TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Cpl. Cicchino gripped tightly on CChaz’s collar outside of the Community Center. CChaz was focused and anxious to sniff out the intruder inside. On Cicchino’s command CChaz was on the hunt and wouldn’t stop until his mark submitted.
The Provost Marshal’s Office K9 unit conducted aggression, drug search and bomb search training exercises at the Community Center Condor Elementary school.
“Once a month, we all come in at night to conduct training,” said Sgt. Daniel Andrzejewski, a Military Working Dog trainer with K9 unit, PMO, and a native of Toledo, Ohio. “At night is when the dogs would usually work. So on top of any other training the [MWD] handlers do, we also do this night training.”
During aggression training the MWD were sent to search for a person, and when they find the target they bite and try to subdue them. During aggression training, the person is wearing protective clothing to keep the dog from doing any serious harm.
“We don’t want the dogs to just go through the motions of biting someone,” said Staff Sgt. Charlie Hardesty, a native of Smoot, Wyoming, and kennel master with K9 unit, PMO. “We train them to be aggressive and bite a person when told to.”
The dogs were training to find 6 different aids: Hashish (hash), cocaine, marijuana, heroin, MDMA (ecstasy) and meth, throughout a building. Aids are what K9 call the drugs or bombs the dogs search for during training exercises.
“We plant the aids in different locations throughout the building and let them sit there for about 30 minutes,” Andrzejewski said. “After that, the scent has had time to spread around the room and give the dog a better chance to find it. Most of the time, the substance will be sitting in a hiding spot for longer period of time.”
The dog teams went through each room one at a time. The handler released the dog to search the room, only stopping the dog to search a specific area or to stay in the room.
“The dog team is 95 percent dog and 5 percent handler,” Andrzejewski said. “The dog has the nose; the handler just makes sure everywhere is checked.”
The handlers use several tools to help praise the dog when it finds one of the aids. Some of the tools are a snowman-shaped toy called a Kong and verbal praise from the handlers.
“The training should be a fun experience for the dogs,” Hardesty said. “If the dog thinks training is going to get him in trouble, it is not going to do its job.
The training serves as a good way to evaluate the teams for what they need more training in, whether it is finding a certain substance or being more aggressive. The teams need to be fully prepared for when duty calls.