By Vince Little, The BayonetApril 23, 2010
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Turns out, the doghouse isn\'t such a bad place to be after all.
Fort Benning's military working dogs have a brand new living facility on Main Post after Tuesday's grand opening of the $2.6 million kennel and office complex built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The 209th Military Police Detachment had operated the section at an adjacent temporary site since moving from Harmony Church last July.
"The old one was ready to be replaced and we needed a new one built to house more dogs and give a better training area to the handlers," said SFC James Allred, kennel master for the unit's military working dog section. "Also due to the (Base Realignment and Closure) construction, our old kennels would have been in the way of the progress that the BRAC program is working hard to complete. This is a cleaner, safer, climate-controlled area for the dogs compared to the old ones, which didn't have any of this stuff."
Contractors and designers used the latest engineering and modernization expertise to produce the new kennel complex, said Brian Murray, USACE's project engineer. Construction began in October.
"This Military Working Dog Kennel will be used as a template for future facilities throughout the Army," he said. "It's an upgrade from the existing facility. Here, the Army can provide in-house care to the military working dogs. An elaborate exam room was designed into the facility to allow veterinarians to examine and treat the dogs on site without having to transport them to a veterinary office."
SGT Amy Meyer, a handler with the 209th Military Police Detachment, said the military working dog section now has a "first-class facility" with the upgraded infrastructure.
"The new kennel offers the military working dogs more pleasurable living conditions than what they have had in the past," she said. "The military working dogs will have a bigger living space. With the additional outdoor space, we have more room to be able to train multiple dogs at once.
"The veterinarian exam room is definitely an added bonus so that if there are any issues with the dogs, they're able to be taken care of right at the kennels versus having to make a trip to the vet."
Military working dogs routinely take part in Fort Benning patrols and get sent on tandem deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq with their handlers.
"They are a vital part and asset to our military police working force," said CPT Brian Miller, the 209th Military Police Detachment commander. "The dogs present law enforcement with a physical force that's an alternative to using deadly force."
The grand opening included demonstrations by military working dog teams of their training and capabilities.
"The military working dogs play a key part in our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also in force protection here at Fort Benning," COL Thomas Macdonald, the garrison commander, said at the ceremony. "It can't be stated enough how hard our MWD teams work ... They are constantly in demand on post and overseas."
In the doghouse
WHAT: $2.6 million kennel and office complex for Fort Benning's military working dog section
WHERE: Main Post
FEATURES: Include 25 runs, or living spaces; a veterinary examination room, training areas and a 2,500-square-foot administration office. Indoor and outdoor runs provide better protection from the weather. New facility also has an upgraded security system, more work stations for handlers and break areas for the dogs - not just an open area.
Engineers said the kennel is climate-controlled and 100 percent washable, which boosts sanitary conditions by decreasing the chance that contaminants will spread from one dog to another and within the facility.
FORMER HOME: Kennel had been at Harmony Church for almost 40 years, but it's occupied a temporary site on Main Post since last July.
* There are 13 dog handlers assigned to Fort Benning's military working dog section. Three working dog teams are currently deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan as individual augmentees.
* Military working dogs are trained to search for explosives and narcotics. They are also cross-trained to protect their handlers and subdue subjects who attempt to escape.
* By regulation, working dog teams conduct at least 16 hours of detection training and spend 16 hours on patrol every month.
* Fort Benning's military working dogs are all German Shepherds, but the Department of Defense trains several other working breeds.
* All military working dogs and handlers, regardless of service branch, begin their careers at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, near San Antonio, before going to operational units throughout the DoD.