Working dogs play a critical role in the safety and security of Soldiers and civilians alike. The training these magnificent animals receive can vary from organization to organization, but the certification process remains the same.

"U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) hosted members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to provide training and certification for both military and civilian working dogs," said Master Sgt. Viridiana Lavalle, the USARPAC Military Working Dog (MWD) Program Manager.

According to Lavalle, 25 dog teams participated in the training from a variety of organizations including U.S. Army Japan, U.S. Army Alaska, 8th Military Police Brigade, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), ATF, the Honolulu Police Department, the New Zealand Army, and the Australian Army.

"It was amazing, being able to exchange knowledge and explore different training methods," said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Coleman, a dog handler with 520th MWD Detachment, 728th Military Police Battalion, 8th MP Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command.

Coleman went on to say that having the opportunity to talk about the similarities and differences in the way handlers from various organizations employ their unique capabilities was an outstanding opportunity.

"The training consisted of imprinting and certifying on various explosives to include homemade explosives," said Lavalle.

For some of the dogs, this was their first opportunity to work with homemade explosives.

Lavalle explained that the process of imprinting a working dog is the process of teaching the dog to recognize particular scents and react in specific was to ensure that both the dog and the handler understand what the dog has identified.

This process is key to ensuring that working dogs remain effective and current when providing safety and security according to Lavalle.

Lavalle said that the certification, provided by the ATF, is known as the National Odor Recognition Test (NORT).

"Getting the NORT certification is important because homemade explosives are used worldwide," said Coleman.

Coleman explained that, "Being able to allow our dogs to hit pure homemade explosive odor that is not contaminated by other odors is impossible to do without the ATF making and controlling it all the way to the point of introducing it to the dogs."

The NORT certification is a nationally recognized certification that will remain with the working dog throughout its career; however, each MWD will continue to undergo regular certifications in accordance with applicable legal and regulatory guidance to ensure the safety and well being of those they serve, according to Coleman.