As a Public Affairs Specialist I have the opportunity to cover a wide range of subjects. Since becoming, essentially an Army journalist, I have ridden in a blackhawk, chinook, and a xenon. I have taken photos of mortars being fired and I was privileged to be invited to a women's shura in Jaji Maidan and Women's International Day in Khowst City here in Afghanistan. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to add one more cool thing to my resume.
On Tuesday I attended canine training for the military working dogs here on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan. It was different then I expected. They showed me three aspects of training: detection, obedience and patrol. During the detection phase they have the dog find an explosive in a building that could not be detected by the human eye.
After that we moved onto obedience training. Before conducting obedience training, they play with the dog to get him in a playful frame of mind. The handlers get their best results when the dog is feeling playful. Perhaps I'll keep that in mind for when I have to train my next dog.
The last part of training was the bite training. This was my favorite part. All canines that are trained for patrol are trained to attack. They are a nonlethal means to apprehend and detain a suspect. One of the trainers acted as a decoy while the other sent the dog after him. At first I was surprised because the decoy only wore protective covering on one arm. I was told they were trained to catch the dog with that arm, and by catch I mean, let the dog bite them. He also didn't just stand still when the dog latched on. He would wave his arm around and try to wrestle it away. This was so the dog would think the prey, in this case the arm, was still alive. Otherwise, if the arm stopped moving the dog would think it was dead and might latch onto something else.
When the training was done, they asked me if I wanted to participate while wearing a bite suit and get attacked. Me being me, said 'Of course, I want to do that.' Since I wasn't trained to handle dogs, they brought out the full bite suit, the one that covers every inch of your body and is bright red. I felt like a penguin trying to walk around in that thing. They gave me a briefing and told me to keep my hands inside the suit at all times and that if I fell to pull my head into the suit like a turtle.
Here they are showing me how to fall. Two of them had to hoist me back onto my feet after I was 'apprehended'
The first time they released the dog, I broke into a half hearted run because the object of the exercise was for the dog to catch me. I was not expecting, however, for the trainer to come running up saying 'don't you move, scumbag' or for him to start asking me 'do you have any weapons.' He told me later, that it was for the dogs benefit. They had to sound angry so when they're in the field, the dog will already be used to that tone of voice.
Moments before I am taken down When the dog hits, he hits hard.
The second time I did it, they told me to run as if I had never run before, so that's what I did. I took off as fast as my penguin suit would allow. I'd made it a fair distance too when the trainer yelled 'he's coming, get ready.' This time when the dog took me to the ground he did it with enough force that I rolled onto my head and ended up flipping over. The handler thought that was hilarious and encouraged the dog to keep going. The dog dragged me in a full circle before they finally pulled him off. I had a blast. I wanted to laugh the entire time, but thought it might not be appropriate.
This is where I rolled over onto my head The trainers watched him drag me in a circle. Admittedly it was pretty fun.
It was fun getting to participate in the bite training. The day reminded me of why I became a journalist and of one of things I love most about my job. I desperately needed that reminder and this story is definitely one that I will retell to family and friends.