• April 19, 2014

Canines, handlers keep base safe

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Posted: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 10:38 am, Wed May 1, 2013.

LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan — With their intimidating presence and an extraordinary sense of smell, canines are one of the best force protection assets used at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan.

Any vehicle entering the base is not only examined by security guards but also inspected thoroughly by American K9 Detection Services explosive/narcotics detection teams at the entry control point.

The service is a civilian dog handling company contracted to keep civilians and soldiers out of harm’s way. The two-dog teams use their heightened sense of smell to detect narcotics and explosives before vehicles enter the base, and in so doing, help save lives.

Mark Ahrents and Fox, his canine partner, are a narcotic detection dog team working at the Gamberi entry point. Both are expertly trained and licensed by the Drug Enforcement Agency. They also conduct patrols throughout the base looking for illegal substances.

While on patrol around Gamberi, the dog sometimes brings a smile to people’s faces, some even stop to pet Fox, a German shepherd.

During their patrol, the pair checks around buildings, mail packages that arrive via helicopter and basically any area where people congregate on the base.

When Ahrents walks around the base and Fox detects a trace of what he is trained for, the dog sits and looks at his handler. Sitting down during a search is one of many ways Fox communicates with Ahrents.

Ahrents said he feels lucky working at Gamberi. At other bases where he has worked, dog detection teams have found hashish and even explosive residue during vehicle inspections.

His time at Gamberi has been quiet but Ahrents said he does not get complacent. He constantly tests Fox’s proficiency.

“After he comes back from his inspection and tells me it’s safe, I go out and do my search,” Ahrents said. “I trust his dog 100 percent.”

Pfc. Demorria Clark, of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, works at the control point and said the canine teams working next to him have a good sense of humor.

“They like to joke around, but they also take their job seriously,” Clark said.

He said he sometimes helps the dog handler teams test the sensitivity and responsiveness of the canines by hiding small quantities of fake explosives or narcotics around the control point.

“I try to find a new and difficult spot, but the dog finds it every time,” Clark said.

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