FEBRUARY 15, 2017, NORFOLK (NNS) – “Puskos’ bark is loud and his personality is even louder,” said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Jordyn Japec, assigned to Naval Station Norfolk security department. “Puskos is constantly actively searching for odors. He does not look like your typical military working dog (MWD), since he is the smallest dog I’ve trained. However, he has a great nose and a natural ability to detect his target up to six feet taller than him.”
According to the Department of the Navy Military Working Dog Program Instruction 5585.2C, the MWDs’ unique capabilities are used by naval security force to defend bases and resources and to assist with enforcing military laws and regulations. MWDs supplement and enhance the capabilities of military security forces. When integrated into existing military security forces, MWD teams enable those forces to perform their mission more effectively and, in many cases, with significant savings in manpower, time, and money.
Japec stated the position of dog handler is one a person has to be selected for.
“I’ve been in the Navy for seven years, but I’ve only worked as a handler for 2 1/2 years,” said Japec. “Dog handlers are selected either during their initial training in master-at-arms school by being interviewed by [petty officers first class or chief petty officers], or while they are out in the fleet. Since I was already working as a master-at-arms, I volunteered in the kennel division after hours and my leadership submitted a package. Once you are selected, you have to attend an 8-11 week ‘C’ school.”
Master-at-Arms 1st Class Chad Perez, leading petty officer of security department K-9 division, spoke about the importance of the handlers in the unit.
“When you are assigned to a dog it is your responsibility to make sure the dog is getting the proper care, grooming, nutrition, and training,” Perez said. “This position is not typical; you are held to a higher standard since you provide your K-9 partner with the utmost care and education to make sure the mission is executed correctly. The master-at-arms dog handler community is small, but we all take great pride in our day-to-day work.”
According to Perez, Puskos is the smallest K-9 at Naval Station Norfolk.
“Puskos is held to the same standards as the other K-9s in our command,” Perez said. “He does not notice how small he is compared to the other dogs or he doesn’t care. He barks extremely loud, is full of energy, and is eager to train. He is a great addition to our division.”
Puskos is one of four drug detector dogs assigned to Naval Station Norfolk; however, his small size makes him stand out and is a great advantage for the security department.
“Puskos is 17 pounds,” said Japec. “The other three narcotic detector dogs we have in our department weigh an average of 70 pounds. Puskos’ size allows us to sweep and search spaces that are challenging with an average-size MWD. Once we are done certifying, we will be able to sweep spaces like submarines and small spaces on ships which is very difficult to do with an 80-pound dog.”
Perez elaborated on the benefit of having Puskos as a member of the K-9 division.
“MWDs have to be carried up and down ladders on ships,” said Perez. “It will be significantly easier to take Puskos to a ship or submarine. We currently have to carry one of our 98-pound K-9s to search and sweep spaces on ships as big as a carrier.”
Perez stated the training process Japec and Puskos are going through is the most rewarding part of being a handler.
“Everyone in the security department has a responsibility to protect everyone on the installation, which makes our job within the department very important; but no other division is as satisfying,” said Perez. “As handlers we are able to see the work we put in as our dog advances. Japec and Puskos will train in areas like obedience and detection for the next upcoming weeks. Puskos will perfect his ability to find targets and point them out by demonstrating a change of behavior. As Puskos detects the target, Japec will be able to recognize when Puskos is actively sniffing for the target and when his behavior changes to indicate he has found it. As handlers we take great pride in our canine’s abilities.”
Japec elaborated on the training process which will take place.
“Puskos is great at detecting targets, and I am confident that the more we train the better he will get,” said Japec. “Because he is a high-energy dog we need a lot more obedience training, but that will come with time and I enjoy the process.”
“Puskos is my partner,” added Japec. “I treat him with the same respect I would treat any other person. I get to be a part of shaping what will be a security asset, which gives great satisfaction on my everyday job. I work long hours, but after Puskos’ training and all needs are met, we get to play fetch and show him affection. It’s the best job in the Navy.”
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeanyra A. Mateo, Naval Station Norfolk Public Affairs