JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
The 66th Training Squadron partnered with civilian volunteer
canine search and rescue organizations for a training exercise April 2 at JBSA-Lackland’s
The event was the first time the organizations, Alpha Search
and Rescue and Seeker Dogs, have worked alongside military personnel in a
training environment at JBSA, said Major Bryan, Air Force Material Command
senior research chemist.
Bryan said the goal of the training exercise was to cultivate
a relationship between all of the organizations so large-scale exercises could
continue to occur.
“Training with canine organizations is always a challenge
logistically,” Bryan said. “To simulate lost people we need to place a person
in an isolated area for an extended period of time to provide the canine with a
realistic search scenario.
“In the unlikely event that an incident did occur on JBSA,
that necessitates outside resources, these would be two local teams that would
be called on first to assist, and you never want the first interaction to be at
a real event.”
A total of 20 canines and their handlers, as well as JBSA
Fire and Emergency Services, joined to complete more than 90 different training
scenarios directed to personnel recovery, which included man-trailing, large
area search and human remains detection, Bryan said.
The designated training zone on Medina Annex was comprised of
an unused housing development, as well as an urban simulator, which included
wooded areas and unused trailers. The sparsely populated areas created a
beneficial setting for Seeker Dogs and Alpha SAR’s dog handlers to work with their
dogs, said Kristin Smaltz, Alpha SAR president.
“It’s really great getting to work in different types of
environments and different terrains,” Smaltz said. “This abandoned neighborhood
is really great because we get to work with the dogs without having to worry
about traffic or other people and property lines, so it gives us a lot of
The training environment also allowed 33 JBSA volunteers,
including some students from the 66 TRS, to experience personnel recovery
Airman 1st Class Cody Thaler, 66 TRS student, said being
able to see the capabilities of a trailing dog and how it can track a human’s
scent was “extremely beneficial.”
“The ones that have graduated the selection course - it’s
good for them to know later on when they’re providing instruction,” Thaler
said. “It’s going to be helpful for them when they have to give country
specific briefs to pilots or any other person that may need the training.”
Although it was the first interaction on base between the
SAR agencies and the 66 TRS, all the participants involved were eager to
continue a working relationship, Bryan said.
“We were hoping to get an exposure for each group to their
potential counterparts,” Bryan said. “Some of the dogs did have issues
throughout the day, but all of the training scenarios were successfully completed
by multiple dogs, showing the depth of these teams to be able to assist in the
event of a real-life event.”