Military working dog kennel receives FORSCOM award for second consecutive year
March 6, 2014
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- For the past two years, Fort Drum military working dogs and their handlers have proved their mettle and outshined other units. For the second year in a row, the U.S. Army Forces Command's Best Military Working Dog Kennel Award has been presented to the 8th Military Police Detachment kennel, 91st Military Police Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade.
Brig. Gen. Michael L. Howard, 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander -- rear, set aside time Feb. 26 to congratulate the team at the 91st MP headquarters.
Howard spoke to several handlers and learned a little about them and their four-legged partners, whose specialties range from patrols, bomb detection and narcotics.
"A vital piece of gear for them is the nose," Howard said.
The general reflected on memories from deployments where Military Working Dogs, or MWDs, were wounded in the line of duty and their handlers reacted as if a human battle buddy was wounded.
"It's amazing to see the level of compassion and commitment from the handlers," Howard noted.
After speaking to each handler, Howard presented the trophy to Sgt. 1st Class Craig Chambers, the kennel master.
Chambers explained that while the award goes to the unit, the hard work and dedication of the individual handlers and dogs helped the unit earn the title.
The award was created only two years ago, according to Capt. André Kühner, commander of both 227th Military Police Detachment and 8th MP Detachment kennel.
"That means we are the only kennels to have ever received it," he said. "Clearly, we're the best kennels in the Army!"
The kennel award is based on points awarded by a U.S. Army Forces Command, or FORSCOM, board. Units earn points in categories to include training assessment, weapons qualification, physical training, military and civilian education, foundations of excellence, external evaluations and MWD training and certifications.
"In addition, the Annual Kennel Inspection and Assessment is looked at, in which we received an 'excellent' rating," Kühner said.
Military awards also are considered when scoring units, he added. Handlers assigned here have received many prestigious awards, to include a Bronze Star and an Army Commendation Medal with Valor, both from Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force -- Afghanistan.
"The keys to success in the 8th MP Detachment are individual ownership and leader involvement," Kühner said. "The Soldiers and non-commissioned officers in the 8th Military Police Detachment love what they do, and it shows in how they take ownership of their duties.
"Whether it's cleaning the kennels, clearing snow or training their dogs, they do it with a smile and with pride," he added. "Leaders at all levels are directly involved with the Soldiers' training, mentoring, counseling, checking and rechecking."
Kühner attributes the unit's exceptional leader involvement to teams from the unit being selected to provide explosive detection teams in support of 13 presidential and vice presidential protection missions.
The unit also received nine passing certifications on the first attempt, to include two privates first class who passed within 60 days of reporting from the new 31K MWD handler military occupational specialty program, which was approved in August 2011.
"The first course started in FY 2012, (and the) first privates came to our kennels in October 2012," Kühner said, adding that while this poses some challenges with having less experienced Soldiers joining the team, it offers advantages to the career field in the long run.
"I am extraordinarily proud of my dog handlers," he said. "Every new Soldier who comes to the unit hears directly from me that they are stepping into the best kennels in the Army, and we have the record to prove it. As a commander, I feel privileged to lead such a fine group of Soldiers and charged with a great responsibility to maintain that high standard."