Connecticut Guard K-9s Test Their Skills in Plane Search

By Timothy Koster, Connecticut National Guard Public Affairs OfficeAugust 31, 2023

U.S. Army Sgt. Kevin O'Connell and his working dog, Misha, search a C-130H aircraft for simulated explosives during a training event at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. Aug. 29, 2023. This training was designed to help handlers and their K-9 step outside their comfort zone, train in an unfamiliar environment, and build rapport with their sister service.
U.S. Army Sgt. Kevin O'Connell and his working dog, Misha, search a C-130H aircraft for simulated explosives during a training event at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. Aug. 29, 2023. This training was designed to help handlers and their K-9 step outside their comfort zone, train in an unfamiliar environment, and build rapport with their sister service.
(Photo Credit: Timothy Koster)
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EAST GRANBY, Conn. - The Connecticut National Guard’s 928th Military Working Dog Detachment searched a 103rd Airlift Wing C-130H aircraft Aug. 29 in an exercise that tested the capabilities of its K-9 service dogs.

In the scenario, a junior 103rd AW Airman released from military service due to dereliction of duty was tampering with the aircraft at Bradley Air National Guard Base.

Following his arrest, police found explosives at the Airman’s residence. The 103rd called on Soldiers from the 928th — the only military working dog unit in the U.S. military’s reserve component — to help investigate the tampered aircraft and the tarmac for any explosives.

“Today, we coordinated training with the airlift wing to get our military working dogs on some aircraft,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Kevin O’Connell, a dog handler with the 928th. “Our military working dogs are expected to search for explosives in a wide array of different environments and both dog and handler need to be comfortable working in tight spaces and around loud noises on airstrips, pretty much any environment that bad guys want to hide explosives.”

Most of the unit’s training happens in and around its training facility in Newtown. While this provides adequate space to maintain the certifications and skills for their mission, the partnership with the 103rd allows these Soldiers to step outside their comfort zone, train in an unfamiliar environment, and build rapport with their sister service. For many of the unit’s handlers, this was the first time they had trained on an aircraft.

Each handler had to go through the process of what they’d do in a real-world situation, briefing a unit commander and on-ground security forces before searching the plane to find specially scented training aids that simulated bombs.

“Our handlers are expected to be on-scene commanders whenever and wherever they’re going,” said O’Connell. “We like to constantly test the capabilities and limitations of our handlers.”

The 928th provides its services in emergencies and during special events nationwide.

“We’re both used in state and federal functions,” said O’Connell. “So, we can be used from a random anti-terror mission at a local armory all the way to being requested by the U.S. Secret Service for presidential and vice presidential … sweeps and that can range from New York to Maine to Texas. Wherever they need us, we can be there. Our jobs are to be flexible and to be on call for whoever needs us because you never know when something’s going to go down.”

The 928th employs explosive working dogs trained to find a variety of explosive materials, and dogs trained to work with police and the Coast Guard to uncover narcotics and other illegal drugs hidden by smugglers.

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