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Joint Base Andrews News

NEWS | April 8, 2022

MWD team attends training, furthers capabilities

By Senior Airman Spencer Slocum 316th Wing Public Affairs

The school hallway lights emit a fluorescent glow and a low constant buzz. A K-9 handler locks eyes with his fit-to-fight 70-pound German Shepherd. He mutters a command to his K-9 partner: “Seek.” This one word gives the purebred trained in explosive detection purpose; he instantly begins his mission.

The 316th Security Support Squadron’s military working dog section attended an interagency training to enhance Joint Base Andrews’ MWD explosive detection capabilities at Thomas A. Edison High School in Alexandria, VA., Apr. 6, 2022.

Security forces Airmen had the opportunity to train on 12 different types of explosive components. The training included at least 130 K-9s and their handlers and lasted more than eight hours.

This quarterly training, organized by personnel from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and dubbed the Multi-Agency K-9 Explosive Training Event, hosted MWDs from the FBI, Department of Defense, multiple private organizations, police departments and other agencies for a total of more than 70 teams.

“Training with other agencies is important because not only do other organizations have different methods that we can use to expand our knowledge, they also have access to different training tools, such as homemade explosives,” said Tech. Sgt. Kurtis Gray, 316th SSPTS noncommissioned officer in-charge of MWD operations. “That is something we would never get to train on if we weren’t going out with other agencies.”

Gray said the squadron was invited out to a similar event a few years ago, and that through continued relationship-building and networking, they have been able to participate in these trainings ever since.

“Trainings like this enhance mission and base security significantly,” said Gray. “If someone was to come on base with an explosive, more likely than not, it would be a homemade device. Our dogs will still recognize the threat, but giving them more realistic scenarios on these types of threats can increase detection abilities.”

Gray added that this is especially important in deployed environments because the most common type of explosives found in those locations are known as improvised explosive devices, which are homemade explosives. 

“Military working dog capabilities cannot be matched,” said Staff Sgt. Paul Little, 316th SSPTS MWD trainer. “Not even our current technology can compare to their abilities to detect the odors of things like IEDs downrange.”

Handlers train with their K-9 counterparts for at least 1,000 hours a year in order to stay up-to-date on training and deployment readiness.

“As they say, if you stay ready, there is no need to get ready,” said Little. “With training opportunities like this, we will continue to increase our capabilities and we will be prepared for any situation that may arise.”