Marking the transition of a Soldier to the Noncommissioned Officer Corps is a time-honored Army tradition. A ceremony at Fort Huachucaâ€™s Cochise Theater May 31 had a modern twist. In addition to seven Soldiers, two military working dogs were inducted in to the NCO Corps.
Soldiers inducted in to the Corps were Sgt. Eric Bachman and Sgt. James Barker, both with the 18th Military Police Detachment; Sgt. Peter Greenberg, 62nd Army Band; and Staff Sgt. Matthew Scofield, Sgt. Courtney Ansberry, Sgt. Rosalin Garrett and Sgt. Randy Roscoe, all with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison.
Additionally, Staff Sgt. Beast, escorted by her handler Sgt. Michael Brickles, and Staff Sgt. Rowan, escorted by his handler Sgt. Dennis Smarth were inducted. All are with the 18th MP Det., Military Working Dog Section.
Military working dogs Beast and Rowan have deployed in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Beast entered military service Feb. 2, 2004 and received patrol/explosive detection training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. After her graduation, Beast was assigned to the Fort Huachuca Military Working Dog Section Sept. 20, 2006. During her assignment here, Beast deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom four times with exemplary service, saving countless lives during her missions there.
Staff Sgt. Rowan entered military service Dec. 6, 2006 and entered patrol/explosive training on Feb. 22, 2007 at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Upon his graduation from the course, Rowan was assigned to the Fort Huachuca Military Working Dog Section Nov. 26, 2007. During his career here at Fort Huachuca, Rowan deployed once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.
Both MWDs received the U.S. Military Working Dog Service Award from the United States War Dog Association, a group that â€œhonors our Nationâ€™s war dogs and their handlers: past, present and future.â€
This is the first time MWDs have been included in Fort Huachucaâ€™s NCO induction ceremony.
Dogs always outrank their handlers, according to Brickles, Beastâ€™s handler. This tradition provides Uniformed Code of Military Justice protection for the animals. If a Soldier abuses another Soldier of a higher rank, the abuser could be subject to UCMJ action.
It takes a special dog to become a MWD.
As with any military occupational specialty, military working dogs should have the right disposition for the job. They undergo extensive temperament and physical evaluations. Once they are approved for the program, they receive thousands of training hours which begin at the DoD Military Working Dog School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
First, they are taught to bond with human handlers to develop the dogâ€™s natural instinct for companionship. Next they are taught basic obedience skills, similar to those that animal owners might teach personal pets. But, unlike privately owned animals, a working dogâ€™s behavior training never stops, according to the DoD military working dog program website, www.lackland.af.mil/units/341stmwd/index.asp.
After â€œbasic training,â€ dogs begin specialized training, depending on the task they will be used for. Sniffing out weapons and improvised explosive devices is a critical mission for military working dogs. The dogs are taught to respond passively to the presence of a weapon or IED by sitting. An active response could trigger an IED.
From the initial phases of training, the dog is taught not to ignore a command or fail to carry it out completely which is one reason animals and handlers train continuously. During the course of a dogâ€™s military career, the animal can change handlers a number of times or work in agencies outside of the military.
MWDs are canine athletes that must be in peak physical condition to perform their duties as patrol detection dogs. If in good health, an MWDâ€™s active duty career can span 10 to 12 years.
But MWDs, much like people, experience a decline in their capabilities with advancing age. Following completion of their â€œactive duty,â€ dogs nearing the end of their military careers are carefully screened for their potential to be adopted as pets and placed with those who are capable of humanely and safely caring for these unique dogs.