CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa - In the back of the Camp Courtney Theater
stands the kennel master for the Provost Marshal's Office with
Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps
Installations-Pacific, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan,
watching intently as duos of Marines and dogs take turns probing
through the rows and rooms of the theater, in search of mock
improvised explosive devices. He smirks and nods in approval as each
duo finds the fake explosive.
Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Prince, from Fort Worth, Texas, rewards his military working dog, “Rita,” for obeying initial commands
on February 4, 2015 during explosive detection training at the Kadena Passenger Terminal on Kadena Air Base. During the training, dog handlers used military working dogs' keen sense of smell to assist them with detecting odors of materials commonly used in explosives. The training ensured the Marines were proficient in handling and communicating with their military working dogs as they identified threats. Prince is a military working dog handler with the K-9 section of the Provost Marshal's Office, Headquarters & Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific-Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Janessa K. Pon)
“These are the days I love,” said the kennel master,
Staff Sgt. Daniel Andrzejewski. “It's the days I get out of
the office and actually get to see the dogs do what they do
that reminds me why I joined.”
discovered his passion for the K-9 field in 2007. After
spending two years as a regular military policeman, guarding
gates and roads on Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, North
Carolina, he was given the option to choose a secondary
“At first I chose K-9 mainly because I had
friends who I worked the roads with, who went K-9 before me.
So I figured, I'd just follow them,” said Andrzejewski. “But
after awhile, I started to think, ‘Hey, this is actually
After completing K-9 School,
Andrzejewski returned to Camp Lejeune as a dog handler. It
was there he met his first dog, Gordon. Gordon was a K-9
veteran, with four combat deployments under his collar,
making him the ideal partner to accompany Andrzejewski on
his first deployment.
“Garrison K-9 and field K-9 are
two completely different beasts,” said Andrzejewski. “(Field
K-9) is almost impossible to fully prepare for, but the fact
that (Gordon) had already been through it four times really
helped me get ready. I learned a lot from working with
While deployed in Iraq, he and Gordon worked
with numerous units, safe-guarding U.S. and allied assets
installations while also providing bomb detection services
for the 2009 Iraqi elections.
It wasn't until
Andrzejewski's deployment to Afghanistan, later in his
career, that he discovered the importance of the
relationship between a handler and their dog.
According to Andrzejewski, due to constant reassignments, it
was a challenge to form lasting friendships with his fellow
Marines. However, no matter where he went, he knew he would
always have at least one buddy.
“You get attached to
different units, so a lot of the time, your dog is your only
friend,” said Andrzejewski. “You eat together. You sleep
together. You play together. Wherever you go, the dog goes.”
Their partnership was put to the ultimate test on one
eventful patrol, according to Andrzejewski.
patrolling through a village just outside of his patrol
base's gate on a scorching summer day, Andrzejewski noticed
that Dano, his new K-9 partner, became extremely alert and
began to sniff the air vigorously.
“As a handler, you
need to know the ins and outs of your dog,” said
Andrzejewski. “You have to be able to pick up on the little
hints a dog will give once they've found something.”
The scent Dano detected was a sulfuric-based improvised
explosive device. Insurgents planted the bomb on a path
Andrzejewski's patrol team had used the day prior but thanks
to Dano, the Marines were able to uncover and safely dispose
of the explosive.
“Out in the field, the entire
patrol relies on the dog to find potential hazards and keep
us alive,” said Andrzejewski. “That day (Dano) saved all of
After working in the field for two tours,
Andrzejewski was able to return to the garrison side of K-9,
this time working as the kennel master for Camp Butler PMO.
As the kennel master, Andrzejewski no longer has a partner.
Instead his job is to focus on the administrative aspects of
“I really enjoy my job now,” said
Andrzejewski. “But some days I get bogged down with paper
work. I love the days I get a chance to watch the new guys;
train and teach them a few things.”
When not in his
office, Andrzejewski spends his time challenging the
handlers to better themselves. He accomplishes this by
setting up complicated training events that compel the
handlers to focus more on their own investigative skills.
“I like to set up scenarios that are different from what
they are use too,” said Andrzejewski. “I like to put the
training aids somewhere the dog may be able to catch the
scent of the aid but can't reach it. This kind of forces the
handler to be more (attentive).”
According to Cpl.
Justin A. Wagman, a military working dog handler for PMO,
these scenarios force the handlers to work more intently
with the dogs and helps forge a long lasting and fruitful
“I love being able to help out the
younger handlers,” said Andrzejewski. “I may not get a
chance to work with the dogs first-hand anymore but getting
the opportunity to train the next group of (dog handlers) is
just as satisfying.”
According to Andrzejewski, when
not completing formal training, the dog spend their days
playing fetch with their handlers or simply hanging out
around the office while the Marines works.
(seeing) that because it shows me these guys really do love
and care for the dogs,” said Andrzejewski. “It's the simple
things that go a long way into building a great relationship
between a handler and their dog.”
By U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Daniel Jean-Paul
The U.S. Marines
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