K-9s mission-ready at Luke

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Hensley)

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Arizona — Most emergency services require some form of certification prior to being able to go out and save lives. This includes police, fire and medical services but most people don’t think about the certifications K-9s are required to have.

“The certification process is done annually or when there is a change of 56th Mission Support Group commander,” said Staff Sgt. Kurtis Buchawiecki, 56th Security Forces Squadron kennel master. “It is to confirm a dog’s capability to detect an odor whether it’s explosives or narcotics. We must ensure our MWDs are proficient and are capable in our commander’s eyes.”

This certification can impact a dog and their handler’s future depending on how the certification goes.

“As a team, this certification training component makes sure our handlers and MWDs are proficient in their duties,” Buchawiecki said. “Without a proficient dog team you cannot respond to bomb threats, find narcotics, or the people who bring them in.”

The certifications are just another part of their training and bring both the handler and MWD closer as a team.

“We have to do intensive training,” Buchawiecki said. “If it’s an explosives or narcotics MWD, we’ll go hide the contraband and basically play out a hide-and-seek scenario. We check to see if the dog can alert on the explosives and the handler can identify the change in the dog.”

The kennel master oversees the MWD handlers in the certification process and advanced training to ensure they work together as a team.

“This training is to improve the handler and MWD relationship, improve searching patterns and the handler’s capability,” said Staff Sgt. Markeith Wimbush, 56th SFS MWD handler. “It gets challenging because the explosives or narcotics could be hidden in the ceiling or five feet under the ground. It gets you to think outside the box with the things you see.”

The MWD handlers and their MWD partners continue to train for deployments, temporary duties and secret service.

Reyes and Ffrida search a warehouse to practice detection skills. This was Reyes’ and Ffrida’s first certification.