USAG Humphreys, Republic of Korea –
This week the U.S. Army 503/903 Combined Military Working Dog Detachment held a joint 3-day training event with the handlers of the U.S. Air Force 51st Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron at U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys.
During Decoy Training, Military Working Dogs are encouraged to bite a “decoy target,” while a handler wears a protective ‘bite shirt’ or ‘wrap’ acting as the assailant.
“The handlers are trained on how to approach the dog to ensure the bite lands in the right place,” said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Lyon, Kennel Master and Detachment Sergeant for the 503/903 CMWDD, and the organizer of this training event. “It allows us to monitor the dogs’ behavior, train out any unwanted behaviors, and train the dog to target the back both for the dogs’ safety and to subdue the target more quickly.”
It’s really important to do this kind of training for the safety of the handlers.Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Lyon
It is an Army requirement that MWDs receive daily training, which became a challenge during some of the restrictions imposed in the fight against COVID-19.
“We quarantined our personnel preemptively to ensure that training was still able to occur,” said Capt. Raleigh Clark, Commander of the 503/903 CMWDD. “It was tough on everyone, but it’s a really great team.”
In addition to daily obedience training, MWDs are required to perform a number of other training tasks throughout the month, including patrol and detection critical tasks, controlled aggression tasks with bite training, and building, vehicle, and route or open area searches.
“With several smaller, dispersed units, the act of coming together is rare,” said Clark. “It’s a great opportunity for all the handlers to exchange tips and information and make the most of having several different instructors with different teaching styles.”
One of the first questions Lyon asks handlers as each dog enters the training area is about the traits and unique behaviors displayed by the MWD.
“It’s really important to do this kind of training for the safety of the handlers,” said Lyon, watching as another handler donned the padded bite-suit. “It teaches them to recognize and anticipate the behavior of the dog, approach the dog in the right way, with timing, to ensure the bite lands where we want it to, and it increases their overall proficiency as a MWD trainer.”
This kind of training is a great change of pace.Senior Airman Cassidy Hunt
The 3-day training event took place in multiple locations around USAG Humphreys, allowing the handlers to test their decoy skills across various scenarios, including practicing at the 503/903 CMWDD training ground, and conducting barracks and open area searches where the MWD first had to locate the decoy.
“This kind of training is a great change of pace,” said Senior Airman Cassidy Hunt, 51st Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron MWD handler. “The Air Force requires that we spend 18 months as a Security Forces specialist before we can apply to become handlers, so some of the soldiers training here have a lot more experience than I do, and tips and tricks they can share.”
Although there are more similarities than differences, there are still some varied approaches to MWD training between the Army and the Air Force.
“The Air Force mainly uses bite tops, and the Army mainly uses wraps,” said Sgt. Garrett Bielke, 503/903 CMWDD MWD handler. “So, they help us to learn techniques using more equipment, and we help with them with techniques using less equipment.”
Regardless of the different approaches and personalities across the MWD community, all the handlers, Army and Air Force, seemed to agree on one thing – they love their job and think it’s the best one in the Armed Forces.