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New training equipment increases MWD readiness

A dog climbs stairs

Drago, 22nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog, climbs a set of stairs as part of an obstacle course Oct. 6, 2017, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. A recent $30,000 project replaced all of the wooden obstacles with concrete ones. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Erin McClellan)

A dog walks on a catwalk

Staff Sgt. Jeremy Brown, 22nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, helps Drago, 22nd SFS MWD, walk across a catwalk as part of an obstacle course Oct. 6, 2017, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. The course used to be made up of wooden obstacles, but concrete ones were recently installed, making the course safer and longer lasting. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Erin McClellan)

A dog jumps through a window

Staff Sgt. Jeremy Brown, 22nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, works with Drago, 22nd SFS MWD, on an obstacle course Oct. 6, 2017, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. The course is designed to introduce dogs to situations they may face in real-world scenarios. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Erin McClellan)

A dog through a tunnel

Drago, 22nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog, waits for his handler to give him a command while completing an obstacle course Oct. 6, 2017, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. The obstacle course is made up of three hurdles of various heights, a window, an A-frame, a large set of stairs, a catwalk and several tunnels. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Erin McClellan)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan.— The 22nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog kennel recently received an upgrade to its obstacle course to help ensure readiness and installation security.

The obstacle course, or confidence course, is meant to mimic obstacles that the handler and dog will face when working in the field and prepares the dogs to respond to various tasks they may have to carry out in various real-world situations, said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Allen, 22nd SFS kennel master.

“The obstacle course helps on a daily basis with both detection and patrol,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Brown, 22nd SFS MWD handler. “From the obstacle course’s stairs to the tunnels, it ensures MWDs are able to move through and over challenges in the daily work environment, which include anything from basic stairs and platforms around base to heavily-wooded areas that challenge an MWD’s comfort.”

McConnell’s course was previously made up of wooden obstacles. Allen said the original motivation to replace the obstacles came when the wooden stairs were blown over by the wind, leaving the handlers without a vital piece of training equipment for more than a year.

There are four materials courses are often made of: wood, plastic, metal or concrete. McConnell spent around $30,000 to replace the old wooden obstacles with durable concrete obstacles.

“The reason why we chose to go with concrete is because they last a lot longer,” Allen said. “The wooden ones can splinter, fall apart and rot over time. Plastic ones can get brittle and break, and dogs have gotten severely injured on them. Concrete won’t break down, and dogs won’t get hurt on them.”

The obstacle course is made up of three hurdles of various heights, a window, an A-frame, a large set of stairs, a catwalk and several tunnels. Running through the course is an everyday practice for the handlers and their dogs.

“Being that the obstacle course is a daily requirement, it helps keep them agile and mobile over time,” he continued. “We do tend to work them very hard, but they’re very healthy, and we take care of them so they maintain that health and their capabilities.”