FORT LEE, Va. (Dec. 3, 2020) -- Military members, no matter when they served, grow accustomed to performance standards and the various means by which they are gauged.Not even military working dogs are exempt from these longstanding practices to determine operational effectiveness.Their competencies were on display here Nov. 23-25 during the Training and Doctrine Command MWD Certification hosted by Fort Lee’s 544th Military Police Detachment (MWD).“Certification is what the Department of Defense utilizes to guarantee the effectiveness of military working dog teams in regard to detection of explosives or narcotics,” said Sgt. 1st Class Manuel MarinCampagne, 544th MP Det. kennel master.Eight dog handler/MWD teams from four installations attempted to earn performance stamps of approval. MWD teams are required to certify annually, added MarinCampagne.“If you are not certified through the required process, you are not viewed as a reliable component and will not be utilized as such,” he said.Dog handlers – military occupational specialty 31K – along with their animals were required to display obedience, aggression and detection skills as they negotiated several performance lanes at locations around the installation during the event, explained SFC Jason Villafane, a certification official representing TRADOC.Spc. Amy Maulo, a 544th MP Det. dog handler, said certification is seen as high achievement in the career field because it validates the time invested in training.“Being certified has a sort of ‘street cred’ around here,” said the Vacaville, Calif., native. “If you don’t get certified, you’re not necessarily looked down upon but you’re pushed a little bit more. That’s a bad thing. Being certified, you get a little bit of leeway with other things.”Maulo and her German shepherd, Batman, earned certification during the event as did the remaining teams.Earning certification requires a high level of teamwork, emphasized MarinCampagne. Much of that is achieved through the rapport handlers build with their animals through daily training and interaction. Factors in that process include the handler’s experience and the dog’s temperament.“Sometimes, when you get a brand new handler coming from the schoolhouse and a brand new dog coming from the dog training school, it could take more than one time to get that military working dog certified,” he said. “The handler has a lot to learn, and the dog has a lot to learn. Together, they have a lot to learn as a team.”Handlers and canines have up to 90 days to earn certification once paired as a team. Their skillsets are then validated on a monthly basis.Teams not achieving validation are eligible to make another attempt in 30 days, said MarinCampagne.MWD teams carry out either narcotics or explosives detection missions to supplement law enforcement. They also support U.S. Secret Service activities all over the world.