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NEWS | April 19, 2016

AETC's 66th TRS teams with canine search, rescue organizations

Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

The 66th Training Squadron partnered with civilian volunteer canine search and rescue organizations for a training exercise April 2 at JBSA-Lackland’s Medina Annex.

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 opportunities.”

The training environment also allowed 33 JBSA volunteers, including some students from the 66 TRS, to experience personnel recovery firsthand.

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.”