News from the Sandbox
Page 3
Airman, dog provide security for Afghanistan.
by Senior Airman Catharine Schmidt
Combined Forces Command 
-- Afghanistan Public Affairs

11/30/2004 - KABUL COMPOUND, Afghanistan (AFPN) -- In August, Staff Sgt. David Yepsen had to do everything all Airmen do when they deploy, from updating training to getting medically cleared. He also had one more thing to worry about -- his military working dog deploying alongside him.

Sergeant Yepsen and his dog, Dax, from the 43rd Security Forces Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., are both deployed here with the Army’s 58th Military Police Company. They are the only Air Force canine team in Afghanistan. During their six-month tour, when the pair is not providing security at nearby Bagram Air Base, they are providing security here.

Anywhere from 30 to 60 vehicles come onto the compound daily and each is searched by a canine team, said Army Capt. Lorenzo Fiorentino, provost marshal and anti-terrorism force protection officer here. “A dog can find things a person can’t,” Sergeant Yepsen said. “A dog’s nose is probably 1,000 times (more sensitive) than a human’s nose. So it makes it easier for the dogs to find things that are hidden that (we) can’t find with the naked eye.”

The majority of the vehicles they search, such as septic and construction trucks, are driven by contractors. The team is always on call. “We search under the hood, inside the car, (in the) wheel wells. Anywhere you could think of to put an explosive is where we look, hoping he doesn’t respond,” Sergeant Yepsen said.

“You have to be able to read your dog, because (it will) have a change of behavior when (it) catches a scent,” he said. “For instance, Dax will put his tail up in the air, his nose will go up, he’ll get real excited, and then start pacing back and forth until he gets to the strongest point of the odor. Once he pinpoints the scent, he’ll sit and wait for me to reward him.”

Besides searching vehicles entering the compound, they search buildings and areas that are going to be used by visiting dignitaries. “We did a mission for the protective services team,” Sergeant Yepsen said. “We searched a restaurant, the surrounding area and the vehicles in that vicinity to make sure it was safe.”

Not only are they the only Air Force canine team around, Sergeant Yepsen is the only security forces Airman here. He said working with the Army has been a great opportunity, and the Soldiers said he is doing a great job here.

“Staff Sergeant Yepsen exemplifies the true meaning of professionalism and flexibility,” Captain Fiorentino said. “His integration into our operations was practically seamless.”

Since this is Sergeant Yepsen’s first deployment, he said it was nice to deploy with Dax, who has been on numerous deployments.

“Everyone at Pope said that if they had to deploy with a canine ... they would want Dax,” Sergeant Yepsen said. It could be because of Dax’s mellow temperament or his detection accuracy. But whatever the case, Sergeant Yepsen said he is glad to have him here.

“I miss my dogs at home, and I miss my wife, but it makes it a little easier to have somebody I know here with me,” he said. “He’s a good listener, but he doesn’t talk much.”

Even though the team is on call at all times, they find time to have some fun together, whether it is taking a walk outside, hanging out in their room or shopping at the bazaar. From work to play, this deployment has strengthened their bond making them an unstoppable team, Sergeant Yepsen said.

KABUL COMPOUND, Afghanistan -- Dax, a military working dog, searches the back of a vehicle here. Dax and his handler, Staff Sgt. David Yepsen, are the only Air Force canine team in Afghanistan. They are deployed supporting Operation Enduring Freedom from the 43rd Security Forces Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Catharine Schmidt)

KABUL COMPOUND, Afghanistan -- Staff Sgt. David Yepsen rewards his military working dog, Dax, with a toy after Dax found an item Sergeant Yepsen hid in a vehicle for training purposes. The two are the only Air Force canine team in Afghanistan. They are deployed supporting Operation Enduring Freedom from the 43rd Security Forces Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Catharine Schmidt)

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FOB McHenry benefits from ‘sniff support’
By Spc. Barbara Ospina 
March 16, 2006 

Zeko, an explosive detection canine, takes a breather, after his handler puts his specially made balistic "doggles" on for his daily training at the newly built training course at Forward Operating Base McHenry, Iraq. Spc. Barbara Ospina

KIRKUK, Iraq (Army News Service, March 15, 2006) -- With a modified ballistic vest, a Screaming Eagle combat patch and a Combat Action Badge, Zeko still may not look like the average Soldier, but he has become a valuable asset to the troops of Forward Operating Base McHenry.

The explosive detection dog has found improvised bombs buried several feet in the hard desert ground.

Zeko has brought new meaning to the phrase “man’s best friend,” said Bastogne Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, stationed at FOB McHenry. 

“He’s got a good rapport with the Soldiers,” said Staff Sgt. David Silberman, Zeko’s kennel master and partner for nearly two and a half years now.

“Our missions are really broad; we support everything,” Silberman reflected. “Every day we are learning something different for us to do.”

When it comes to his job, Zeko may be at the top of his game, but Silberman says he trains on a regular basis, just like Soldiers. 

Silberman said it takes on average two and a half years to get an explosive dog certified, but it does not end there; each dog must also go through an annual certification. Each dog must have a minimum 95-percent success rate on explosive detection or the dog is decertified.

“Explosive dogs are trained in nine different explosive odors,” Silberman stated confidently, while petting his partner. “He’s got to find every single one; he can’t miss them.”

Although Zeko is currently tested at 98.7 percent, and trained in desert warfare, Silberman takes it upon himself to keep their team up to the task by training everyday.

Using a newly built training course, Zeko practices many different obstacles.

Zeko warms up, walking through a small jump, followed by stairs and tunnels. 

The real workout starts when shouts echo through the air, followed by yelping. Silberman holds Zeko tightly, while a volunteer Soldier wearing a protective sleeve runs. Then, at the right moment, Silberman releases the now vicious dog. Zeko sprints after the man, leaping into the air and locking his jaw on the Soldier’s protected arm.

Attempts to shake him off fail as Zeko just bites harder. Then with a single command from his handler, Zeko releases the Soldier and returns to sit next to Silberman. A few seconds later, Zeko is rewarded with playful hugs and praises.

Not only does this furry four-legged Soldier pull his weight in the fight against improvised explosive devices, he has become very protective of his new Bastogne comrades. 

“We get to spend a lot of time with [Soldiers], he’s really close, and really protective of them,” Silberman said. “When we are taking rounds, he’s watching and really alert of his Soldiers, so he’s got a pretty good rapport with those guys.”

(Editor’s note: Spc. Barbara Ospina serves with 1st BCT Public Affairs, 101st Airborne Division.)

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German shepherd's sniff for trouble

by Tech. Sgt. Paul Dean
407th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

9/30/2005 - ALI BASE, Iraq — Ori had a couple of different handlers while his first one was off the job for a couple of years. But they’re back together now and sniffing out trouble at one of the entry check points here.

Ori and his handler, Staff Sgt. Tyreese McAllister, 407th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, aren’t the only K-9 team on base. On this day another team, Kevin [the dog] and Staff Sgt. Jake Bolton, also a 407th ESFS K-9 handler, were helping with the work. In addition, other K-9 teams were scattered around base checking off all kinds of security tasks.

Sergeant McAllister is deployed here from the 1st Security Forces Squadron, Langley Air Force Base, Va. Sergeant Bolton is deployed here from the 509th Security Forces Squadron, Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. The dogs came from the same place as their handlers.

The K-9 teams assigned to the 407th ESFS are integral to securing the base and helping facilitate the successful coalition missions that are undertaken here.

Using K-9 teams security forces is able to add an irreplaceable dimension of security to the base. The trained handlers guide their dogs expertly around dozens of vehicles each day as both use their senses to communicate to the other. The Airmen who handle the dogs rely on human training to lead the dogs to areas for inspection; the dogs use heightened and trained scent senses to complete the investigation and communicate any suspicions. The dialogue between handler and dog is unmistakable.

Sergeant Bolton has been with Kevin since May 2003 and has mixed feelings about his eventual return to duty at Whiteman.

“I should be sewing on (technical sergeant) when I get back. That means my K-9 duty will have to end,” Sergeant Bolton said. Many security forces units transition K-9 handlers into positions with greater responsibility when they’re promoted to E-6.

“But I’ve known people who’d rather pass up a promotion and stay with their dog,” Sergeant McAllister said.

Sergeant Bolton doubts he would pass up promotion, in which case Kevin will go on to work with another handler.

“[The dogs] deal with the changes pretty well,” Sergeant McAllister said. “After a couple of weeks with a new handler — learning how they sound out commands — things are fine.”

Ori had a few handlers while Sergeant McAllister was incapacitated, but the getting to know you again phase went smoothly.

“He acted a little funny at first, but within a couple of weeks it was as if we were never apart,” Sergeant McAllister said.

Regardless of any time apart, the two move around a vehicle as if each is reading the others’ mind.

K-9 dogs go to technical school at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Training lasts eight to 12 weeks (depending on the dog) according to Sergeants McAllister and Bolton, and then they train with their handler for a couple of weeks before the team is ready to work.

“You really develop a bond over time,” Sergeant Bolton said of his K-9 experience.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the option of taking Kevin with him if he loses his K-9 billet.

“The dogs work until they’re 10 or 12, or until they just decide ‘I don’t want to work anymore,’” he said. The dogs transition to new handlers as Airmen move on or until they self-retire.

K-9 handlers have preference in the adoption process at the end of a dog’s Air Force career.

So as the daily traffic flows onto Ali Base, Ori, Kevin and the other K-9s will keep doing their part to make sure missions can be undertaken successfully.


Ori, a six-year-old German Shepherd, loved the attention he received after a mission in Mosul. In the background is TSgt. Matthew Rebholz, his handler. I have yet to meet a soldier who doesn’t like dogs. Particularly those who sniff out explosives.

“I like having them around; they do a great job,” said SFC Mick Stowe as he and several soldiers from 2nd Platoon, B Co., 5th Regiment, 20 Infantry Regiment, began to patrol a street in the Hayaltenak neighborhood in Mosul. The feeling is reciprocated.

“We like being here with this guys,” said TSgt. Matthew Rebholz, an Air Force dog handler. “I have a lot of respect for these guys and what they do.The soldiers, however, were more interested in Ori, Rebholz’s six-year-old German Shepherd.

“Yeah, it’s great to have a dog out here on these missions,” said SSgt. Kenneth Jones as Ori sniffed through a vehicle. “These dogs can go through a car a lot faster than we can,” he added.

And Ori is no run-of-the-mill dog. “I’ve read somewhere that there is about $70,000 invested in a dog like this,” continued Rebholz. On several occasions, mangy and mean dogs approached Ori. And on each occasion, soldiers and Rebholz leveled their weapons on the dog.

“I’m not about to let one of these dogs hurt or sicken Ori,” said Rebholz as he holstered his weapon. “I don’t want to have to shoot someone’s dog, but Ori’s too valuable to be injuried,” he added. By the end of the mission, Ori had searched 48 vehicles.

“He’s done a good job for us today,” commented Jones. “We’d like to keep him,” he added.

Sandbox News 4




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