Showcasing military, police K-9 teams’ talents
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – FORT CARSON, Colo. — Billy Sawyer, left, restrains his K-9 from a decoy (acting suspect) during an obstacle course task at Iron Horse Park May 19, 2002. Twenty-three teams competed during the Rocky Mountain K-9 Challenge and Conference at Fort Carson May 15-20, 2022. (Photo Credit: Scott Prater) VIEW ORIGINAL
Showcasing military, police K-9 teams’ talents
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – FORT CARSON, Colo. — Billy Sawyer, K-9 instructor and evaluator, and his K-9 run work through an obstacle course at Iron Horse Park during the Rocky Mountain K-9 Challenge and Conference May 19, 2022. (Photo Credit: Scott Prater) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CARSON, Colo. — Twenty-three teams vied for top-dog-team status at the 2nd Annual Rocky Mountain K-9 Challenge and Conference competition at Fort Carson May 15-20, 2022.

Hosted by the 69th Military Police Detachment, 759th MP Battalion, the competition was designed to test working dog teams’ physical and mental acuity during a variety of law enforcement training lanes and combat-related tasks.

Teams representing the Army, Air Force, local law enforcement and Transportation Security Agency competed in events that involved detection, combat detection, obedience and agility, and controlled aggression.

Prior to the competition lanes, which were conducted during the event’s final days, teams attended numerous training seminars at various locations on post, where they learned and practiced advanced dog handling techniques.

Officer Scott Ferguson of the Colorado Springs Police Department and his K-9 took home the trophy as Top Working Dog Team after claiming top honors in the Drug Detection and Law Enforcement Team categories. Spc. Evan Tortorigi and his dog, 69th MP Det., earned first place in the Tactical Combat Casualty Care category, while Spc. Tristan Bayerlein and her dog, 69th MP Det., claimed top prize in the Explosive Detection Category. Senior Airman Armando Mendiola, Peterson Space Force Base, won the Top Obedience category and Sgt. Rene Ozaeta, 513th MP Company, Fort Bliss, Texas, claimed first place in the Top Combat Working Dog category.

The field was made up of military teams from Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort Riley, Kansas; and Fort Bliss, Texas, along with local and state law enforcement teams. Event organizer, Staff Sgt. Brandon Spears, plans NCO, 69th MP Det., brought in subject matter experts to serve as evaluators and judges, not only to keep the event unbiased, but also to create an avenue for the experts to relay their knowledge and expertise. Evaluators came from high-profile dog training academies and organizations.

“It takes some courage to come out and compete in these types of events,” said Billy Sawyer, an instructor and evaluator for the K-9 challenge. “This is tougher than the normal K-9 training we do because teams are watched and evaluated by a lot of people. Handlers are basically exposing themselves to critique. Now, we’re not here to beat handlers up. We want K-9 teams to improve, and this is a good way to accomplish that because it allows teams to put their skills and knowledge to the test.”

Clover Street, a local K-9 training academy owner, said teams varied widely in their level of experience. He instructed a class on decoy development during the seminar portion of the event, then evaluated teams as they competed in drug and explosive detection and then later in skills, obedience and performance events.

“One of the best things about this event was that teams could learn early and then obtain valuable feedback from evaluators as they worked through the training and competition lanes later on,” Sawyer said.

Spears said 759th MP Battalion leaders hope to host a similar event for military working dog and law enforcement teams next summer.