By Ms. Dawn M Arden (Leonard Wood)April 21, 2016
Students from the 31K Military Occupational Specialty Advanced Individual Training course in Company C, 701st Military Police Battalion, got a first-hand glimpse into their future career as military working dog handlers April 6.
"There's a requirement in their instruction to spend eight hours at a kennel," said Sgt. 1st Class Craig Chambers, 180th Military Police Detachment, kennel master. "We've taken that requirement and tried to add onto it the best way we could, by giving them a snapshot of what a kennel does on a day-to-day basis."
The visit not only gives the future dog handlers an idea of what they will be doing, but also gets them out of the classroom.
"What we teach them in the classroom environment is purely knowledge based, with a little bit of practical exercises. Here (at the kennel) they get to see all of that put together in one day and see how it all works together," said Sgt. 1st Class John Thomas, 31 Kilo AIT, Phase One instructor.
"In the classroom environment, I can tell you how it's going to be all day long and you might have a picture in your mind about it, but until you get to see it in action you're only going to sit there and wonder how the job is going to be. At least with this portion they can see, and it gives them something to look forward to," Thomas said.
Throughout the day, students were able to see how a kennel operates, what it takes to care for the dogs and some training exercises.
"We start off our morning at the kennels, where they get to see them pull out their explosives and narcotics for dog training and where the dogs live, how they live and how they're fed," Thomas said. "They give them a brief introduction into some administrative stuff inside the kennels, and then we come out here and they get to see the dog training in action."
After finishing phase one of their MOS training on Fort Leonard Wood, the Soldiers in training ship out to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, for an additional 11 weeks to complete their training as Military Working Dog handlers.
"It's really motivating to see this course and what we're actually going to be doing really helps us," said Pvt. Raven Calig, Soldier in training, Co. C, 701st MP Bn. "Any questions that we've had, they've been able to answer."
Chambers had some parting advice for the future handlers.
"It's a very tough job, and it's very behind closed doors. This is a lifestyle. It's not college; it's not high school, and it's not a job where you go in and punch a card from 9 to 5 and expect that dog to save lives," Chambers said. "It's a living, breathing animal. There are going to be days where you walk in and that dog is going to do everything the opposite of what you tell it."
Chambers said he feels taking the students into the real world of dog handling better prepares the Soldiers for their first duty station.
"We're trying to bridge the gap, so when they get to their first kennel, they will have somewhat of an idea of what the Kilo active-duty Soldier is doing and speed up the process of getting certified dogs and competent teams out there," Chambers said .
"We're advancing the ability to have capable and competent handlers," he added.