NOWY BUGAJ, Poland – Travel is a regularity for the 341st Training Squadron and Department of Defense Veterinary Service working dog procurement team. These trips are vital to procure working dogs for the DoD and Transportation Security Administration.
“Governments and private sector businesses alike utilize working dogs for the deterrent and detection of illegal substances, explosive devices, and protection of assets,” said Bernadine Green, 341st TRS’ chief of Logistics and the Resources Flight.
During a trip in May, the team visited a Polish vendor that specializes in military and police canines. Due to the worldwide demand for exceptional canine candidates, the training squadron incorporates a three-prong approach in the procurement process – evaluating dogs at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, and U.S. and overseas vendor sites, according to Rolland Edgell, 341st TRS consignment evaluator.
“This approach permits evaluation of large numbers and types of dog [maximizing] the potential for purchasing high-quality working dog candidates,” Edgell added.
While in Poland, team members prepared for physically and mentally demanding assessments. All-weather gear was a necessity with austere climate conditions, as the team worked weekdays and weekends to examine more than 100 canine candidates.
“‘When your job is your hobby, you will not work one day your whole life,’ and for me working with dogs is a hobby, a passion, it is an important part of life,” said Jacek Żydziak, business owner and dog trainer in Poland. Attempting to understand animals, their needs, and the proper approach is nothing short of amazing and fulfilling, he said. Each morning members of the team worked a relentless pace testing the resiliency and behavioral intelligence of four-legged candidates, both German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois breeds, over a five-day period.
Testing took about 30 minutes per candidate and included explosive/narcotic detection and patrol tasks.
In the initial stages of testing, the DoD Veterinary Service team reviewed radiographs for any health issues.
“Dogs must meet stringent medical requirements to ensure they are physically fit to perform the tasks required of a military working dog and to ensure longevity of career,” Green said.
Canines had to demonstrate self-confidence, resourcefulness, and the ability to detect odors.. Dogs were required to pass tests that took into consideration physical, mental, and health status.
Once the dogs passed the initial round, military working dog trainers and team members began the next round of testing. This was comprised of search and detection, bite work, and reactionary behaviors. If working dogs passed, the DoD Veterinary Service team then proceeded to physically examine and vaccinate canines for travel abroad.
An intensive vetting process demonstrated the strengths of the procurement team including their “ability to select the absolute best possible working dogs candidates,” Green said.
During the trip to Poland, the team purchased 45 working dogs who will train alongside their two-legged counterparts in support of nationwide missions. As with every trip, the team brought home key takeaways.
“I am continuously learning and evolving, whether it be a slight adjustment in my technique in a particular area, a subtle adjustment, or a clearer understanding of a behavior I see,” said Joshua Delancey, 341st TRS consignment evaluator.
Fostering good and lasting partnerships are also integral to the continuous success of the working dog mission.
“I am happy to bring a new vendor into the 341st TRS family. It is difficult to find dogs of the quality and quantity we need to fulfill our critical mission to the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Kowalski, 341st TRS commander. “We look forward to working with our new Polish colleagues as we recruit new dogs in the service of our nation.”
The diligence and work ethic to achieve the mission were evident.
“Searching for the right canine warfighters in support of the working dog program is a heavy and work intensive mission requiring long work hours and meticulous assessments,” said Col. Joyce Storm, 37th TRG commander. “Our team exemplified dedication to the mission that surpassed expectations. We’re excited to work with our vendors locally and internationally in procuring some of the best four-legged trainees.”