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Archive for the ‘K9’ Category

Robot Dogs Arrive at Tyndall AFB

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) —

The first official semi-autonomous robot dogs were delivered to Tyndall Air Force Base March 22 for integration into the 325th Security Forces Squadron.

The purpose of the Quad-legged Unmanned Ground Vehicles, or Q-UGVs, is to add an extra level of protection to the base. The robot dogs, designed by Ghost Robotics and Immersive Wisdom, are the first of their kind to be integrated onto a military installation and one of many innovation-based initiatives to begin at Tyndall AFB, coined the “Installation of the Future.”

“As a mobile sensor platform, the Q-UGVs will significantly increase situational awareness for defenders,” said Mark Shackley, Tyndall AFB Program Management Office security forces program manager. “They can patrol the remote areas of a base while defenders can continue to patrol and monitor other critical areas of an installation.”

Features applied to the robot dogs allow for easy navigation on difficult terrains. The robot dogs can operate in minus 40-degree to 131-degree conditions and have 14 sensors to create 360-degree awareness. They are also equipped with a crouch mode that lowers their center-of-gravity and a high-step mode that alters leg mobility, among other features.

Tyndall AFB’s Program Management Office, the 325th SFS, the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron, Air Force Research Laboratory, communications and other organizations have been working since July 2020 to ensure the Q-UGVs are assembled properly before reaching Tyndall AFB. The installation is considered an ideal base to host the new robot dogs with its ongoing rebuild.

“Tyndall (AFB) is a perfect test base as it was deemed ‘The Installation of the Future,’” said Master Sgt. Krystoffer Miller, 325th SFS operations support superintendent. “Across the base, every squadron has been pushing the envelope of how we do things and expanding our optics of what is possible. One huge attraction piece of the robot dogs is that it’s highly mobile and with the amount of construction we will face over the next few years, it helps us maintain and increase our security posture.”

This new technology has the capability to revolutionize the way base security operates. Tyndall AFB is expected to set the benchmark for the rest of the Defense Department when it comes to Q-UGV usage.

“I can say that there is definitely a lot of interest in the capabilities of the technology,” Miller said. “I’m hopeful that other units will see some of the successes at Tyndall (AFB) and will continue to explore the use of non-conventional tactics.”

By Airman 1st Class Anabel Del Valle, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Air Force Security Forces Center to improve US government-wide working dog programs

Sunday, March 14th, 2021

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) —

The Air Force Security Forces Center-led Government Working Dog Category Intelligence Team aims to improve the cost, process and procurement of government working dogs across 14 federal agencies.

The team recently submitted the Working Dog Category Intelligence Report, which looked into the requirements of maintaining working dogs within the Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, in an effort to identify gaps and opportunities, recommend more effective and efficient sourcing strategies, close gaps between current practices and share government and industry best practices.

Scott R. Heise, team lead and director of Air Force Security & Protection Category Management’s Program Management Office for AFSFC, said “The report identified some crucial gaps, such as the procurement process.”

“All of us have the same need for working dogs, but the way we source them is very different,” Heise said. “Even our requirements are different and this inconsistency makes it difficult for the vendors to try to keep up and maintain a supply of high-quality working dogs. Simple things, like the age of the dog or the type of socialization it gets prior to delivery, present challenges for the vendors.”

“If all the agencies give vendors one integrated demand forecast, then the vendors can develop a better plan to meet our needs and satisfy the demand,” Heise added.

“The improved procurement process will allow Air Force Defenders the ability to better manage their MWD programs, making them healthier and stronger at the tactical, operational and strategic levels,” said Master Sgt. Steven Kaun, AFSFC Military Working Dog program manager.

“This streamlined process will pair up more canines with more handlers across the Air Force and allow garrison, and even up to combatant commanders, to have more assets on hand to accomplish their missions,” Kaun said. “And it also helps give some of our older, hard-working dogs a much deserved, timely retirement.”

In addition to the procurement process, the report provided six recommendations to improve the GWD program:

1. Establish an annual purchase forecast to both the contiguous United States and outside-CONUS vendors, which will help with the breeding and preparation process

2. Implement acquisition best practices to guide agencies during the procurement process

3. Provide the Customs and Border Protection Agency opportunities to work with OCONUS vendors, which will give the agency more options to source working dogs

4. Establish a small business breeder communication plan to help develop a larger U.S. vendor base

5. Build standardized U.S. government-wide working dog travel requirements for airlines

6. Develop a national emergency response plan for explosive detection working dogs

“What we expect from these recommendations is continued growth and maturation of the working dog program not only for the Air Force, but all 14 agencies,” Heise said. “We also see great potential to build the U.S. industrial base for government working dogs and ensure the participation of small businesses, and advance the goals of category management.”

Category management is an approach the federal government is implementing to help standardize procurement functions and share best practices across its agencies in the hopes of providing savings, better value, and efficiency. It is divided into 10 categories.

The AFSFC originally started a Category Intelligence Report on the Air Force-led DoD Military Working Dog program, but Heise saw opportunities to look beyond the services and include other federal agencies.

“Once we started, we saw how closely TSA worked with DoD on Lackland AFB, so I recommended to the Federal Category Manager that we make the CIR a government-wide effort,” Heise said. “She agreed and assigned me as the Government-wide Working Dog Team lead for the Security and Protection category.”

The newly-formed multi-agency team then researched and presented the six recommendations in the final Category Intelligence Report to Jaclyn Rubino, the government-wide Security & Protection Category manager. Rubino approved all recommendations and teams will now be assembled to create a category execution plan for each.

“This is the Air Force’s first interagency category management and Category Intelligence Report effort, and it’s an honor to be part of the team that will not only bring change to the Air Force, but other federal agencies as well,” Heise said. “I feel it speaks to the Security Forces Center’s mission, but on a larger, cross agency scale – to train, equip and manage program execution and provide expertise, and drive integration, innovation and advancement of Security Forces mission sets.”

Story by By Malcolm McClendon, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Public Affairs

Photo by Airman 1st Class Jason W. Cochran

You Never Know Where They’ll Show Up – K9 Edition

Monday, March 8th, 2021

Cody sports some SSD morale while on duty.

Stay safe!

New USAF Defender SUVs Provide Cooler, Smoother Ride for Canines

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) —

The Air Force Security Forces Center’s vehicle program delivered the first of new military working dog patrol vehicles to Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, as part of their initiative to modernize Defender equipment across the Air Force.

The improvements from previous patrol vehicles is the result of AFSFC’s vehicle program’s input to the Federal Service Law Enforcement Vehicle Equipment Standardization initiative and is focused on keeping MWD handlers and canines mission-ready.

Security Forces members at Robins learned about the vehicle “hot dog” system, which automatically kicks in when the interior gets too hot for the canines. The full-size sport utility vehicles also have a more spacious interior that gives the dogs a more comfortable ride.

“These new vehicles are definitely an upgrade,” said Staff. Sgt. Matthew Cerulli, MWD handler with the 78th Security Forces Squadron. “I think the best thing is the ‘hot dog’ system, which, in case of an emergency, we have to leave our dog in the vehicle and it gets too hot, an alarm will go off, the windows will roll down and the A/C will crank on to help keep the canines cool.

“However, I think the dogs’ favorite thing is the additional room. We have some large canines and in this new vehicle they can get up and stretch out as needed,” Cerulli added.

“AFSFC’s Vehicle Program seeks efficiencies in vehicle procurement, decreases redundancies and streamlines processes to improve law enforcement readiness,” said Master Sgt. Michael Roth, Security Forces vehicle program manager at AFSFC.

Prior to the FEDSLEVES program, units sourced their own funds to purchase the necessary equipment, which required local vendors to upfit vehicles after they arrived at the installation.

“This program provides security forces units with vehicles that are standardized with pre-installed equipment packages,” Roth said. “We also provide funding for (other) equipment in these vehicles, allowing them to go on patrol immediately. We’re saving the units $17,700 per patrol vehicle and $19,500 per MWD patrol vehicle, so we’re saving the unit both time and money.”

Defenders at Robins AFB and their canines are rolling out in these ready-to-go SUVs.

“These vehicles are a big step forward in keeping our mission ready here at Robins Air Force Base,” said Tech. Sgt. Seth Wilson, 78th SFS kennel master. “Our mission, along with the military working dogs, is to keep everyone on base safe, and these new vehicles allow us to focus more on accomplishing that.”

Additional improvements include a radio prep package, which allows operators to plug and play their current radio systems, an upgraded emergency lighting and public address system, and increased weapons storage in the rear cargo area.

“These new MWD vehicles are a product of the hard work of the Air Force Security Forces Center’s Vehicle Program team to modernize the fleet and keep Defenders and their canines mission ready,” Roth said.

Security Forces units can expect to receive the new vehicles as their current ones reach their end-of-life cycle, Roth added.

Story by Malcolm McClendon, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Public Affairs

Photos by Joseph Mather

GHOST K9 CAMERA SYSTEM – Mobile Ad Hoc Network Enabled from Tactical Support Equipment

Monday, January 25th, 2021

The NEW Ghost K9 Camera (MANET K9 Camera) from Tactical Support Equipment Inc. is housed in a Waterproof Enclosure. The system now incorporates a selectable Color Day/Night Camera or High Resolution Thermal Camera. The Infrared Illuminator is now controlled by the Day/Night camera sensor, so it is able to brighten or dim the Illuminator as required, which saves overall battery life. The Thermal Camera operates at a full frame rate, which produces no lag in video. With selectable White Light and Infrared Strobe Light. The Ghost K9 camera is GPS enabled as well.

The Ghost K9 Camera is viewed and controlled by a K9 Plug-In for the Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK), which is run on Android Device. User can view and record video and view K9 Camera and K9 Handler location on a map with ATAK.

The Ghost K9 Camera now operates on the Persistent Systems Wave Relay® Mobile Ad Hoc Networking (MANET) System. The Ghost K9 Camera operates as a part of the Wave Relay® Ecosystem. User can select between 10-Watt L-Band and S-Band Radio Modules. C-Band Radio Modules are also available on request. Security of the link is ensured by Crypto Modes: AES256 Encryption and SHA-256 HMAC.

www.tserecon.com/products/k-9-camera-kit-ghost-mobile-ad-hoc-network-enabled

New Book Shares True Stories of Veterans Living with PTSD and the Unwavering Support They Received From Their Service Dogs

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

Author Christine Hassing brings awareness to the level of healing service dogs bring to those living with trauma in ‘Hope Has A Cold Nose’

BLOOMINGDALE, Mich. – Statistics show that twenty-two U.S. military veterans commit suicide per day. This alarming issue inspired author, mentor and inspirational speaker Christine Hassing to learn more about the experiences of veterans suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and military sexual trauma (MST). She soon discovered the remarkable impact service dogs played in their journey towards healing and recovery. Wanting to share their perspective, she collaborated with twenty-three veterans and compiled their unique stories in her recently published book, “Hope Has A Cold Nose.”  This incredible collection of true tales conveys how service dogs make the difference for those reintegrating themselves into civilian life.

While earning her master’s degree, Hassing’s path intersected with a veteran and his service dog. After listening to their story, she knew that she wanted to spotlight the struggles of fellow veterans like him who are healing from trauma with the support of their furry friend. From sensing a nightmare and waking a veteran before terror takes hold, to placing a comforting paw on someone’s shoulder to ward off a panic attack, these dogs provide immeasurable support day and night.

Each chapter shares the story of a different human-canine pair as they explore their life changing relationship. The compelling testimonies from each and every storyteller in the book reminds readers of the importance of compassion and community during the recovery process for veterans.

“It is my hope that the stories within this book can raise awareness about service dogs as a healing modality for those journeying with PTSD,” says Hassing. “and to inspire those who are struggling to not lose their will to live.”

An inspiring read, “Hope Has A Cold Nose” showcases the holistic healing power of canines. Filled with extraordinary stories of resilience, compassion, survival, hope and recovery, this book is an unforgettable look at how animals can help their human counterparts heal from the deepest emotional wounds.

“Hope Has A Cold Nose”

By Christine Hassing

ISBN: 9781982255282 (softcover); 9781982255305 (hardcover); 9781982255299 (electronic)

Available at the Balboa Press Online Bookstore, Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Female Military Working Dog Handlers Honored at Military Women’s Memorial

Thursday, November 12th, 2020

WASHINGTON –- It was a hot and muggy evening at Fort Clayton, Panama, as then-Pfc. Renae Johnson scanned the jungle tree line in an attempt to stop thieves from gaining entry into the installation.

It was 1992, and Johnson was a member of the Missouri National Guard’s 205th Military Police Battalion. Determined to protect and serve, she enlisted just a year prior at age 17, which landed her a short deployment to support local law enforcement efforts with the 534th MP Company.

A career with the Missouri Guard felt like the right path at the time, or at least that was what Johnson thought until that evening, she said.

“That is when I met my first military working dog (MWD) handler coming out of the jungle,” as she crossed paths with then-Staff Sgt. John McKinney and his narcotics detection dog “Solo 503P” out on patrol, she explained.

McKinney was an imposing figure, standing over 6-feet tall with stacked airborne and air assault badges on his uniform, Johnson said. Solo stood idly beside him and appeared just as large and threatening as his handler.

He stuck around to answer all of Johnson’s questions and even suggested she move to active-duty to pursue a career as a MWD handler, she said.

Six months later, she finalized her transition paperwork and moved to active-duty. Johnson would then go on to spend the next seven years, to include multiple deployments and assignments, working toward her goal, she said.

“I just knew it was something I was meant to do,” she said. “Being an MWD handler is an intense and high-impact job — a way of life.”

On Oct. 17, the Military Women’s Memorial unveiled its first monument on the eve of its 23rd anniversary. The memorial honors and tells the stories of women, past and present, who have served the nation.

The monument, titled “The Pledge,” captures a moment of mutual respect and love between a female handler and her Belgian Malinois, said Susan Bahary, its artist.

The monument depicts a dog reaching up to her handler as she kneels beside the dog. It captures a feeling of commitment and support, as both reach out to each other with a desire to accomplish their mission, Bahary added.

Johnson proudly served as a handler before retiring in 2012 as a sergeant first class with a military occupational specialty code of 31BZ6, or a MP officer with a working dog additional skill identifier, she said. The Army transitioned to the new 31K MWD handler career field just two years later.

“The job was physically and mentally draining, but none of that mattered if I had my dog beside me,” she said.

As a career handler, Johnson attended the unveiling ceremony with other military handlers. Together, they showed their combined support for their career field and paid respect to the female handlers who helped paved the way, she said.

“It is a beautiful monument that will one day change the trajectory of some little girl’s life,” Johnson said, much like the way her life changed when she first met Solo and McKinney.

MWD impact

Military working dogs are a force multiplier, often used to provide patrol, narcotics, and explosive detection capabilities in garrison or on the battlefield, said Sgt. Maj. Viridiana Lavalle, the Army’s most senior ranking 31K MWD handler.

These dogs can do “a plethora of things that no piece of equipment or Soldier can emulate … with their sense of hearing, smell and ability to detect,” said Lavalle, who is the provost sergeant major for the directorate of emergency services at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Handlers often operate as individual augmentees and can deploy at home or abroad with any unit or agency to provide immediate animal support, she said.

“Dog handlers must be extremely self-sufficient and independent, regardless if they are an 18- or 19-year-old private first class or a seasoned staff sergeant,” Lavalle added.

These Soldiers need to display a high level of maturity and professionalism to find success, she said. Handlers are considered subject-matter experts the moment they arrive and must be able to articulate the limitations and capabilities of the MWD to their chain of command.

Like Johnson’s experience in Panama, Lavalle’s passion for dogs led her to join the military police corps in 2001 and later transition to a MWD handler in 2003.

“I think we have evolved when it comes to women serving in the MWD MOS,” Lavalle said, adding that more women should choose to serve as a 31K.

The Army currently has close to 650 Soldiers in the MWD field, with nearly 20% of them female, she said.

“We have made a tremendous amount of progress, but we are still facing various obstacles,” Lavalle said. “I have faith we will continue to overcome them and exceed the standards.”

Overall, the MWD career field is one of the best jobs the Army has to offer, she said.

“I can’t even explain how rewarding it is,” Lavalle said. “When you first get your MWD assigned to you and you start to build that bond — then you start to see that team concept.”

Developing trust

Building trust with a K-9 counterpart is a critical aspect of the career field, Johnson said, as she recalled one incident with her explosives detection dog named Fido that warned Soldiers of a possible danger.

While deployed to Iraq, Johnson and another MWD handler joined a quick reaction force to track down an escaped prisoner in a vast junkyard filled with decommissioned Iraqi military equipment and vehicles.

The junkyard spanned across several acres with multiple entry points, Johnson said. Leaders decided to split the handlers into smaller squads and enter the scrapyard on opposing sides to cover more ground.

“I am telling my dog, ‘Find the bad guy,’ as he almost pulls my arm out of the socket,” Johnson said. “We are moving through the junkyard when he starts going crazy and immediately sits down.”

Thinking Fido was just confused by her command, Johnson encouraged him to get back up and continue the search. He pressed forward a little further before deciding to sit once again.

That was when it dawned on her that she recognized her dog’s signal for unexploded ordinances in the area.

Military working dogs are trained to receive praise or reward after completing a task, Johnson explained. An MWD never stops working. In this instance, Fido made the right choice to signal instead of blindly searching the area for the escaped individual.

“I turned around to the squad leader and said, ‘Shut off all your radios, let my dog in front of you and only step where we step.’”

Johnson led the team out of the junkyard and ran around to extract the other squad. The second handler was paired with a narcotics detection dog and was not trained to detect explosives in the area.

“Establishing a bond and rapport is everything to that handler,” Lavalle said. “Without it, that team will not be effective” or could become a liability.

“That is something that we establish from day one when a Soldier goes through dog handling school,” she added. “Understanding the need for a common mutual respect between the dog and handler, and building the rapport and fundamentals during training” is critical to the mission.

The Pledge

Planning for the monument started just under two years ago after the U.S. War Dogs Association commissioned a memorial to honor the service and sacrifice of female MWD handlers, Bahary said.

“With ‘The Pledge,’ we felt it had to represent all women in the military,” Bahary said. “When you can move people emotionally through a work of art, it can open their hearts and make them more apt to learn.”

As Bahary started designing the monument, she was determined to convey a strong message of duty, capability, commitment and compassion in both figures. She began by looking at many photos of MWD handlers to draw inspiration for her design.

At one point in the design process, Bahary physically kneeled as if to pose herself in front of a dog sitting with an outstretched paw. Doing so helped ensure a level of authenticity in her final design, she said.

Bahary then went on to start the female figure using a metal armature as a base and covering it with layers upon layers of clay, she said. She then began the sculpting of the military working dog and later added the intricate details of the uniform and equipment.

The model was then cast to create a series of molds, she said. From these molds a multi-step process known as a lost-wax was used to produce a bronze casting of the final figure. The metal process can take two to three months to complete.

The final piece was welded together, the metal was finished, sprayed, and brushed with different chemicals and heated to create color variations. It was then mounted onto a granite base for display at the memorial.

Bahary created the country’s first official war dog memorial, “Always Faithful,” in 1994 to honor all military working dogs killed during service. It was unveiled at the Pentagon and dedicated at the Marine Corps War Dog Cemetery in Guam. It depicts the well-known Marine Corps Doberman named Kurt that fought during the Second Battle of Guam during World War II.

She is also working on the National Service Animals Monument. This monument will be dedicated to the deeds and sacrifices of all animals employed by the military, police, and search and rescue groups, along with the animals providing assistance and companion services or emotional support.

“As an artist, this is an incredible honor,” Bahary said. “It feels so gratifying to know that the women in the military are finally getting this kind of well-deserved recognition in our nation’s capital.”

The Pledge monument is genuinely humbling, Lavalle said, adding that Bahary did a phenomenal job representing all female handlers.

“It is an honor to have the opportunity to be the first female handler to achieve the rank of sergeant major, and to be a part of this era where women handlers are starting to be formally recognized and honored for their sacrifices and commitment to the military working dog program,” Lavalle said.

“As a 31K dog handler, it is my duty and the duty of other women handlers to continue to pave the way,” she added. “This is my passion, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I was born to be a dog handler and trainer.”

By Devon Suits, Army News Service

Woofers and Whiskers

Saturday, November 7th, 2020

Woof and Whiskers’ Small Travel Food Bag is now offered in 3 different sizes. They are made from 1000D Cordura with a pack cloth interior. The tops are closed with a YKK zipper and they incorporate a 2″ clear window.

Available in Coyote, Black and Grey.

These Made in the USA bags feature a 60-day trial and a lifetime guarantee.

Buy online at www.wwpetproducts.com