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Senior Chief Chris Ray, left, and Senior Chief John Deal talk to dog handlers about law enforcement during the handlers' annual evaluation Thursday.

Senior Chief Chris Ray, left, and Senior Chief John Deal talk to dog handlers about law enforcement during the handlers' annual evaluation Thursday. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

Senior Chief Chris Ray, left, and Senior Chief John Deal talk to dog handlers about law enforcement during the handlers' annual evaluation Thursday.

Senior Chief Chris Ray, left, and Senior Chief John Deal talk to dog handlers about law enforcement during the handlers' annual evaluation Thursday. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Ware weights her dog, Rambo, to make sure he is the right weight after being evaluated on tactical skills.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Ware weights her dog, Rambo, to make sure he is the right weight after being evaluated on tactical skills. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Mabes, kennel supervisor at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, takes his dog, Niki, out of the truck after a day of being evaluated on tactical skills.

Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Mabes, kennel supervisor at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, takes his dog, Niki, out of the truck after a day of being evaluated on tactical skills. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

You have to be a sailor first. A master-at-arms second. Then, a dog handler.

That was the message to the K-9 unit at Naval Air Facility Atsugi during its annual evaluation this week.

The weeklong appraisal by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service tests the proficiency of the six handlers and their dogs, said Senior Chief Petty Officer John Deal, an NCIS law enforcement/physical security specialist helping oversee the evaluation.

The evaluation checked each team’s abilities in patrolling, drug detection and explosive detection, Deal said Thursday.

The senior members of the K-9 unit welcomed the evaluation as a way of honing their law enforcement skills.

“Sometimes we put too much focus on our dogs because we spend so much time with them,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Mabes, the Atsugi kennel supervisor. “This evaluation gives us a new set of eyes and helps us with our police work.”

Deal said the teams have looked good overall and any deficiencies are corrected on site.

Thursday’s exercise focused on how gunfire affects each dog.

“My dog’s a bit skittish with gunfire … but we were good to go,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Aaron Gregory, who finished a tour in Iraq last month. His dog, a German shepherd named Boetzo, was praised for his obedience and for his detection ability on both bombs and drugs.


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