WASHINGTON - Eleven new explosives detection canine teams joined the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program following graduation today at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
The graduates will report for duty at: Los Angeles International Airport, San Diego International Airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Port Columbus International Airport; George Bush Intercontinental Airport – Houston; Miami International Airport; Orlando International Airport; Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport; Tulsa International Airport; San Antonio International Airport; and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.
During the graduation ceremony, guest speaker Patrick Bowden, Training Administrator, 37th Training Group, Lackland AFB, Texas, acknowledged the long existing partnership between the Department of Defense and the Transportation Security Administration working dog programs and applauded the handlers' commitment to securing our homeland.
During training, officers were provided instruction on handler skills, explosives safety, and safe handling and accountability of explosives canine training aids. They spent much of their time searching for explosives in specialized indoor and outdoor training areas that resemble the airport environment, including aircraft searches where teams check cockpits, cabins, and overhead storage bins. The teams also practice searching warehouses, luggage and a parking lot filled with cars, trucks, vans and buses.
After returning to their airports, the teams will undergo several hours of proficiency training each week in their operational environment, encountering all the odors and distractions associated with a busy airport. To ensure these teams stay sharp, they are certified annually – a stringent, four-to-eight day process designed to demonstrate they meet TSA standards.
"These eleven teams are another example of TSA's commitment to build upon our already existing layered security approach," said Dave Kontny, Director of the National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program. "These teams, and the 2005 Program expansion to 18 additional airports requiring an additional 54 explosives detection canine teams, will take the TSA to over 420 authorized teams nation-wide."
Because canine teams combine excellent mobility with reliable detection rates, their use has evolved to include searching areas in response to bomb threats associated with airport terminals and aircraft, luggage, cargo and vehicles, as well as serving as a proven deterrent to would-be terrorists or criminals.
Kontny added, "The role TSA-certified canine teams have played across the United States this year, in support of the United States Secret Service during the 2004 Presidential campaign, the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, numerous Operational Tests and Evaluations and several additional special events, has been no less than outstanding. TSA's partnership with local law enforcement agencies across the country enhances the Department of Homeland Security's ability to provide a rapid deployable force of highly trained explosives detection canine teams to meet today's security challenges."
The TSA Explosives Detection Canine Team Program is a cooperative partnership with participating airports. TSA pays to train the canine, provides in-depth training for the handler, and partially reimburses the participating agency for costs associated with the teams, such as salaries, overtime, canine food and veterinary care. The TSA-certified canine teams reflect the core values of the Department of Homeland Security – providing first responders with the right tools, technical assistance and funding to protect our nation's interests.