Joint Base Andrews


Engineers, Military Working Dog teams train to deploy

By Margo Turner | Capital Flyer staff writer | October 10, 2006

ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. -- Training is part of life for all servicemembers, both humans and dogs on Andrews, especially when they are scheduled for deployment in areas of conflict.
Servicemembers assigned to the 316th Civil Engineer Squadron spent Tuesday focusing on mobility training and training related to their specific job duties.

Tuesday was Prime BEEF Day, which is training day to the servicemembers, said Tech. Sgt. Jill R. Salemno, 316 CES unit deployment manager. Training day is held once a month at the 316 CES and doesn't interfere with the unit's day-to-day operations.

''Training Day keeps us up to date for any reoccurring training we may have," said Sergeant Salemno. ''We hold our training at various locations throughout the base."

The 316 CES training Tuesday included erecting tents, bed down procedures, convoy operations, medical readiness and self-aid buddy care.

Military Working Dogs also receive training here, said Tech. Sgt. Elli John Umali, 316th Security Forces Squadron dog handler and Emergency Services Team NCOIC.

''Dogs are just like people," said Sergeant Umali. ''They have to be given a chance to adjust to any new type of environment they encounter. Luckily for us here, we have various resources available to help us."

One of the resources here is the 1st Helicopter Squadron, which helped prepared two deploying dog teams Sept. 28.

Each dog team, which consisted of a dog and its handler, boarded a helicopter to acclimate the animals to the various methods of transportation.

''Helicopters are the main mode of short distance intra-theater aircraft transportation in deployed locations," said Sergeant Umali. ''To date, Andrews is only the second base in the Air Force to conduct this type of training with MWDs. F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., is the other one."

The 316 SFS has other resources for training MWDs, such as its home station training, which helps prepare dog teams prior to departing for their deployments, said Sergeant Umali. Training schools such as Silver Flag Alpha at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., and Phoenix Readiness at Fort Dix, N.J., are also available. Each school is tailored for the type of environment to where the dog teams may be deployed.

''Training conducted at home station and the formal schools remain dynamic and adaptive to the threats faced in the area of responsibility through research and feedback from deployed personnel," said the dog handler.

Exposing MDWs to various types of environmental, physical and psychological distractions are necessary to help prepare and execute their missions with which they are tasked, he said. As explosives detection force multipliers, MDWs are an essential part in saving the lives of fellow servicemembers and civilians in the AOR.

''Each dog team may require specific training to their deficiency or need," said Sergeant Umali. ''For example, a dog acting skittish or fearful when the animal hears gunfire will need to have its confidence boosted through repetitious gunfire training. We may fire blank ammunition or take the dog to the gun range and expose it to the background noise until the noise becomes a natural stimulus."

Specific training may require multiple sessions, he said. Everything depends on how the dog is performing.

The MWD teams here are assigned to Air Expeditionary Force teams and rotate through deployments, said Sergeant Umali. A MWD's health condition is the only restricting factor for their assignments.

Like the MWDs, 316 CES servicemembers scheduled for deployment benefit from the unit's monthly training.

''It gives our members a working knowledge and hands on training with equipment," said Sergeant Salemno. ''It also allows them to focus on specific items they may need to know for a certain deployment location."

The way humans and dogs in the Air Force train may differ, but the goal is the same: preparing them for deployment and for improving their job skills.