MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR -- MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. – Since 1942, Marines have worked with military working dogs and to this day use their capabilities to keep Marine Corps installations safe.
Although the dogs go through their basic training in Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, military working dogs handlers aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., ensure the dogs stay proficient with more extensive training throughout the year.
The dogs undergo drug and explosive detection two times a month, but the handlers here try to run the dogs through it at least four times a month, explained Cpl. Eric Vega, military working dog handler with the Provost Marshal’s Office and a Corona, Calif., native.
The dogs either train to find the scent of explosives or drugs, and the animals trained for drugs can differentiate the smells of several different drugs.
“The dogs are trained to sniff out cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy and marijuana,” said Vega.
During the exercises, handlers train dogs to smell for scent aids planted in different places throughout the training site.
“We try putting the aids in high or difficult places, not where it might typically be, so the dog is better prepared,” said Cpl. David Mayes, the chief trainer for the military working dog section with PMO and Johnstown, Pa., native.
The handlers use minimal aids during training to help the dogs achieve peak performance.
Mayes explained that the dogs can easily find large amounts of explosives because they are trained to detect very small amounts of the substances.
All the dogs train based on an award system and that’s how they get the enjoyment out of the work.
“We associate praise with good behavior,” said Mayes. “People work for money, the dogs work for our love and affection and their toys. That makes it more like a game to the dogs.”
Even though it may seem like all work, the handlers enjoy time with their dogs.
“The best part about the job is the bond that we build with our dogs,” said Mayes.
With the training that PMO conducts, these animals will be able to stay efficient to accomplish their mission.