U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll recently welcomed the newest arrival of the island’s security team: Military Working Dog Lasta, a Belgian Malinois, who together with her partner, Sgt. Brendan Trapp, is hard at work sniffing out illegal items and potential contraband at Kwajalein’s entry and exit points.
There are many things that set Lasta apart from the island’s four-legged residents, said Trapp. The main one is a high level of training. Lasta has been training for her job on Kwajalein for years.
“Working dogs such as Lasta are bred to work and are trained from an early age on how to do their jobs,” said Trapp.
Dogs have augmented police operations for decades. Traditionally billed as “man’s best friend,” their keen sense of smell and alacrity also makes dogs ideal for detecting complex scents that a human cannot easily detect. Dogs frequently save lives on search and rescue missions and played an important role at Ground Zero, following the terror attacks of 9/11.
Quick and intelligent, dogs like the German shepherd and Malinois are highly sought by global security forces. Even so, there is a fierce selection process for MWDs, just as there is for their handlers. Trapp brought five years’ experience as a U.S. military dog handler to Kwajalein. He remembers passing the stringent five-day exam designed to test for his effectiveness and competency in working with a K-9 partner.
On the job, Trapp also monitors Lasta’s health and safety, ensuring she is happy, properly hydrated and not overheated after working on the hot tarmac. In this line of work, it also helps to just love dogs. Trapp grew up in Merritt Island, Florida, in a household with a Boston Terrier and an English Bulldog. On their days off, Trapp and Lasta play fetch and enjoy the shade and being a team.
“I love the fact that every day is different and brings its own challenges,” Trapp said. “On a lot of jobs, you punch the clock and do the same things repeatedly day to day. In K-9, we are constantly adjusting and adapting to complete the mission as effectively and efficiently as possible.”
Already, Trapp and Lasta have completed numerous patrols at the Kwajalein airport. Outside of the island’s checkpoints, residents may meet the duo as they conduct inspections in housing areas and near Kwajalein’s entry and exit points. Trapp reminds them that Lasta is not a pet—she is a working dog. If residents spot Lasta on patrol, they are free to come up and ask questions, but pet owners are also advised to stay 10 to 15 feet away to keep their animals safe, he said.
“We are here to contribute to the safety and security of the community,” Trapp said.
Lasta’s team is about to get bigger, said Security Chief Chris Ramsey this week.
“As of Jan. 27, an additional drug dog team and two bomb dog teams have successfully completed their certifications,” Ramsey said. “Subsequently, they are now on their way to Kwajalein to join up with Sgt. Trapp and Lasta in our important mission for our client.”