The graduation of another two military trained Explosive Detection Dog handlers is a step towards improving search detection capacity for the NZ Defence Force, according to those who have already put their skills to work in theatre.
Corporal (CPL) Ben Langman from Kerikeri, and Sapper (SPR) Liam Harris, from Auckland, are the latest army personnel to graduate from the intensive handling course, externally validated by NZ Police Dog Training Section.
The pair received their certificates and EDD badges from Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) Ben Pitt, Commanding Officer of 2 Engineer Regiment at a ceremony held at Trentham Army Camp on September 19.
Military Working Dog Capability Manager Alan Inkpen said increasing the Explosive Detection Dog (EDD) teams was about providing the best possible canine support for the NZ Defence Force.
"EDD’s are standard for most world military forces and we are looking to work closely with our capability branch with the aim of producing a wide ranging Military Working Dog (MWD) capability that will stretch across Defence.
"This will enable us to be more closely aligned with our coalition partners and allow us to learn and benefit from the more advanced programmes of the likes of the Americans, Australia and the UK."
CPL Langman graduated with experienced EDD, Little Chuck, who deployed with his former handler Lance Corporal (LCPL) Regan Blogg to Afghanistan on Crib 21.
LCPL Blogg was one of the first military handlers to graduate last year following an intensive 12 week course run in conjunction with New Zealand Police. The pair soon found themselves deployed to the Bamiyan Province of Afghanistan where LCPL Blogg said Little Chuck and his second EDD, Yardley, proved invaluable.
"It was quite interesting, they really stepped up over there, it was like they knew they were there for a really important job and I think they handled it well," LCPL Blogg said.
"I think what it really showed, is that we were capable of taking these dogs to theatre safely and bringing them home in one piece having done a really good job and meeting all regulations," he said.
After being selected to join the first 12 week handling course last year, Corporal Langman was deployed to Afghanistan as a search team commander. It was there that he spent time with Little Chuck and LCPL Blogg.
Despite working alongside Little Chuck in Afghanistan, LCPL Blogg said it wasn’t too difficult handing Little Chuck’s lead to CPL Langman, as the pair had already formed a close bond in Afghanistan.
"CPL Langman was like a babysitter for Little Chuck when I was on days off, so he built up a really good working relationship with him. It made sense that he worked with Little Chuck for his handling course as they already had that understanding."
Both CPL Langman and SPR Harris are based at Linton with 2 Field Squadron and were supported at their graduation by the unit’s leadership team, including Commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Ben Pitt.
"At a ceremony like this there is always a lot of emphasis on the dogs, and yes they do a wonderful job, but it is you, the handlers, that deserve the credit," LTCOL Pitt said.
"This is a significant achievement that will undoubtedly assist the mobility of 2 Engineer Regiment and I want you to know how proud we are of the work and commitment you have shown."
LTCOL Pitt said he viewed the addition of EDD’s to search and land operations as "a good thing" for the Army.
The small ceremony at Trentham concluded with a demonstration of EDD capability, including a building search and obedience work.
The future of the EDD teams is now being considered by the Army Leadership Team which will review the past 12 months since the first team of dogs and handlers graduated.
For more information contact, Defence Communications Group, 021 487 980