The 209th Military Police Detachment hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday for the new military working dog kennel on Fort Benning.
The $2.6 million, climate-controlled facility boasts 25 dog runs, an in-house veterinary examination room, training areas and a 2,500-square-foot administrative office.
Fort Benning’s military working dogs are trained in drug and explosives detection as well as scouting, patrolling and performing building and area searches. They are also taught how to protect their handlers and subdue subjects who attempt to escape. During peacetime, they assist with customs enforcement, high-risk personnel security missions, health and welfare inspections, and special demonstrations.
Currently three of Fort Benning’s 18 working dogs are deployed to Iraq with their handlers.
“The military working dog program provides force multipliers and a valuable asset to the military police, the infantry, the Special Forces, and the Department of Defense and other governmental agencies,” said Capt. Brian Miller, commander of the 209th. “Their heightened sense of sight, smell and hearing enhances their detection capabilities and provides commanders with a physical and psychological deterrent to criminal activity.”
Military Police Officer Sgt. Amy Meyer said she has been training with her dog, Bak, a 4-year-old German Shepherd proficient in narcotics detection, for about one year. She said it takes between two and six months for a K-9 to learn the skills required of a military working dog.
“We’ve just been training together constantly,” Meyer said. “Just working together on the road. We’ve been out of town together a couple of times and so we go to the hotels and spend a lot of time together. It’s just been a great experience working together. He’s a great dog.”
Meyer and Bak were one of two military working dog teams chosen to conduct a series of demonstrations during Tuesday’s grand opening that highlighted the animals’ training and capabilities. Sgt. Brian Bender, a seasoned handler with the 209th Military Police Detachment, donned a padded coat during the demonstrations to avoid injuries when Bak attacked.
“I love my job,” Bender said after shaking the snarling animal off his arm.
In another role-playing scenario designed to test a working dog’s allegiance to its handler, Sgt. Andre Voss unleashed his German Shepherd, Odetta, on Bender after he became physically aggressive toward Voss. Within seconds, Odetta had chased down and subdued Bender.
A single command from Voss — “Out” — was all it took for Odetta to unhook her sharp teeth from Bender’s arm and return to her handler.
Working dog teams must conduct at least 16 hours of detection training and spend 16 hours on patrol every month.
All military working dogs and handlers, regardless of their branch of service, begin their careers at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas.