FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — To the world they are dog handlers — but to each other they are Family. Now U.S. Army Military Police dog handlers have a new military occupational skill, or MOS, to call their very own — 31K Military Working Dog Handler.
Beginning in October 2014, junior enlisted MPs in the ranks of private through nonpromotable specialist in MOS 31B Military Police, who hold additional skill identifier Z6 Military Working Dog Handler, will automatically be transferred to 31K Military Working Dog Handler.
MPs in the ranks of promotable specialist through sergeant major who hold ASI Z6 Military Working Dog Handler can request reclassification into MOS 31K.
According to Sgt. 1st Class Cory Lorenz, U.S. Army Military Police School Proponency Initiatives and Integration Career Management noncommissioned officer, reclassification requests will be considered by a panel of officials at the MP School to determine which Soldiers are best-qualified for reclassification into MOS 31K.
Lorenz said Soldiers approved for reclassification will be notified of their selection in July 2014. Reclassifications will take effect Oct. 16, 2014.
Staff Sgt. John Ellis, 180th Military Police Working Dog Detachment, 92nd Military Police Battalion, 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, kennel master, said the dog handler community has been waiting to get their own MOS for a long time.
“One of the greatest things for our program is to have our own MOS. We can finally stand alone and not be a section of another MOS,” Ellis said.
To gain the ASI of Z6 Military Working Dog Handler, Soldiers had to be an MP for two years before even being selected to train to be a K9 handler, but with the new MOS, that’s going to change.
“We are still going to be expected to perform as policemen, but the 31K MOS will be our primary focus,” said Sgt. 1st Class Hardenio Abdon, U.S. Army Military Police School, senior training developer. “Now, Soldiers will go to basic training knowing they are a 31K. With a Soldier coming straight out of Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training, or AIT, on Fort Leonard Wood and the Military Working Dog Handlers’ course at Joint Base San Antonio, it creates a blank canvas for a noncommissioned officer to paint on. They won’t be set in their ways with two years as an MP anymore.”
Having a blank canvas to paint is something Ellis is currently experiencing, and he said he likes it.
“We have seven Soldiers that have been pipelined right now. They went straight from basic, to AIT, to dog school. This is the first time I’ve dealt with dog handlers like this, and I have to say it’s outstanding. These young Soldiers are living and breathing military working dogs. As soon as they got here, I was like here is your dog. We immediately started building the team — molding them into what I want. The product is very fine tuned. They aren’t set in their ways, because they are still learning the way,” Ellis said. “This will help us with our career progression. We will have instructors with so much K9 training knowledge, because they will be able to see the MOS through their entire career.
“Military Police working dogs are primarily used for narcotics or explosive detection and to attack during patrols. Ellis said having an MOS specifically for dog handlers would benefit both the Soldier and K9.
“The longer you are with your dog, the better the team is going to be. We make a bond with our dogs. The goal is to keep teams together longer,” Ellis said.
Speaking from experience, Ellis said having teams together longer is important to being successful on missions.
“My greatest fear when I deployed was that somebody else would get hurt because I didn’t train my dog enough,” Ellis said.
Protecting others is common theme among the Family of dog handlers.
“Being a dog handler — you don’t do it for yourself. We are out there looking for things that people are afraid of or are trying to avoid. If my team finds an improvised explosive device, I save the lives of the people standing behind me and my job is done. I am a dog handler, so that other people may live,” Abdon said.
Ellis said being a military working dog handler is the best job in the military, and he’s looking forward to being reclassified as a 31K.
“I feel that we are all Family. Every dog handler — not just Military Police, not just the Army, we are Family — that includes the Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. We train together and we deploy together and we deserve our own MOS.”