Page 15 - Chiron Autumn 2018
P. 15

 My MREP Experience – 101 Reserve Squadron
Sgt Dave Dingsdale
  MREP (The Military Reserve Exchange Programme) has been running for several years, where two similar Reserve Units, one in the UK and one in the U.S swap a single Service person for a period of two weeks. This year I was lucky to be chosen as the second recipient from 101 MWD Sqn, following on from Captain Richard Harvey, one of 101 MWD Squadron’s Veterinary Officers. As with the previous year, I was to be hosted by 11th Security Support Squadron, part of 11th Air Wing, US Air Force based at Joint Base Andrews on the outskirts of Washington DC. As yet, we have not received any return personnel, but hopefully that will change next year, the U.S Unit are certainly keen to send someone over next year, to our Squadron.
Organising all the documentation required was simpler than expected, with help from the MREP brief in January 2018, assistance from WO2 John Howard, MREP Admin Co-ordinator and a very kind Lady based in the British Embassy in Washington.
On arrival, I was housed in a local hotel due to the ‘on base’ hotel being fully booked, and told “See you on Monday” and left to my own devices for the weekend. I promptly spent the weekend sightseeing, seeing everything from the Whitehouse (Smaller than I expected!) and the Washington Memorial, to many of the plethora of museums dotted about the vast area that is the State Capital. I was most impressed to see how much the Americans celebrate their Military, particularly the fallen, there are impressive monuments for just about every conflict they have ever taken part in, and all are well worth a visit!
On the Monday morning, I was collected from the hotel and taken to the kennels to meet my work colleagues for the next fortnight and given a brief on who the Unit is and what they do. They work similarly to how our RAF Dog Handlers/Trainers work, they are USAF Police, who, after a short time in the Police role, can apply or in some cases are just be assigned as Dog Handlers. At Joint Base Andrews, they are then responsible for Base Security, in particular, that of the POTUS, President of the United States, who regularly passes through.
As seems to be the norm, the kennels
SSgt Rodriguez working her dog at the NORT in Philadelphia
Sgt Dingsdale firing the U.S issue M4 Rifle
were situated a distance from everything else ‘on base’, but, as surprisingly underwhelming as the kennels were, the Base itself is huge! The inner perimeter road is 9 miles, being a fully operational airfield, housing everything from F-16 Fighter Planes to KC-135 Stratotanker refuelling jets and obviously, Air Force
The Base, like all U.S Bases, caters for its staff very well, with a large shopping facility, a cinema, several fast food outlets and even 3 complete 18 hole golf courses!
One, the U.S Presidents personal Jumbo Jet. The Base, like all U.S Bases, caters for its staff very well, with a large shopping facility, a cinema, several fast food outlets and even 3 complete 18 hole golf courses!
On the Tuesday morning, I, the Kennel Master and 3 Dog Teams travelled 150 miles north to Philadelphia to take part in the National Odour Recognition Testing (NORT). This is run several times a year country wide, by the National Canine Division of the Bureau of Alcohol,
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and allows U.S agencies, not just Military, to take part in lectures and two and a half days of training on explosive aids that they may not have previously come across. It culminates in a test, where the dog teams could then be licensed on the new odours. It was interesting to see how few single role explosive search dogs there were. Most Agencies, including the USAF have the dual role, Protection and Explosive search, no weapon search capabilities, therefore, most of the dogs were either GSDs or Malis, with the odd Labrador and Pointer thrown in for good measure, surprisingly, there were no Spaniels.
On returning to JB Andrews, the rest of my visit was mainly spent shadowing several of the teams, both established and newly paired, as they carried out training searches all over the Base. There were many differences between how these teams are taught compared to ours. The main, obvious difference is that their dogs are all worked on the lead, often extending leads, regardless of the search type or area. They also use much larger quantities of explosives, up to a whole pound of Semtex on a normal search. When I explained how differently our dogs are trained and handled, they were very much interested in our training methodologies.
All too soon, my working exchange was over, but it was an experience I will never forget. I have always been interested in seeing how other Military Working Dog Units conduct their training and tasks. I am so grateful for having had the opportunity to see how another Military Force works, and to experience sights such as the various war Memorials, including Arlington Cemetery, particularly the Changing of the Guard, and hope that the Reserve exchange continues so that others can have the experiences that I had. This was without doubt, another fantastic Reserve experience.
    Sgt Dingsdale with members of 11th Security Forces Sqn Dog Section

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