Military working dogs show off skills in demo

Military working dogs are trained to protect their handlers at all times (Dave MacQueen/WCIV)

By Sonya

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- They work right along side their human counterparts in police cars and on deployments: they are military working dogs.

These four-legged police are just as much a part of the security forces as their handlers.

"They bring a lot of capabilities that we as humans aren't able to do," said Staff Sgt. Craig Martin, who trains military work dog on Joint Base Charleston. "They can detect narcotics, they can detect explosives, and they can physically apprehend people."

But getting the dogs trained requires hours and hours of hard work including basic commands and jumping over hurdles, but the most important part of that training is the relationship between the handler and the dog.

"You want the dog to be able to trust the handler and make sure that he is going to be there for him and on the other side you want to handler to be able to trust the dog because on a lot of occasions, the handler's life is really going to be in the dog's hands," said Martin.

Martin knows that feeling first hand as he was stationed in Afghanistan with his dog, Benny.

"It's a huge morale boost over there, whether it is home station or whether it is a deployed location," said Martin. "If you have a dog on your team, you know you got one up on whoever is against you."

And now that team is back together again. Martin was able to adopt Benny after he was retired from the military. Benny now spends time relaxing with his former partner and best friend.

All of the military working dogs train at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio then training continues at their next base. There are currently eight dog teams at Joint Base Charleston.


Another dog set for first deployment

While Benny was retired from active service, another dog, Jaga, is just getting ready for his first deployment with his handler, Staff Sgt. Kyle Shaughnessy.

According to a Joint Base Charleston article, Jaga is a 3-year old German Shepherd assigned to the 628th SFS and "when she's not sleeping, playing or eating a high protein diet, she's a force multiplier Airman, with skilled abilities to detect explosives and prevent attacks from enemy insurgents."

Jaga and Shaughnessy are scheduled to deploy later this month, which will be the first time the two are deployed together.

"I'm not worried about deploying," said Shaughnessy, a native of West Palm Beach, Fla. "I'll be with my best friend, and we'll experience it all together."

While they wait to deploy, the dog and handler train every day on obstacle and obedience courses.

"The obstacle course helps Jaga prepare for a deployed environment," said Shaughnessy. "She listens to my commands, easily climbs barriers and palisades, and in the future, will be able to transfer that knowledge to the terrain of a mountainside or forward operating base."

Joint Base Charleston personnel make sure Jaga, like any soldier, is in top physical form, and often has her running long distances with Shaughnessy.

Shaughnessy says he's certain Jaga will be up to the physical demands of a deployment.

"Jaga is still a puppy," said Shaughnessy. "She is full of energy, fun to work with and constantly on the move. Being a new handler, I feel very lucky to also be taking on the challenge of working with a new dog."

Jaga has been stationed at Joint Base Charleston since December.