NEWS | Feb. 14, 2018

Joint Training Increases K-9, Handler Skills

By Sgt. 1st Class Wynnfred Hoke

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- For almost two decades the military has had to adapt and adopt military tactics for urban combat. 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 (MWD) Detachment seized the opportunity to work on urban combat tactics with the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) K-9 unit Feb. 8 at the Combined Training Facility (CTF) Mount Site located on Schofield Barracks.

"We have been working for a while to get joint training with HPD and their SWAT K9 group as well as the TSA and Special Response Teams (SRT)," said, Staff Sgt. Jeremy D. Coleman, 520th MWD Det. Kennel Master. "Being able to implement our dogs for SRT if the situation arises, having that training prior to execution is essential."

Utilizing the MWD and handler to a stack formation or SWAT formation when entering a building for search and seizure or apprehension is a tactic new to the 520th MWD Detachment. This new tactical training will allow the integration of a 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," said Coleman. "The best time to find that out is here during the training rather than down range. Our take-a-ways are knowing what our dogs' weakness are when getting in the stack and building on that."

Sergeant Molly M. Montoya, Military Working Dog Handler, 520th MWD Det. learned firsthand what HPD could bring to the training.

"HPD is super experienced with implementing a dog team into their stack and all their SWAT teams have dogs," said, Montoya. "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 handler's and K-9's honing their explosives search skills within several multistory buildings without combat simulated noises like explosions and small arms fire. Once complete, simulated combat noise was added to continue training tactical explosive detector dogs and their handlers in situations they would find themselves in.

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

Staff Sgt. Coleman explained that training has to adapt just like the enemy adapts down range. To implement this, Coleman 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 take-a-away from the tactical downrange side is what the handlers need to focus on more so than just finding explosives," said Coleman. "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 hander could perish."

Joint training with other agencies and learning each other tactics and best practices only make each handler and their dog better. Coleman reiterated that the 520th MWD Det. looks forward to more joint training with HPD and other agencies.