Iwakuni and Sasebo military dog handlers share expertise
January 19, 2006
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — In a cavernous warehouse at the Akasaki Fuel Terminal here, military working dog handlers from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and Sasebo’s security department put several dogs’ noses to the test Tuesday.
Four Marines and three dogs from Iwakuni are training with their Navy counterparts here through Thursday, said Staff Sgt. Terrell Lambert, Iwakuni’s military working dog kennel master.
“It’s joint detection training with the Navy team as we try to improve both programs,” he said. “They have a larger area here to train, larger than we have in Iwakuni.”
Some of the handlers and dogs from Iwakuni have already served tours in Iraq.
One handler and dog team from Sasebo is currently in Iraq.
The training should be helpful in getting teams ready for possible deployment to Iraq and elsewhere, said the Iwakuni and Sasebo kennel masters.
During training, handlers guided dogs through cargo aisles planted with materials that don’t belong in the warehouse.
Lambert couldn’t say what the materials were for security purposes, but he said the dogs “can detect many things.”
German shepherd military working dogs have highly sensitive noses trained to sniff out explosive devices or narcotics, said Petty Officer 1st Class Richard Rodriguez, Sasebo’s kennel master.
As Cpl. Alfred Nieto and a military working dog named Rex made their way through the warehouse, Rodriguez said success depends on how well they learn to work together.
“Of course the dog is doing about 90 percent of the work because finding the scent is the higher function. The handler has to interpret the dog’s behavior and praise the dog,” he said.
Nieto used a high-pitched yelp and a ball to praise Rex when he detected scents of planted materials among the cargo.
“Think of it like this,” Rodriguez said. “When we smell a Big Mac, we smell a Big Mac; when they smell a Big Mac, they smell the hamburger, mustard, ketchup, pickles, salt and pepper. They smell every part of the Big Mac.”