Story by SSgt Nicole Leidholm on 06/28/2019DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. Deter. To prevent or put a stop to. This is the role of a military working dog.
In the narcotics world, these dogs are trained to detect drugs and alert their handlers to deter anyone from bringing illegal substances into the country or onto a federal installation.
A two-person team at the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System Joint MWD Laboratory is in charge of securing, creating, distributing and inspecting the narcotics used in training aids for all 174 Department of Defense MWD kennels around the world.
The team recently inspected the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, MWD kennels.
Site visits to kennels are conducted randomly each month to ensure training aids for the MWDs are being handled correctly and those handling them have the proper authorization.
All documentation at the MWD kennel is inspected. This includes confirming the registration with the Drug Enforcement Agency is current, the custodian letters are up to date and there is documentation of where the training aids are and whether they are checked out of the safe for training or are in inventory.
"This is all important because of the DEA Registration," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Vivian Johnson, AFMES Joint MWD Laboratory NCO in charge. "We're ultimately responsible because we're moving these narcotics back and forth, so we need to make absolutely sure everything is being done correctly. If they aren't following the correct protocol, then ultimately, AFMES can lose its narcotics registration with the DEA."
Additionally, the inspection team is preventing the crossover of scents from one drug type to another and any deficiencies, problems or damages with the training aids.
"We also recall half the aids from each base, once a year, and test the recalled drugs to verify it is the same drug and strain we originally sent out," said Johnson. "After the testing is completed, we send fresh replacement training aids back to the units for narcotics training."
Site visits also provide an excellent opportunity to educate MWD sites.
"Our role is not only to supply training aids, but to ensure all MWD facilities and handlers are held to the same standard," said U.S Navy Lt. Ken Lindsay, AFMES Joint MWD Laboratory chief. "Site visits provide oversight as well as guidance to allow the narcotics custodians to meet that standard."
According to U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Andrew Kowtko, MCB Quantico MWD kennel master, these inspections are important to ensure compliance with the DEA, AFMES and the Marine Corps standards at any given time.
"Inspections are always good because they make sure you're meeting the standard," said Kowtko. "Without these inspections, kennel masters would have no standard."
Lastly, these inspections are about customer and product care.
"Without the site visits, kennels may lose sight of who we are and their counter narcotic operations would come to a stand-still," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Tutt, AFMES Joint MWD laboratory manager. "Our role is not only important to DoD in the counter narcotics mission, but also to ensure stronger relationships between us and all the kennels."