FAIRBANKS, Alaska – K-9 teams from as far away as South Korea are at Fort Wainwright this week for explosive detection training. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives travels around the country providing national odor recognition testing, which is recognized by Congress as the proficiency standard for effective canine explosives detection.
This voluntary test is used to see how well a K-9 team can detect explosives they might encounter.
“This is a ten odor test, so there’s ten explosive odors that we test the K-9 teams on, sometimes, like I said they don’t have access to some of these explosives so we will make sure that their dogs are imprinted on those odors and as soon as we think they’re proficient, they’ll go take the test by our chemist,” said Cody Monday, canine trainer with the ATF National Canine Division.
Besides testing, the ATF trainers also help the handlers.
“So if the handlers are having any type of training deficiencies, we’re taking the time to fix those issues during the three days we’re doing this. The dogs are actually, you’ll see them transition, on day one they’re not as comfortable, they’re not as confident on specific type of explosives, and then by the last day they’ll be a lot more confident, responding a lot quicker, so it’s a huge benefit,” said Master Sgt. Viridiana Lavalle, USARPAC Military Working Dog Program Manager.
A job that can be solitary, just the handler and their dog. They get to be together for these three days of training.
“I just love to see all of the handlers coming together, working together, learning, asking questions – to me this is the best job in the military,” said Lavalle.
Staff Sergeant Cody Barratt has been an explosives dog handler for seven years and has been deployed to Qatar and Afghanistan.
“It’s kind of comforting knowing that you have that piece of equipment that’s like no other. The dog is out there to find the explosives that the guys that we’re fighting against are using to try to harm us, so you are a huge part of the mission. You really have people’s lives in your hands,” said Staff Sgt. Cody Barratt, with the 549th Military Working Dog Detachment at JBER.
Barratt says the better the bond with a dog, the better you are going to perform.
“It’s also nice to always have dog, man’s best friend, so when you’re deployed you have that dog there, it’s very comforting, and it kind of makes you feel like you’re still at home,” said Barratt.