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Air Force K-9 entertains students...

This year the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 195 decided to do something a little different for its Veterans Day event in Kenmare schools, much to the delight of the students.

11/14/17 (Tue)

This year the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 195 decided to do something a little different for its Veterans Day event in Kenmare schools, much to the delight of the students.

This year, Unit 195 brought in a Minot Air Force Base K-9 team to demonstrate the efficiency of military working dogs.

Marilyn Bott of Unit 195, said veterans give a blank check to the U.S. government up to and including their life and there aren’t enough people who know that.

Her sincere hope was that the interesting Veterans Day program would help Kenmare students remember why we recognize Veterans Day.

“To veterans of the past, thank you. To veterans of today, thank you,” Bott said. “To veterans of tomorrow, we will remember.”

Elementary Principal Janis Gerding, who introduced the Air Force team, told the students that if they see a veteran over the weekend, they should thank them.

She also pointed out that many kids wrote letters to veterans in the community to recognize their sacrifice, no matter what period of time or what branch of the armed forces they served.

“We have a K-9 today as a special guest,” Gerding said. “Welcome Sgt. Willis.”

Staff Sgt. Dakota Willis introduced himself as a dog trainer who makes sure the dogs and the staff are well trained.

He said airmen, who are part of the Air Force’s Security Forces (police), have to apply to be chosen to be part of a K-9 team. But those who are picked, are a special group.

Willis then introduced Sita, a 4 1/2-year old Belgian Malanois who was sitting excitedly next to her trainer Staff Sgt. Christina Santos.

“She bites people and she finds bombs,” Willis said. “She is a deterrent to crime.”

According to Willis, Air Force dogs are unique because they can differentiate numerous scents and they can be stopped during an attack on a “bad guy.”

“It’s obedience,” he said. “We work on it every day. But if a bad guy gets aggressive, the dog will show a use of force.”

Willis said that in Sita’s mind, if she tears a training sleeve apart and off the arm of the people training her, then she’s done her job well.

“That’s a positive thing for the dog,” he said. “When they do that, they own you.”

Sita, as an individual, is capable of sniffing out 10 explosive odors and he used a cheeseburger analogy to convince the students how that works.

He said when we eat a cheeseburger, it smells good and we gobble it up. With Sita, she smells the burger, she smells the bun, the ketchup, the onion and the pickle as separate odors.

There are currently 10 K-9 teams at Minot AFB and Willis said it takes 120 working days to train a dog for service.

The dogs are trained to work with a small group of airmen and Willis assured the audience the dog won’t bite until commanded to do so.

One student asked Willis if dogs are ever injured while on duty and he said unfortunately, yes.

Because they are trained to sniff out bombs, they might step on a booby trap or a trigger and set the bomb off.

“Dogs can get blown up,” he said. “Yes, it does happen.”

He also talked about how dogs react to environmental issues. As an example, Willis said when he first joined the K-9 team, he was throwing a toy to the dog after a training session and hit the K-9 on the head instead of falling in front of her snout.

After that, that particular dog always was skittish when presented with a toy after a training session.

The Air Force likes to use Belgian Malanois, as well as German Shepherds, according to Willis because of their ability to separate odors and for their bite training.

He said the Army and Marines used whatever breed might have a stronger nose, such as a Terrier, Beagle or Labrador.

The Air Force buys its dogs from breeders in Europe or obtain K-9s through the Puppy Program, which is taking the best of the best, raise the pups and putting them into service.

As an Air Force dog, Sita holds one rank above the next highest airman in the squad, thus she is considered a technical sergeant which is E-6 on the pay scale.

And because the Air Force holds its K-9s in such high regard, the dogs are given a retirement ceremony at the end of their career or are provided a memorial service if they may lose their life in the line of duty.

And, when a K-9 is retired, it is presented with a meritorious service medal, is a military award presented to members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguished themselves by outstanding meritorious achievement or service to the United States.

The Air Force crew provided two presentations, one in the high school auditorium and one in the elementary school multi purpose room... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!