Nellis hosts joint explosive detection training exercise for local canine units
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
12/27/2010 -by 2nd Lt. Laura Balch NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- Military working dog handlers from the 99th Security Forces Squadron here worked with 25 canine teams from Las Vegas during an explosive detection training exercise here recently.
Staff Sgt. Bobbie Ohm walks with Nero, a MWD, to search for explosives during a joint explosive detection training exercise Dec. 16, 2010, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Sergeant Ohm is a 99th SFS MWD handler. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
Handlers and dogs from local casinos, including the Las Vegas Convention Center; Hoover Dam; Las Vegas Monorail; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Transportation Security Administration; Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and the U.S. Marshals Service participated in the exercise.
"There are so many handlers and dogs
This type of cooperative training usually occurs once a year. The purpose of a joint exercise is for the Nellis Air Force Base MWD handlers to share training materials and techniques with the handlers from federal agencies and local units.
"The local canine units, like the ones working at the casinos, don't have access to what we have, so we try to invite them out here when we can," said Staff Sgt. Kennedy Wilkinson, 99th SFS MWD handler.
Pike, a MWD, searches for explosives during a joint explosive detection training exercise Dec. 16, 2010, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
This particular exercise involved 19 training aids, including 250 pounds of explosives, which were placed around the exercise course. The dogs' jobs were to search for and detect a hidden training aid and signal to their handlers that an explosive object is nearby. Once the dogs detected an aid, they were rewarded by their handlers and moved on to the next search.
"All of our military dogs are passive responders, so they sit or lay down when they detect something," Sergeant Wilkinson said. "Some of dogs in the local units tend to respond aggressively; they paw and lick at the training aid, which is not what we want."
The concern with the dogs' aggressive responses is that the dogs may disturb the item they have detected, which could put everyone in danger. Therefore, it is important that all the dogs learn to detect the source of the scent while minimizing their contact with their surroundings.
"When the dog begins pushing his nose into the training aid, or the location in which the aid is hidden, the handler will tell him to calm down and go easy so he doesn't disturb anything," said Staff Sgt. Bruce Martinez, 99th SFS military working dog handler. "One of the dogs from a local unit has been having a tough time adjusting to this behavior modification, so we have invited that handler to come back again to work with us some more."
Senior Airman Felipe Alvarado rewards Pike, a MWD, with a chew toy after he discovered explosive ordnance during a joint explosive detection training exercise Dec. 16, 2010, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Airman Alvarado is a 99th Security Forces Squadron MWD handler. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
This bond between the military, federal and local canine units has existed for many years.
"We have an awesome relationship with Nellis (AFB Airmen)," said Lauren Marakas, a senior special agent canine handler from ATF. "I have been coming here since 2005, and I love working with the military. All the people out here are in the same fight; we're all looking for the same things. The private industries benefit so much from this, and it's great that the Air Force makes this training available to so many canine units."