CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo — Spc. Katie Lane strapped herself onto the hoist next to a simulated casualty that would be lifted skyward over 50 feet in the air to a hovering helicopter. Fitted with a special pair of goggles and a muzzle, the four-legged ‘casualty’ shook its tail in nervous excitement.
It would be Lane’s first time accompanying her military working dog, Beny, on a hoist mission; the same type of mission to safely evacuate Beny from a battlefield injury, if needed.
Soldiers with Multinational Battle Group-East completed a weeklong medevac training April 2 at Camp Bondsteel. The soldiers comprised of elements of Task Force Medical and the battle group’s Southern Command Post, conducted the training to familiarize the dog handlers and their working dogs from the camp’s military police platoon with the intricate process for hoisting a dog to safety.
“It was kind of an interesting thing to do together; to see how (Beny) would do with all of this training and being around all this noise,” Lane said. “He’s kind of skittish, but he did very well. He just kind of hung there and was along for the ride.”
The training event started with cold-load training, or bringing the dogs to a grounded helicopter without its rotor blades spinning. There, the teams became familiar with the aircraft and its interior. Then under hot-load training, the dog teams repeated the process, but with the rotor blades spinning, allowing the dogs to experience the rotors in action. Finally, with the helicopter still grounded, the dogs and their handlers practiced using the hoist system while being raised about three feet.
The culminating event was the airborne hoist training with medevac aviators from the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, Louisiana National Guard. On Camp Bondsteel, Spc. Lane and Staff Sgt. Josh Rose, along with their dogs, Beny and Bumper respectively, were each secured onto a rescue hoist below a hovering Black Hawk helicopter. Rising more than 50 feet into the air, each dog team experienced an actual rescue hoist operation.
The training proved especially invaluable for Lane, who said that a crisis situation requires calmness and straight-thinking by the dog handlers and their dogs.
“I know in crazy situations, you’re not really thinking straight, so if I hadn’t had any of this training, I would be kind of lost. I wouldn’t know what to do, I’d just be kind of standing there confused,” said Lane, a military dog handler with the 100th Military Working Dog Detachment at Miesau, Germany.
“I’m brand new to the program, so it’s given me a lot of information on what to do in a situation where something does happen to the dog and we have to medevac him out.”
Military working dogs have an important job at Camp Bondsteel, serving in a force protection role for the camp’s residents, workplaces and equipment yards. They complete daily perimeter and critical infrastructure checks, search incoming service trucks and conduct vigilance patrols. The dogs and their handlers are in a demanding position.
An injured animal has unpredictable behavior, even towards those who may be saving its life, said Capt. Nathan Carlton, the camp’s only military veterinarian and officer-in-charge of the medevac training.
“Given that the military working dogs in Kosovo have a dangerous mission, I thought there was a chance one of them could be injured in the line of duty,” he added. “If that happens, there will be a lot of people handling the animal during evacuation.”