By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterNovember 1, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 1, 2012) -- Police officers came by the Fort Rucker Primary School and taught students an important lesson and offered a unique way for them to learn about the dangers of drug use.
Soldiers of the 906th Military Police Military Working Dog Detachment visited Fort Rucker Primary School Oct. 29 for Safety Day to give the students a demonstration, according to Staff Sgt. Ryan M. Hastings, explosive dog handler.
"We wanted to come out for Safety Week and give a demonstration for the students to let them see what our capabilities are," said Hastings. "We want to let [the children] know that we're out here on Fort Rucker, and show them what we do and why we do it."
During the demonstration, Soldiers of the military working dog detachment showed the students how the dogs search for narcotics or explosives, as well as how they get the dog to chase a perpetrator.
Hastings explained to the children how they train the dogs to sniff for drugs and said that for the dogs, they try to make it a game. If they can find the scent that they want them to, they will give them a treat or a toy, and the dog is always trying to get that treat or toy, he said.
"The children like to watch the dogs play hide-and-seek and try to find the narcotics, and they love to watch them chase down and bite the bad guy," said Hastings.
Although the main focus of the demonstration was to teach students about drug awareness, Hastings said that it's also to get students familiar with police officers and for them to know that they are here to help.
"We want them to feel comfortable and confident that they can come up to a police officer if they have an issue with something," he said. "We want to take the fear or stigma [that children have] away from police officers."
It was also an opportunity for the police officers to teach the students about the military police dogs on the installation, and the type of dogs that they are.
"We wanted the police officers to come to explain to the [students] about what the dogs actually do," said Sylvia Thornton, music teacher and publicity person for Fort Rucker Primary School. "It's important for them to know the type of dog that the police are working with, and for them to know that they are not pets but working dogs here to help them. We're very excited to have them here, even I didn't know what they were going to do and I was excited to see it."
Throughout Safety Day, the students have been learning a lot about fire safety and general safety rules, and the school wanted to do it in conjunction with Red Ribbon Week.
"This is a culmination activity for drug awareness -- Red Ribbon Week," said Rene Hammond, guidance counselor for Fort Rucker Primary School. "We've presented several classes throughout the week about drug awareness on what they should and should not do, and what they should be aware of."
Throughout the week, students and teachers wore red shirts and red ribbons to symbolize a drug-free lifestyle, and educating at a young age is key, according to Hastings.
"If we teach them early on about [drug awareness and that the police are here to help], when they get older, not only will they not have issues with police officers, but hopefully they won't have any run-ins with them either," he said. "It's just important to have them learn about it at a young age."