by Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Lewis
Naval Station Rota, Spain
April 7, 2019
It’s easy to view dogs as cute and cuddly, but watching one take down a full grown man may change your mind. The Master-at-Arms dog handlers aboard Naval Station Rota, Spain have a slightly different job than teaching Lassie how to sit and roll over.
Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Alexander Komet, assigned to Naval Station Rota, Spain’s Security Department, Military Working Dog (MWD) Division, is an MWD handler. Komet joined the Navy in 2015 and arrived to Spain June, 2016. Like many MAs, he worked the gates and did patrols. In his off time he would volunteer as kennel support, gaining as much knowledge as he could from the MWD handlers.
“I was drawn to dog handling as it’s a job that requires you to think outside the box,” said Komet. “You have to communicate with your partner yet you don’t speak the same language.”
His hard work paid off when he was sent to dog handler’s school, and that’s what Komet has been doing since May, 2018.
“I love the challenge of trying to teach my dog new things and perfect even the simple ones. There is a huge potential for job satisfaction here which makes me eager and happy to come to work every day,” said Komet.
Rota has nine dogs and seven dog handlers, two of which are Individual Augmentees in Djibouti, Africa. The dogs are trained for approximately two months at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas before being sent to different duty stations, and the training continues once they’re assigned to a handler. The dogs are trained in the basics of obedience and detection of drugs and explosives, and some are also trained to subdue fleeing or noncompliant suspects.
“We search anywhere and everywhere,” said Komet. “If you can hide it somewhere I’m willing to bet all my paychecks on it that our dogs will find it.”
Komet is teamed up with the German Shepard, Astor, doing training, searching buildings and piers, and even vehicle sweeps.
“Astor is my second dog here and everything he knows now and can do is because I’ve been the one to teach him. Being what's referred to as a ‘green handler’ (new handler) and being assigned a ‘green dog’ (brand new dog) at first was a bit nerve wracking,” said Komet. “As I’ve worked with him though over these past few months it’s taught me loads more than if I was working a dog who knew everything already.”
Komet had to learn how to read Astor’s actions and reactions in order to figure out how to get him to do what he needed Astor to do.
“Also, with him being so young there’s no telling how he’s going to be from one day to the next as far as his attitude goes. He’s a goofy dog but he loves to work and he’s learned to love me. Having him has been the greatest way to learn what it means to be a handler in my opinion,” said Komet.
These teams of dog and handler provide an added level of security to bases stateside, overseas, and even downrange. Komet added that not only are the dogs a strong visual deterrence, they can smell things that a human may not even realize is right under their nose.
“A dog downrange can work anywhere from five to 700 feet in front of their handler and convoy and find IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devises),” said Komet.
Komet recently re-enlisted four more years and will go to Fort Worth, Texas this summer and continue his work as a dog handler.