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A Watchdog's Purpose: Miramar K-9 Unit Has Your Six
by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Liah Kitchen
March 21, 2017

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The Marine Corps first introduced military working dogs to their active ranks in World War II. During the war, the dogs were donated by American citizens for use in the Pacific Theater to take back islands from axis forces. The K-9 unit with the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Provost Marshal Office, carries on the legacy and is dedicated to the security of MCAS Miramar, California.

This dedication was showcased at a military working dog demonstration conducted by the K-9 unit at the Miramar Youth and Teen center on MCAS Miramar on Feb. 17, 2017.

February 17, 2017 - Officers with the Provost Marshal's Office at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., demonstrates how a military working dog is trained to attack a suspect during a K-9 showcase at the Miramar Youth and Teen Center on MCAS Miramar. Military working dog handlers train their dogs to assist in neutralizing a threat to aid in base security. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Liah Kitchen)
February 17, 2017 - Officers with the Provost Marshal's Office at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., demonstrates how a military working dog is trained to attack a suspect during a K-9 showcase at the Miramar Youth and Teen Center on MCAS Miramar. Military working dog handlers train their dogs to assist in neutralizing a threat to aid in base security. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Liah Kitchen)

“We showed the kids the foundation of anything K-9, which is basic obedience,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Daniels, the K-9 unit kennel master and a military police officer with PMO. “Then, we transitioned into detection where the dogs were utilized for explosive or narcotic detection. From there, we demonstrated some of our patrol work where we put someone in the bite suit and the dog goes after the suspect to neutralize a situation.”

This type of presentation provides an opportunity for the handlers to control their dog in front of a crowd where the dog could get distracted. This allows the dogs to focus on their mission and complete everyday tasks such as standing watch at the gates, conducting vehicle searches and dealing with potential threat situations.

“We act in numerous capacities,” said Sgt Desean White, chief K-9 trainer and a military police officer with PMO. “The dogs act as a psychological deterrent by standing on the gate, they assist with searching vehicles, and we can also employ a dog to bite a suspect if we need additional force.”

In the unit, military working dog handlers with PMO are paired with military working dogs to form “dog teams.” These teams can be together for up to 10 years depending on several factors.

“We have both civilian and Marine handlers in the unit so the amount of time that a dog team is together can vary based on several different things such as the age of a dog, the amount of time we have a Marine on station or how long a civilian officer works with us,” said Daniels.

To work effectively, the dog team trains together, building a relationship with each other based on trust. Handlers build this trust by spending time with their dogs.

According to Daniels, any time spent with their dogs whether bathing them, providing medical care for them or training together for mission essential tasks helps to build trust between a handler and K-9 companion.

“Having a good relationship between dog and trainer is one of the most vital parts of our training,” said White. “Without a good relationship with your dog, you’re very limited on what you can do.”

According to Daniels, a military working dog handler isn’t a job that you can immediately train for. Following the basic MP officer training, officers are able to request a K-9 job transfer. The K-9 unit will train them on-the-job to determine if they have the necessary skills required to be a handler. Finally, the officer is sent to the Military Working Dog Basic Handler Course instructed by the 341st Training Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, the same location that all military working dogs for the branches are trained.

“This job is definitely a morale booster,” said White. “The officers get to work with the dogs in addition to their regular duties as police officers.”

According to White, being a handler is the reason that he is continuing his Marine Corps career.

“I’ve been doing this for 12 years and to me, it’s the best I could have,” said Daniels. “If you put your mind to doing this job, and you push for it, you can definitely be successful.”

By U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Liah Kitchen
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2017

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