TSA explosives detection canine teams (EDC) from around the nation were put through their paces as they competed in the Windy City Canine Challenge in Chicago.
“Participant nomination packets were reviewed by a panel of canine industry subject matter experts including representatives from TSA, Federal Protective Service and NYPD who rank-ordered the nominations,” said event founder and Chicago Canine Trainer Instructor (CTI) Sean Shiplett. “The top teams were invited to participate.”
The week-long competition consisted of a series of events hosted at Seat Geek Stadium, the United Center, Midway International Airport (MDW) and Willis Tower. Each venue had multiple lanes running simultaneously with scenarios tailored to challenge the handler, the dog or both as a cohesive team.
“An event like this not only showcases our amazing TSA canine teams, but it also allows the teams to be put into real-world scenarios which result in the handlers and canines being even more prepared for events that they may encounter any day,” said Tim Bartlett, branch chief of the National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program. The event even drew the attention of TSA Administrator David Pekoske who was on hand for the competition.
The competition included five events – a handler knowledge assessment (a written assessment focusing on general handler knowledge of canine behaviors, training methods and canine first aid), a canine team confidence course (a series of objects and items set in a manner to test the team’s rapport and bond), canine first aid lanes (scenario-driven events testing the handler’s knowledge and application of first responder canine care), stress search (odor validation after using a canine treadmill), and explosives detection lanes (a wide array of variables that tested their resolve) using real-world threat scenarios.
MDW Canine Handler Justin Wolfschlag and canine Suzi were crowned 2023 champions followed by the Chicago O’Hare International Airport team of Herb Mudge and Badger with LaGuardia Airport’s Tatiana Rotatu and canine Xena placing third.
“This competition is the benchmark within the Department of Homeland Security/TSA, showcasing some of the most effective canine counterterrorism teams in the world,” commented CTI Robert Sanders.
Bartlett summed up the event, saying, “I can’t say enough about the great job that Canine Training Instructor Sean Shiplett and the entire Chicago team did to put together the Windy City Canine Challenge.”
By Carey Wayne, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs