By Sgt. Ricardo Branch, 8th Theater Sustainment Command Public AffairsSeptember 16, 2009
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (Sept. 11, 2009) - After four days of fierce competition, a Hawaii-based working dog team outscored the competition and was named "Top Dog" during the 2009 Hawaiian Islands Working Dog Competition Sept. 8 through 11 at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
Staff Sgt. Marcus Bates and his working dog, Bennie, 13th Military Police Detachment, 728th MP Battalion, had the best overall performance among all the working dog teams and took home the top trophy.
Approximately 30 teams from the Army, Air Force, Marines, Honolulu Police Department (HPD) and the Transportation Security Administration all gathered early in the week for a chance at the title of "Top Dog". During the competition, the dogs detected narcotics in a warehouse, ran through obstacle courses, and competed in a hardest-hitting dog competition to take down hostile personnel.
"It's important for them [Soldiers] to learn things from the scenarios they are given," McPeak said. "Many of the organizations here are providing valuable advice and tips for the Army handlers, which will make this competition better for years to come and improve on upon all the services' training procedures on the island."
The last time a military working dog competed in a local competition in Hawaii was back in 2001. Since the 'War on Terror' began, Hawaii-based military working dogs have had little time to compete due to being deployed across the globe with their dog handlers. Now that the deployment cycles have become routine and commonplace, military police Soldiers are back to refining their training opportunities and giving their dogs the chance to showcase their skills.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPeak, kennel master, 13th MP Det., 728th Military Police Battalion, and organizer of the event, said after taking over his position, he found numerous documents and photos from the last competition and wanted to have one again.
"There are many reasons to have an event like this," he said. "The biggest thing reason we wanted to have this competition was not just to compete, but to also get all the different organizations and services together. You can start exchanging training ideas and possibly work out things for future training support through these events."
Sgt. Nicholas Briggs, 13th MP Det., 728th MP Bn., who competed in the narcotics detection, said the competition was a good opportunity to show the public his team's skill.
"These competitions are good because it brings out the camaraderie between the dog handlers who work real hard and rarely have a chance to show their ability," Briggs said. "This allows other agencies like the Marines, HPD, and the (Transportation Security Administration) see how we do things differently. It's not just about to see who's the 'Top Dog,' but to see the different ways things can be done."
He said the process of training is not the same for each dog.
"Techniques change constantly," Briggs said. "If we have a problem with a dog, we may see or hear of a different way from someone else out here, which we can try and possibly improve our methods."
Although many organizations were competing, Briggs and the rest of the Army teams saw fierce competition from the Hawaiian Police Department dog team.
"The HPD guys seemed pretty spot on from training with their dogs for five or six years," he said. "They deal with a lot of high quantity drug busts, which makes them pretty good at detection. It's all in good fun though; you just take away what you can from every handler you meet."
Toward the end of the competition, rival competitors and fellow teammates sat side-by-side cheering on the dogs and handlers. Despite being from different branches of services and backgrounds, Briggs and his fellow competitors agreed on one thing, a dog truly is man's best friend.
"You go to work and are having a bad day, you leave it outside the kennel because there is someone who waits on you every day to take him out, play with him, and just go train," he said. "The dog is there for you and knows when you are having a bad day much like any friend."