SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Joint Task Force-Bravo's Medical Element (MEDEL) teamed up with the 1- 228 Aviation Regiment and Joint Security Forces (JSF) to conduct a Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) training exercise that included the JSF's military working dogs.
The purpose of the exercise was to familiarize the dogs and their handlers with loading and unloading the animals onto a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the event the dogs ever had to be emergency MEDEVACed. For three of the four dogs, this was the first experience on a helicopter.
The handlers and their dogs practiced the loading and unloading procedures with the dogs while the Blackhawk was at a standstill. The dogs practiced jumping into the helicopter and the handlers practiced buckling themselves into the seats while maintaining control of their dogs.
The handlers and dogs then ran through the procedures with the helicopter blades spinning. Once the blades started moving the dogs became a bit more nervous about boarding the helicopter but the handlers were able to get the dogs on board without much trouble and the 1-228 took the dogs and their handlers on a short flight to get them used to being in a moving helicopter.
"I wanted to do this training in a less stressful environment so that the military working dogs could get used to being on a helicopter, and how it feels and sounds. If they were to deploy to a combat zone, a helicopter will be one of the main modes of transportation," said U.S. Army Sgt. Courtney Kreft, MEDEL's veterinary animal care noncommissioned-officer-in-charge.
"We were able to achieve that goal and I watched as the dogs that were a little agitated at the beginning of the flight calmed down the more time they spent in the helicopter."
The K-9 unit at Soto Cano consists of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Chad Jones, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Liimakka and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Kelley, U.S. Navy Master at Arms Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Jarnberg and U.S. Navy Master at Arms Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler Drinski. MEDEL has been training continuously with these handlers over the last three months to make sure the medical staff as well as the handlers can perform first aid on the dogs in case of an emergency. This event was a continuation of that training to continue to ensure the well being of these highly trained working dogs.