Two former Gisborne residents graduated as RNZAF Dog Handlers on Tuesday 25 June, after completing the 12-week long Military Working Dog Handlers Course at RNZAF Base Auckland.
Aircraftman (AC) Trent Norman and AC Terina Naden are the two new Military Working Dog (MWD) Handlers working in the RNZAF’s Military Working Dog Unit at Auckland. Graduating with them was AC Liam Elder from New Plymouth.
The Air Force has a specialist Military Working Dog (MWD) unit which is used for Force Protection - security of the air base and aircraft, and security of RNZAF units when deployed.
Both of the former Gisborne personnel were volunteers for the Dog Handlers’ Course in which the handlers learn to control the dogs, have them obey commands, cross over obstacles and to tackle intruders. For the MWD, training is in fact ‘play’, the handlers use toys to gain the dog’s interest but the goal is to transfer the dog’s interest to the Handler.
AC Terina Naden said she was very pleased to have completed the demanding course, but when first introduced to Isla, the dog she trained with: "It was a power struggle between the dog and me for the first couple of weeks."
By the end of the course, AC Trent Norman said, the handlers can control the dog without a lead, and it will show its trust in its handler.
"The handler has to learn the dog’s characteristics; the dog is in fact a weapon, most definitely NOT a pet. But once training for dog and handler is completed, we have to keep up the pace and interest for the dogs."
At the graduation ceremony, the three new handlers demonstrated the serious role of the MWD: an armed intruder appeared and when he failed to obey instructions from the Force Protection personnel, the dog was unleashed and, despite (blank) gunfire, tackled the intruder. The MWD remained on alert in the guard position as the intruder was restrained and searched.
AC Trent Norman said it had been a "full-on" 12 weeks and he was proud to join the unit. "I am looking forward to taking the dogs on patrol as part of the RNZAF’s base security."
The RNZAF Force Protection dog teams not only work at RNZAF Base Auckland but also deploy overseas on exercises or operational deployments.
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