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Hurlburt hosts Emerald Coast K-9 Clash

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kentavist P. Brackin
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Air Force and Army military working dog handlers and their four-legged partners gathered for the Emerald Coast K-9 Clash on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Nov. 15.

The event, hosted by the 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, is the first of its kind to be held here.

The clash allowed military working dog teams from across the Department of Defense to come together, garner experience from each other and test their knowledge in dog-handling, through various competitions, according to Staff Sgt. April Walker, event coordinator and 1st SOSFS military working dog trainer.

“For our guys, participating in this event has been really amazing,” said Walker. “They were able to train, compete against and work with other dog handlers, while expanding that network of people within the same career field.”

The all-day competition consisted of searching buildings, navigating a jungle obstacle course, patrolling scenarios and a variety of other events. It concluded with an Iron Dog competition, a race which began with a 5-mile ruck, 2-mile run and ended with a buddy carry in which competitors slugged their furry partners for 1 mile.

This event has been a learning experience for all the handlers involved regardless their service, according to Tech. Sgt. Dennis Luczak, security forces training program manager for Air Force Special Operations Command and judge for one of the events.

Participants were judged in a variety of areas including their ability to work together as a team, maintain control of their dogs and navigate courses - all while employing correct tactics.

“For a lot of the dog handlers this was their first time competing. We had the 7th Special Forces Group guys who had the most obstacles to overcome because they traditionally don’t use their dogs for cop work,” said Luczak, “Despite this, they held their own during the events and now have some idea of what to tailor their training to for next year’s competition.”

The 7th SFG efforts to overcome the challenges came to fruition with a Soldier receiving the Iron Dog Team Medal during an awards ceremony following the competition.

“This has been a great event and an even greater opportunity for us to get together with our Air Force counterparts and exchange knowledge,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Smith, 7th Special Forces Group military dog handler. “We hope they’ll continue to host events like this in the future.”

One of Hurlburt’s own swept the remaining award categories.

Staff Sgt. Philip Hines, 1st SOSFS military working dog handler, and his partner, Szuli, earned the Best Patrol Team and Best Decoy Medals. The duo also garnered the Top Dog Team plaque, the highest award for the competition.

Hines attributed his win to all the training he and his partner received from within their unit.

“It’s a good feeling to be able to come out on top,” said Hines. “Being relatively new to the military working dog community, I didn’t really expect to win anything. It just goes to show how hard we train here.”