Connecticut Guard trains dogs of war

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By Master Sgt Cohen Young
War Dogs
Army Sgt. Jeffrey R. Holyst, 11th Military Working Dog Detachment, Connecticut Army National Guard, gets "Jury," a MWD to bite his toy while U.S. Soldiers and Airmen exchanged K-9 training techniques with their Philippine military counterparts at Clark Field, Philippines, during Exercise Balikatan 2011, April 7, 2011. The training helps maintain readiness and sustain the long-term security
assistance relationship shared between the two countries.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Cohen Young, Defense Media Activity)

CLARK FIELD, Philippines - U.S. soldiers and airmen exchanged K-9 training methods with the Armed Force of the Philippines during Exercise Balikatan 2011 here recently.

A joint team of six U.S. military personnel are currently working with more than 30 members of the Philippine army, Marines and air force working dog teams.

The U.S. team consists of three active duty airmen from the 36th Security Forces Squadron, Andersen Air Base, Guam, and three Guardsmen from the 928th Military Police, Connecticut Army National Guard.

The main focus of this joint training is to reinforce obedience skills, combat tracking and some refresher aggressive tactics.

"The dogs that the Philippine military members are using haven't been through obedience training, while that is where we start our training before we do anything else," said Sgt. 1st Class Jimmie Smith, the 928th MP kennel master. "On the other hand, a few of us aren't skilled in the combat tracking aspect of dog handling."

This is the first time that the Connecticut Army National Guard section has participated in an exercise like Balikatan, which will act as a preparation tool for their unit before deploying to Afghanistan.

"This is the first time that the [Connecticut Army National Guard] has ever done something like this and especially so far from where we are located, so this is a wonderful opportunity to get out here and train," said Smith, a resident of Newtown, Conn.

Although this is the first time that the Guard K-9 units has been to an event like this, many of them have worked with other military working dog teams from their sister services before. All of the dog handlers in the various services of the U.S. military train at the same school together and frequently learn from one another.

"Even though all of U.S. military train at the same school, we come to events like this and learn more from each other in addition to what we learn from our foreign counterparts," added Smith.

The joint team has benefited from working with their Philippine counterparts greatly.

"The Philippine military has been receptive to what we teach our dogs during obedience training, and I think they have benefited from the training," said Tech. Sgt. Rodney Banes, a native of Soperton, Ga., and currently assigned to the 36th SFS at Andersen Air Base, Guam. "Our dogs are dual trained in detection and obedience, while their dogs are trained in detection only at this location."

This exercise builds on the joint force that currently occurs in many U.S. operations across the globe.

"It's always great working with the Army, because there isn't an adjustment at all, since we all attend the same school located at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas," added Banes.

The training was a good lesson for young members of the Philippine air force as they had not worked with U.S. forces before.

"The training has been hard, but it is nice," said 73rd Security Squadron, Philippine air force Airman 1st Class Emanuelle Leonardo. "I like working in a mixed exercise like this, because I learn some new techniques from the U.S. Army and Air Force. This basic obedience training will go far in my development as a dog handler."

Balikatan means "shoulder to shoulder" in Tagalog and is an annual Republic of the Philippines and United States bilateral military humanitarian assistance and training exercise that will take place in the Philippines April 5-15. The training helps maintain readiness and sustain the long-term security assistance relationship shared between the two countries.

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