FORT RILEY, Kan. - For one Soldier, his fifth deployment will be an exciting one, he said, because it is his first deployment as a military working dog handler.

"It'll be new experiences. I'm looking forward to it. I'm not dreading it at all," said Sgt. Brandon Cleveland, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 97th Military Police Battalion.

Cleveland and his partner, Barry, an 8-year old Belgian Malinois, are no strangers to deployment - this is not Barry's first deployment, either.

The military working dog team left Jan. 15 for a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

With this being his fifth deployment overall and second to Afghanistan, Cleveland said he knows what's coming.

Military working dog handlers and their partners deploy individually and not with their units, Cleveland said. The team knew of its upcoming deployment, but was not aware of what the mission would be once downrange.

"When we get in-country, that's when they put us where they need us," Cleveland said.

Some ideas of what their mission will be include being attached to a Special Forces unit or working gates conducting vehicle searches, Cleveland said.

Training is the key when preparing for deployment with any military unit - the same goes for the military working dog unit, he said.

"We train every day. It's an ongoing training process," Cleveland said.

When a four-legged Soldier is part of the training, he said, the length of time for training can vary.

"Some dogs, you can start training with them, and it'll only take a couple weeks to get to a certain level that you need to be at," Cleveland said. "With other dogs, it might take a couple months."

Prior to deploying, the team had to go through a certification process.

"Before we get certified to be able to deploy, we have to go through a validation with our kennel master here, which is multiple detection problems, a lot of aggression training and things like that," Cleveland said.

Once the kennel master validates the team, it goes on to a three-day to weeklong certification for the same areas of training.

"Once they stamp you that you're certified as a team, then you're good to go - you can work the road here or get deployed," Cleveland said.

Cleveland and his wife, Ashley, have three children, Michaela, 5, Mckenzie, 4, and Kennedy, 1.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16