Military Dogs Go Flying
NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, Japan – As part of the military culture, service members are expected to train daily, and be ready for any situation that may arise. Their four legged counterparts are no different.
In keeping with these expectations, Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi’s Naval Security Force (NSF) Military Working Dogs (MWDs) participated in an aerial training exercise with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12. The purpose of the training was to familiarize the dogs with the aircraft on the ground and in flight.
According to K-9 Leading Petty Officer Master-at-Arms 1st Class Luis Reyes, this is the first time that this MWD division has conducted this type of training. It’s also a first for some of the members, both human and canine alike, to fly in a helicopter.
During the first part of the exercise the MWDs explored the HSC-12 hangar, conducted odor recognition and adjusted to the noise of the helicopters. The second phase required the MWDs and their handlers to be broken up into two teams for a 20 minute flight inside of a MH-60S Seahawk helicopter. This gave the handlers a chance to monitor the dogs’ reactions to the flight, and gave the teams the opportunity to become familiar with the movement of the aircraft in flight.
“I was pleased,” said MWD Handler Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Ian Stephenson. “[Rex] was very calm while in close proximity to others and when we hit some turbulence, swaying a lot, he seemed fine. He didn’t overreact.”
While the dogs were the primary recipients of the training, their handlers were also able to benefit from it. The exercise not only allowed the handlers to reflect on their personal experience, but also to focus on the future training for MWDs going forward.
“One handler even got nauseous. It was quite an uncomfortable experience for him,” said Reyes. “Now he knows the feeling and can prepare ahead of time, should he actually need to prepare for another such mission.”
This training is a large priority for the handlers, and Reyes hopes to be able to conduct more evolutions like this for K-9 units in the future. “The training was crucial,” said Reyes. “The experience the MWD teams obtained from the evolution was superb for both the MWDs and handlers as far as equipment familiarization and conditioning. It was extremely beneficial for future overseas contingency operations.”