Airmen partner with Kyrgyz security service K-9 team
by Staff Sgt. Olufemi Owolabi
376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
8/11/2009 - TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan (AFNS) -- Airmen of the 376th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron here are aiding a team of Kyrgyz Department of State Security Service dog handlers to hone the skills necessary to manage their own law-enforcement, force protection, antiterrorism and explosive-detection canine program.
The program, which started about three years ago, was prompted when the Kyrgyz president visited Transit Center at Manas and was fascinated by the 376th ESFS Military Working Dog program.
"They (Kyrgyz government representatives) approached the Air Force leadership at Manas, and they agreed to train our team," said Kyrgyz Maj. Natalia Balabrikova. "I remember the first day we started; we had no prior experience and didn't have any dogs."
She described their first few days in training to a child first entering a high school without any experience or knowledge, but now she feels like her team of handlers and dogs are near graduation.
Despite a busy schedule, the team of Airmen from the Transit Center at Manas K-9 unit set up training schedules to accommodate an extra training routine for the partnership. The schedule allows the 376th ESFS Airmen to train their partners semiweekly.
One of the training sessions requires the team of Airmen to travel to the city of Bishkek to meet the Kyrgyz team for training.
The training session Aug. 8 was full of energy. Several Kyrgyz dogs received decoy training from a Transit Center at Manas dog handler, Joseph Villalobos, who acted as a decoy. Mr. Villalobos was drenched in sweat after the training, which focused on perfecting the dogs' skills on properly charging and attacking a perpetrator.
"Our Kyrgyz dog handlers love to come out and train," said Mr. Villalobos, a former Air Force technical sergeant and K-9 handler for more than 10 years. "They are always ready to train and have fun, just like any other (dog) handler I have ever met. They are now fully capable of continuing this program on their own when they need to."
"We are very lucky to have professional handlers and canine masters here at Manas that promoted our love for this profession," said Major Balabrikova, the chief of the Kyrgyz SSS K-9 unit who spoke through an interpreter. "We learned, for example, in terms of planting explosive aids. We learned how to plant them in different places and locations. We appreciate this and will always remember the experience."
Even though they have completed training with some of their dogs, the Kyrgyz team wants more assistance with other dogs and puppies because every dog is different and requires different approaches.
"We would like to continue this program because it's very important for our country to have these types of dogs," Major Balabrikova said.
Since Mr. Villalobos started training with the team in October 2008, he has seen significant effect of the training on the dogs.
"We train hard. They are happy to have us here, and they definitely want to continue this relationship," Mr. Villalobos said.
"They (Americans) treat us equally, like we are their own personnel," Major Balabrikova said. "They are always happy about our achievements and progress."
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