4th SFS, TSA conduct K-9 training exercise

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kevin Holloway
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. – The 4th Security Forces Squadron military working dog flight partnered with the Transportation Security Administration from Raleigh-Durham International Airport to compete in a K-9 training exercise on Sept. 21.

The 4th SFS worked with two TSA explosives detection canine handlers and their working dogs compete in a detection lane exercise to help raise their teams’ proficiency levels.

“It’s great to work with outside agencies because they have different operational pictures than what we see,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Garcia, 4th SFS MWD trainer. “They have different mindsets that they can bring to us on how they would approach a training problem.”

During the exercise, a working dog and their handler stepped into an unfamiliar setting where they conducted a thorough search of the area and were judged by a panel of their peers on their overall performance as a team when detecting explosives or narcotics.

“Detection lanes are more challenging because the items that produce the odor are planted higher and deeper to mask the odor and make it harder for the K-9 to detect,” said Garcia. “The different circumstances will not only challenge the canine, but it will test to see how the handler will work with their dog to be successful in their detection lanes.”

Broadening the operational mindset of all local, state and federal agencies is always a goal for both training and the overall mission.

“Any time we get a new opportunity to work with other participants or other agencies, whether it’s federal, state or local, that is a home run for TSA because it’s a new experience that we can expose our teams to and vice versa,” said Brandon Cohler, TSA K-9 training instructor. “K-9 handling is a small community. It’s really about getting to work with each other because we scratch their back and they scratch ours.”

The overall winner of the training competition was Natalie Weatherburn, TSA explosive detection K-9 handler, and her K-9 Egyes-Abel. Natalie and Abel scored a near perfect score in the explosive detection lane.