The Transportation Security Administration marked the grand opening of their new canine training center with a ribbon cutting ceremony March 4 at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
The newly built, 25,000 square foot facility expands the mission capabilities of the existing TSA Canine Training Center at JBSA-Lackland, which trains and deploys approximately 250 TSA-led and state and local law enforcement-led canine teams to protect the U.S. transportation domain and operate in aviation, multimodal, mass transit and cargo environments to provide a visual deterrent to terrorism, according to Carrie Harmon, TSA spokesperson.
“This new facility is an ideal complement to the existing training center campus, where our canines and handlers come to learn the skills necessary to demonstrate proficiency in four key elements: the canines ability to recognize explosive odors, the handler’s ability to interpret the canines’ change in behavior, the handler’s ability to conduct logical and systematic searches and the team’s ability to locate the explosives odor source,” said TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger during the ribbon cutting ceremony.
The new facility houses seven classrooms and 13 indoor venues that mimic various transportation sites such as a cargo facility, an airport gate, a checkpoint, a baggage claim area, the interior of an aircraft, a vehicle parking lot, a light rail car and an air cargo facility, Harmon said.
The TSA, a Department of Homeland Security entity, has a longstanding relationship with the Air Force, specifically the 341st Training Squadron’s Military Working Dog School.
Since 1972, the DOD canine training center has been co-located with the MWD school, as the latter provides trained military working dogs, handlers, trainers and kennel masters to not only the TSA, but the entire Department of Defense and other government allies.
The squadron belongs to the 37th Training Wing, the Air Force’s largest training wing with technical training ranging from security forces, vehicle operations and special operations courses.
While the mission of the TSA has grown from 56 to 900 dog/handler teams since 2001, the 341st TRS has consistently met and exceeded the organizations mission requirements by providing highly trained personnel and canines to the program, said Col. Alexander Smith, 502nd Installation Support Group commander during remarks at the ceremony. Smith also alluded to the joint-force concept leading to the continued success of the program and the expedient construction of the facility, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was responsible for the construction contract for the center.
All TSA canine teams will continue to travel to JBSA-Lackland to train in the facility and take either the Explosives Detection Canine Handler course or the Passenger Screening Canine course. The extensive training space allows for a more realistic training environment and the capability to increase the amount of canine teams trained each year, according to Chris Shelton, TSA Canine Training Center supervisory air marshal in charge.
“All of those individuals from the police departments, state patrols and other federal agencies will come here and train and they will go back to their home locations with TSA provided canines and training to support the mission of keeping the public safe,” Shelton said.
For more information on the TSA, visit http://www.tsa.gov.