Dogs show off their military training
The Edwardsville (Ill.) Intelligencer
Liberty Middle School students had the rare opportunity to see first-hand how Scott Air Force Base's military working dogs protect their handlers and serve a vital role in the military. Four military personnel from the 375th Security Forces squadron brought two of their military working dogs to the middle school last week for a dog training demonstration.
The demonstration served as sort of a kick-off for a fundraiser the students are doing for Veterans Day. Liberty Middle School students are selling dog tags through Nov. 8 to raise money to send a care package to one of Scott Air Force Base's military working dogs (WMDs), Jack, and his handler, Staff Sgt. Brooks who are both currently deployed in Qatar.
Every fall Liberty Middle School eighth grade teacher Rachel Harris teaches her social studies students about Veterans Day and hosts an annual Veterans Day Breakfast. This year in talking about the role of the military, Harris also informed her students about how the military had used war dogs. “I saw a TV story about war dogs. There's one called Liberty Middle School students had the rare opportunity to see first-hand how Scott Air Force Base's military working dogs protect their handlers and serve a vital role in the military. – a stray they took over to France – he ended up saving a whole bunch of guys' lives and is in the Smithsonian. He goes on to later meet like four presidents – it's kind of a cool story that I tell to get the kids interested,” Harris explained.
After learning about Sgt. Stubby, Harris' class began researching war dogs and whether or not there were war dogs in the military today. They learned there were working military dogs (WMDs) just a short distance away at Scott Air Force Base.
The students began thinking about doing a Veteran's Day school fundraiser for the WMDs. “We've always done some kind of fundraiser for Veterans Day. We've done Wounded Warriors, Honor Flight, a fundraising drive for the VA Hospital in St. Louis,” Harris noted. “We do these fundraisers for the two-legged soldiers – what about the four-legged soldiers out there?”
Her students agreed wholeheartedly and came up with the idea to sell dog (key) tags to raise funds for the Scott Air Force Base's WMDs. The dog tags say, “LMS Supports Our Four-Legged Friends.”
Harris contacted Scott Air Force Base about possibly adopting a specific dog from the base that was currently serving in the Middle East. Staff Sgt. Bryan Dell, Military Working Dog Trainer for the 375th Security Forces Canine Unit out of Scott Air Force Base, gave Harris information about an WMD named Jack who was stationed in Qatar.
“He suggested that we send a care package to Jack as well as his dog handler, Staff Sgt. Brooks,” Harris said. “There's like six or seven dogs over there with WMD Jack and Staff Sgt. Brooks from different bases that we then are going to send one large care package to.”
While talking to Staff Sgt. Dell, Harris arranged for the sergeant and three of his staff members, Asst. Trainer Staff Sgt. Lesh and two rookies, to visit Liberty Middle School last week to provide the entire student body with a presentation about what the soldiers do and how they train their WMDs.
Staff Sgt. Dell didn't disappoint. The students were thoroughly engaged as Staff Sgt. Dell reviewed various tools they used to train their dogs to attack and bite fleeing suspects. The highlight of the presentation involved a demonstration of training exercises where one of the men put on a protective bite suit and had WMD Brestin attack as if the sergeant in the suit was a dangerous suspect.
The bite suit helps to protect the handlers and trainers while training the dogs on these type of controlled aggression exercises.
Staff Sgt. Dell pointed out that the military working dogs are also trained to detect narcotics and explosives, conduct building searches, do scouting or sweeps as well as protect their handler. “We go out and look for bombs – look for IEDs – improvised explosive devices. Yes, it's cool. It's very fun. It's an adrenaline rush, but it's also very dangerous because obviously we're the ones out walking – out looking for these bombs that are planted on the side of the road – to keep the rest of our military members and our civilians that work with us safe,” Sgt. Dell noted.
Staff Sgt. Dell also explained that when the WMDs and their handlers are stationed here locally at Scott Air Force Base, they provide law enforcement on the base. “We're military police. We do the typical stuff that your police departments in your local community do – we just do it on the base,” Staff Sgt. Dell said. “We also help out the local community police by offering training to them. We currently assist with about 40 different police departments that have canine units in the metro east area. We also help out with bomb threats in the area.”
The DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) will also sometimes call upon their services. “The World Series – we're actually going to be going down there with our dogs doing some bomb sweeps,” Staff Sgt. Dell said. “Medina (the other dog brought for the demonstration) just got back from Afghanistan. He found 2,500 pounds of marijuana at one time. Taliban and terrorists use that money from those drugs to supply all the terrorists cells here in the U.S.”
In addition, the Security Forces Canine Unit will also work with the Secret Service. “When President Obama comes home to Chicago, we get called up a lot,” Staff Sgt. Dell said. “We get to go to Chicago to sweep his house, and we get to be a part of his motorcade – sweeping stuff in front of the motorcade to make sure there's no IEDs on the side of the road, and we sweep his hotel room.”
It's a pretty rewarding job,” Staff Sgt. Dell added.
The Liberty Middle School students will be selling their dog tags for $3 each during lunch periods through Nov. 8 to support WMD Jack and his handler, Staff Sgt. Brooks.