Nevada Proud: NAS Fallon canine unit saving lives

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Updated: 4/28/2014 6:19 pm
FALLON, Nev. ( & KRNV) -- TOPGUN trains the best pilots in the Navy at NAS Fallon, but there is a specialized unit training the Navy's top dogs.

They are military working dog handlers and they are another reason we are Nevada Proud.

"The best thing about being a military working dog handler is your bond with your dog," said Tyler Falconer.
"My buddy Kevin is a cool dude," added Larry Walker.

Petty Officer Third class Tyler Falconer and Petty Officer Second class Larry Walker are dog handlers for the Navy. "The Navy needs dogs to assist both base operations and operations in Afghanistan," explained Falconer. "It's a big asset to the troops."

Falconer and Walker said their partners keep sailors safe, and keep them on their toes. "There's fast people out there you know, nobody outruns a dog," said Walker. When asked if he had tried to outrun a dog, Walker said with a laugh, "Yeah, didn't work."

"We train on drugs and explosives and do a lot of bite work. It's a lot of fun. Enjoy getting bit," said Falconer. According to Falconer, the dogs enjoy it, too, and that bond is vital to their work. "They think that they're just having fun coming out to train with us. Everything stems from obedience."

So they will practice sniffing, or running through an obstacle course. "All these objects that the dog might encounter when we're doing our job out in the real world," said Walker. "From tunnels to stairs, we want them to be confident with the job."

To give the dogs practice at attacking threats in the field, the handlers will actually get inside these bite suits and play the bad guys themselves. What the guys practice in the suits is advanced, to say the least. "If you don't train it, then they won't do it," said Walker. "So, we just basically do realistic situations and train in that, teach them to bite everywhere."
"We have the actual bite," Walker added. "We need to know that the dog will bite if we tell it to, and then we have the stand-off where the person gives up, he doesn't want to be bit, and we can call that dog off."

While it seems like fun, and often it is, these four-legged troops do serious work for the Navy. "These dogs save lives," said Ashlea Scully.
Petty Officer Second Class Ashlea Scully said from drugs to bombs, their skills are impressive. "These dogs can detect things that we would never be able to detect."
"They have pretty good noses on them and they usually find stuff 98 percent of the time," Walker said.

But they keep working every single day. "There's always room for improvement," said Falconer. "So you're just always trying to better your dog and yourself."

"You fight like you train, train like you fight. So we always train like we fight," said Joe Wilcox.

Joe Wilcox works for the Department of Defense. He said the training is hard work, but he would not trade it for anything. "We're not nine-to-fivers. We just get here, play with dogs all day long, and it's the greatest job in the world."

"It's honestly your best friend," said Falconer. "So you wake up everyday and you're going to work to see your best friend."

Right now, there are more than three hundred dogs serving in the Navy.
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