By Master Sgt. Cohen A. YoungApril 11, 2011
CLARK FIELD, Philippines - U.S. servicemembers exchanged K-9 training methods with troops from the Armed Force of the Philippines April 7 during exercise Balikatan 2011, an annual training and humanitarian assistance exercise between the U.S. and Philippines being held April 5-15.
Three active-duty Airmen from the 36th Security Forces Squadron, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and three National Guardsmen from the 928th Military Police, Connecticut Army National Guard, made up the American team that worked with more than 30 members of the Philippine Army, Marine Corps and Air Force to reinforce obedience skills, combat tracking and aggressive tactics for military working dogs.
Some members of the Philippine Air Force were working with U.S. troops for the first time.
"The training has been hard, but it is nice," said Emanuelle Leonardo, an Airman 1st Class with the 73rd Security Squadron, Philippine Air Force. "I like working in a mixed exercise like this, because I learn some new techniques from the U.S. Army and Air Force. This basic obedience training will go far in my development as a dog handler."
One U.S. Airman participating in the event said the training was a success.
"The Philippine military has been receptive to what we teach our dogs during obedience training, and I think they have benefited from the training," said Tech. Sgt. Rodney Banes, a native of Soperton, Ga., currently assigned to the 36th Security Forces Squadron at Andersen Air Force Base. "Our dogs are dual-trained in detection and obedience, while their dogs are trained in detection only at this location."
Sergeant 1st Class Jimmie Smith, a kennel master for the 928th Military Police, Connecticut Army National Guard, said the teams had different skills.
"The dogs that the Philippine military members are using haven't been through obedience training, while that is where we start our training before we do anything else," he said. "On the other hand, a few of us aren't skilled in the combat tracking aspect of dog handling."
Smith said it's the first time his Connecticut National Guard section has participated in an exercise like Balikatan, which means "shoulder-to-shoulder" in Tagalog. The overall purpose of the exercise is to help maintain readiness and sustain the long-term security assistance relationship between the United States and Republic of the Philippines.
"This is the first time that the (Connecticut Army National Guard) has ever done something like this and especially so far from where we are located, so this is a wonderful opportunity to get out here and train," said Smith, of Newtown, Conn.
It is common for U.S. servicemembers to work with K-9 units from other military branches, Smith said. All dog handlers in the U.S. military train at the same location.
"Even though all of U.S. military train at the same school, we come to events like this and learn more from each other in addition to what we learn from our foreign counterparts," said Smith.