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Teaching old dogs new tricks at Bradley Air National Guard Base

A dog handler from the Connecticut State Police searches for narcotics with the assistance of a trained law enforcement working dog during K-9 re-evaluation and training conducted July 25, 2013, at the Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn.  (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Senior Airman Emmanuel Santiago)

A dog handler from the Connecticut State Police searches for narcotics with the assistance of a trained law enforcement working dog during K-9 re-evaluation and training conducted July 25, 2013, at the Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Senior Airman Emmanuel Santiago)

BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE - East Granby, Conn. -- EAST GRANBY, Conn. - Armed with 220 million more scent receptors than humans, a detection dog can make short work of sniffing out dangerous threats and drugs. They could probably even smell what you had for last night's dinner which, if true, would be very impressive. Nevertheless, man's best friend has been by our sides since our earliest days and still continues to prove her worth in our modern times. In order to utilize this highly specialized creature, however, their masters must find the time and place to train them and teach them to put their unique skills to use.

During the months of July and August, the Connecticut Air National Guard satisfied this training requirement by hosting the Connecticut State Police and allowing them to train state and municipal K-9s and their handlers.

According to Trooper First Class Mike Real, a K-9 unit trainer with the Connecticut State Police, anywhere they train that is new is beneficial. It's like with humans, if you go train in the same place and with the same routine it gets stale. A new environment is challenging and provides a more realistic training for the dogs.

Most recently, the K-9 unit trainers have been recertifying handlers and their narcotic detection dogs, but there are also plans in the future to bring in bomb detection dogs or even patrol dogs to train.

The uniqueness of this situation may not be apparent right away, but the according to Real, it is not always easy finding a place that allows you to bring a number of working dogs. Especially, police working dogs.

Utilizing a military installation is fantastic because it's hard to find places that we can bring 12 dogs to. And, some people are afraid of dogs, it's just not always easy. So, when Sergeant Smith offered, we jumped on it, said Real.

Additionally, the nature of a military installation brings new challenges for police canines and their handlers; specifically with foreign smells and small explosives. The canines must be aware and learn to separate various foreign smells such as JP-8 fuel from other accelerants or discharged ammunition powder from actual explosive material.

Since 9/11, there has been an increasing need for state and local emergency services to work together. This relationship is another way that the National Guard can forge alliances and build teamwork with local authorities.

"Working together with our local first responders enhances our relationships prior to crisis. Recent examples include the use of Connecticut National Guard state activation during floods, snow storms and hurricanes across the state. Another example; the recent Boston marathon bombing exemplifies civilian first Responders, and law enforcement working with the National Guard during domestic terrorism," said Lt. Col. James Guerrera, 103rd Airlift Wing antiterrorism officer.

Understanding who will provide support during a crisis or emergency, knowing their leadership and responsibilities/limitations, and our role during Military Support to Civilian Authorities improves with exercises and training collaboration.

In line with collaborative efforts, if the base ever needed to utilize the State Police bomb-detection or narcotics dogs, the familiarity gained by training the K-9 dogs and handlers on Bradley can expedite the response and help bring the situation to a speedy resolution, said Real.