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Taranaki Man Graduates as Military Working Dog Handler

Aircraftman Ron Benton and Axel apprehend an “intruder” during a display at Aircraftman Ron Benton’s graduation as a military working dog operational handler.
Aircraftman Ron Benton and Axel apprehend an “intruder” during a display at Aircraftman Ron Benton’s graduation as a military working dog operational handler.

1 September 2017

Former Taranaki resident Ron Benton has always liked dogs, and now he has a new career as a military working dog handler.

“We’ve always had dogs at home and I enjoy working with them,” said Aircraftman Benton, who was one of two recent graduates from the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Military Working Dog Handler training course.

At the graduation, Aircraftman Benton was part of a display of the dogs’ abilities and put his partner, military working dog Axel, through a patrol clearance and intruder apprehension exercise.

Aircraftman Benton grew up in Taranaki and attended New Plymouth Boys’ High School and Waitara High School.  He completed a Bachelor in Accounting, but was looking for a career with more practical application.

He enlisted in the RNZAF in May 2015 as an Avionics Mechanic but changed to Force Protection after discovering the trade while on his recruit training course.
After completing Junior Trade Training for Force Protection at Ohakea, he was keen to work with the military working dogs and his application to do the handler training course was successful.

He was teamed up with military working dog Axel, a three-year-old Belgian Shepherd or Malinois, at the 12-week training course at the RNZAF Base in Whenuapai.

“Axel was an experienced military working dog, and it only took a few weeks of working with him for us to become a team,” Aircraftman Benton said. “You are working with your dog for eight to nine hours each day, so it doesn’t take long to develop a strong bond.”

Military Working Dog Co-ordinator Sergeant Peter Barrass said that during the 12-week training course Aircraftman Benton and Axel, had trained in all aspects of military working dog training, including obedience, agility, patrol clearances, apprehension procedures, basic canine first aid, and operating on deployment.

“Throughout the course Aircraftman Benton was tested and assessed on all skills required to be a military working dog handler and has now graduated as an operational military working dog handler,” Sergeant Barrass said

This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Military Working Dogs Unit at Whenuapai.  It was formed in 1967 to provide enhanced security for the new P3 Orion aircraft.

As well as providing security for Air Force assets and personnel in New Zealand, the dogs have been used to support overseas operations and numerous exercises in Australia and New Zealand.

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