SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
The use of dogs to aid in war and military activities dates back thousands of years. Their unique capabilities paired with their heightened senses enabled militaries to track, send messages, scout and even defend others as sentries.
Today, military working dogs are not used as frontline combatants. They serve a new role leaning toward law enforcement and much like humans, MWDs are most comfortable on solid ground, but the military’s operations are not limited to the land – sometimes they must get airborne.
Joint Task Force Bravo’s 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment C Company recently acclimated two MWDs to helicopter flight, and the use of the HH-60’s hoist capabilities during a training exercise Oct. 29, 2021 at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras.
Not all dogs have the chance to fly, however, in the event a MWD and its handler are in medical duress and require medical evacuation, or need to get to a location quickly, sometimes a helicopter is the best option.
With their handler close by their side, each MWD made its way up above Soto Cano AB’s flightline and practiced boarding and dismounting the aircraft while the rotors were spinning. Then, the handler hooked the dog to themselves and the hoist to be flown roughly 25 feet into the air.
“It’s important to allow the dog to experience the sensation of flight and get used to getting into and out of the helicopter with engines on,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shenique Gonzalez “In a real-world response, we do not want to place undue stress on our dogs by forcing them onto something they aren’t familiar with.”
Working alongside the medics and crew chiefs in the 228th, was Lt. Col. Jenifer Hope, JTF-Bravo veterinary officer in charge. Her oversight coupled with the instructions of the flight medics, allowed the dogs and their handlers to familiarize themselves with the rescue hoist on board the aircraft.
“Overall, I thought this training went very well,” said Hope. “The dogs impressed me with their adaptation skills which shows how much value this training is for the working dog teams. I look forward to all MWDs and handlers to get the chance to perform a hoist – all handlers are very eager to get more experience.”