’s specialization in narcotics or explosives detection.

Handler Joanna Murch and narcotics detection K-9 Yara drill through lanes while being evaluated for annual certification Sept. 16 at Harrold Youth Center. Murch and K-9s Yara and Stark are contracted from Merrill’s Detection Dogs to provide support at West Point, N.Y. U.S. Army photo by Stephanie Mahone

A passing score allows teams to support missions at their installation and downrange.“We’re sustaining the commander’s mission, meeting their intent, and being a force multiplier,” said acting Kennel Master Staff Sgt. Hector Rodriguez, 67th MP Detachment (MWD). Rodriguez emphasized how having certified narcotics and explosive detection teams on Fort Leavenworth or on any installation using MWDs adds to Army capabilities in law enforcement and mission support during patrols.

Two teams from the 67th MP Detachment (MWD) — Spc. Gerald Leith with patrol drug detector dog Boomer, a 3-year-old German shepherd, and Spc. Sam Slobert with patrol drug detector dog Daddy, a 4-year-old Dutch shepherd — participated in the certification and passed in the 95 percentile.

While a passing score was important, evaluators also looked for good rapport in the team’s dynamic.Sgt. Justin Wenzel, Connecticut Army National Guard, said that the best way for handlers to build rapport with their canine teammates was to make everything fun. His fellow handlers agreed.

Handler Joanna Murch and narcotics detection K-9 Yara drill through lanes while being evaluated for annual certification Sept. 16 at Harrold Youth Center. Murch and K-9s Yara and Stark are contracted from Merrill’s Detection Dogs to provide support at West Point, N.Y. U.S. Army photo by Stephanie Mahone

“The first stage in rapport building and working with them is remembering that they are a dog,” said Cpl. Colin Ingraham, Connecticut Army National Guard, of his MWD teammate a dual-purpose detection dog Victor, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois.

Handlers and MWDs accomplish their mission from different points of view.

“For us it’s a job, but for them it’s just a big game, so as long as they’re happy and having fun, I know I can do a successful job,” said Joanna Murch, handler of narcotics detection K-9 Yara and explosive detection K-9 Stark. Murch and the two K-9s are contracted from Merrill’s Detection Dogs to provide support at West Point, N.Y.

Working with teams from other installations and experts from around the nation provided direct feedback that han-dlers can use on the job.

Handler Joanna Murch and narcotics detection K-9 Yara drill through lanes while being evaluated for annual certification Sept. 16 at Harrold Youth Center. Murch and K-9s Yara and Stark are contracted from Merrill’s Detection Dogs to provide support at West Point, N.Y. U.S. Army photo by Stephanie Mahone

“Certification authorities are the most experienced people in the entire (MWD) program, so they can provide new in-sights, new ways of training you haven’t thought about before to test the military working dog’s efficiency,” Wenzel said. “I would say it gives you a different view of the same thing — instead of looking at it directly head-on, these guys can look at it from overhead and can give you that different view that allows your military working dog to progress further and faster.”

Rodriguez said it was beneficial to the MWD teams for objective professionals to lend their perspectives on what teams’ strengths are and what they need to continue to improve on.

“We do this every week for training as it is, but having other installations coming here to get certified and be evaluated by other kennel masters as disinterested parties helps out a lot,” Rodriguez said. “I hope (the MWD teams) would continue on their training, notice their strengths, their weaknesses and work on those so they are able to be utilized properly through-out garrison installations or any installations and supporting missions downrange and throughout the U.S.”

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