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Pushing boundaries

Training showcases dogs’ contributions

Army Cpl. Austin Vecciarelli and Andy, his military working dog, take a break from training last month at Fort Benning, GA.

An inexperienced handler and an experienced military working dog recently teamed up for training at an Army base in Georgia, an exercise that underscores the unique role of the canines that will soon be honored with their own stamps.

Pfc. Samantha Roden, who is assigned to a military police detachment at Fort Knox, KY, acquired her partner Tina, an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois, in December. The two have worked together ever since.

In June, Roden and Tina traveled to Fort Benning, GA, where they were one of 15 teams that received training in several procedures, including using night vision goggles, wearing gas masks and loading a helicopter during an explosive ordnance disposal class.

“This is all new to me — everything,” Roden said. “But Tina is used to it. This isn’t her first time on a helicopter. She loaded fine and then just laid down.”

Dogs like Tina will receive recognition in August when USPS releases Military Working Dogs, four stamps that celebrate the canines who serve the nation’s armed forces.

The stamps show a Belgian Malinois, a Dutch shepherd, a German shepherd and a Labrador retriever.

Staff Sgt. Brandon Spears, a Fort Benning officer in charge of the June training, said the exercises are necessary because military working dogs — and their handlers — must always be ready for action.

“The training will develop a standard for teams deploying down range because it will help planners match experience and training with the operational needs of a deployment,” he said.

Another participant, Spc. Jordan Williamson, said the exercise taught his partner — Brenda, a German shepherd who turns 6 in August — valuable skills.

At one point, Williamson had to run Brenda up to a helicopter and get on board.

“Brenda doesn’t like tunnels or tight spaces, so this training is pushing our boundaries,” Williamson said.

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