Friday, September 4, 2009

Staff Sgt. Joshua Washington & Jings

Who is in the photo at right?

I, Staff Sgt. Joshua Washington, am a U.S. Army Military Working Dog handler assigned to the 221st Military Police Detachment at Fort Eustis, Va. I’m responsible for the overall care and work of my MWD. I’m currently partnered with Jings, a five-year-old male Belgian Malinois who specializes in patrol and explosive detection. MWD handlers rotate MWDs depending on the operational needs of the unit and the duty station changes of the handler. Only MWDs and their handlers with expertise in specialized searches remain together throughout the career of the handler. I have had two other MWDs in my career, Britt and Clara.

What is the Jings' rank? How long did it take him to achieve his present rank?

Jings is a sergeant first class. All MWDs are one rank higher than their handlers. Ranks for MWDs are assigned this way so that it is considered a major offense if a handler ever mistreats his MWD; it is the equivalent to an assault on a superior. When a MWD retires, they retire at the highest rank they held in their career. Jings has held his current rank for two years and it is currently at the highest rank he has achieved.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Early morning training. 221st Military Police Detachment MWD handlers usually start their day around 3 a.m. opening the kennel and training the MWDs.

What's brewing?

Dunkin Donuts regular cup of Joe.

Any treats to go with the coffee?

Dunkin Donuts assorted doughnuts.

Any treat for Jings on this occasion?

MWDs are usually not rewarded with food treats due to their strict diets. They are weighed twice a month and held to weight restrictions just like Soldiers are. Rewards are typically given in the form of verbal praises and, on occasion, toys. On special occasions like birthdays or holidays, MWD handlers are allowed to give their MWDs special food, like dressing on Thanksgiving, mixed with their regular food.

How did Jings come to be united with you?

The kennel master (the 221st Military Police Detachment MWD kennel master is Staff Sgt. Joseph Secrist) is the ultimate deciding figure in pairing MWD handlers and MWDs. The decision process is based on a MWD’s expertise and a MWD handler’s experience. For MWDs that specialize in explosive detection, like Jings, more experience is required due to the high-stress situations the team can find itself in. Junior MWD handlers usually start out with drug/law enforcement or health and welfare MWDs. This also helps Soldiers with less experience interact with commanders from a company level, eventually working up to interaction with commanders of higher levels.

How did Jings get his name?

MWDs are given their names when they are purchased by the Department of Defense from a breeder. They also have a National Stock Number (something like a Social Security Number) that is tattooed in their ear. DoD purchasing teams are tasked with locating breeders throughout the world that meet the strict criteria to produce dogs that can be considered for the MWD program. The dogs are sent from these chosen breeders to the DoD Military Working Dog Training Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Once MWDs graduate from the training school, they are sent to kennels on military installations around the globe.

Has he earned any special medals of commendations?

Jings has been awarded with the 8th Transportation Brigade Commander’s Coin.

I understand MWDs are trained in areas like narcotic and explosive detection, building searches, open area scouting, and special search missions. Does your dog have a specialty or specialties?

Jings is a Patrol/Explosive Detector Dog. He is trained to find explosives and assist his handler in military police patrols.

Do you participate in competitions against other MWDs? If so, how did you do at a recent one?

The 221st Military Police Detachment MWD Kennel recently competed in the 2009 Military Working Dog Warrior Police Challenge in May at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. The event brought MWDs and MWD handlers from all the services together to compete for top honors. The 221st Military Police Detachment MWD Kennel had three MWDs and their handlers in the competition. All three teams placed consecutively in the top five of all the events, which included scouting, explosive detection, obedience, handler protection and endurance. The 221st Military Police Detachment MWD Kennel received the overall Top Kennel award.

Since I was only recently paired with Jings, I competed in the event with another MWD, Clara, a six-year-old female German Shepherd who also specializes in patrol and explosive detection. Together, Clara and I won first place in the endurance challenge and third place in the explosive detection challenge. With another MWD handler, Jings placed third in scouting.

Which branch of the military has the best MWD?

The Army, of course.

Somehow I knew you were going to say the Army. Which branch has the second best MWD?

In my opinion, the U.S. Marine Corps does because they train on a level closest to the Army’s.

Have you and the dog been posted in a war zone? If so, can you briefly tell us something about the high point and low point of that experience?

I have not yet deployed with Jings, but I will do so in September to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. Before I was stationed at Fort Eustis, I was assigned in Germany where I worked with another MWD, Britt, a five-year old male German Shepherd who also specializes in patrol and explosive detection. We deployed to Iraq in 2007-2008. Jings deployed with another MWD handler to Iraq in 2008-2009.

With Britt, my low point was leaving him in Germany when I permanently changed stations of duty. During a deployment, it’s like having a brother with you 24/7; you eat together, you sleep together, you do everything together.

What's your MWD's proudest moment?

I was very proud with Clara to take Top Kennel in the 2009 Military Working Dog Warrior Police Challenge. With Jings, we passed our certification to deploy in just 15 days when it usually can take up to 90 days to pass. The program manager doubted our ability to do this, but we worked hard and we accomplished it.

Among the other MWDs at Fort Eustis, who does your dog best get along with?

Jings’ buddy in the kennel is a male German Shepherd named Gudy.

Special thanks to Monica Miller Rodgers, Fort Eustis Command Information Officer/Fort Story Public Affairs, for her assistance with this interview.

--Marshal Zeringue