TSA selects the 2020 Canine Handler of the Year from Indianapolis International Airport

Local Press Release
Monday, December 14, 2020
Explosive Detection Canine Handler Keith Gray and his operational canine Ari

INDIANAPOLIS – Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recognizes the agency’s highest performers and the most effective teams of 2020. The TSA’s 2020 Canine Handler of the year was selected from the Indianapolis International Airport (IND). Due to the current pandemic, the 2020 TSA Honorary Awards celebration will be conducted virtually this year to highlight the distinguished work of the recognized individuals and teams.

Explosive Detection Canine Handler Keith Gray was recognized for his extraordinary contributions in promoting the transportation security mission and TSA Strategy. His two operational partners this year included TTirado, a Labrador Retriever, and Ari, a German Shorthaired Pointer. Gray and TTirado were partners from March 2012 until June of this year. He is the sole recipient of this national award in 2020.

Ari TTirado photo
TSA Explosive Detection Canines Ari (left) and TTirado

“I am honored to be named TSA's 2020 Canine Handler of the Year,” Gray said. “I appreciate the help and support of my team at the Indianapolis International Airport including my previous operational partner now retired TTirado, and my current operational K-9 Ari. It’s a great feeling to be recognized nationally and I’m sure we will never forget this moment.”  

This award recognizes a canine handler who worked to achieve the highest level performance of their duties. Gray’s contributions demonstrated the utmost integrity and professionalism while adding value to the Department of Homeland Security, TSA, stakeholders, and to their position. Gray was the lead recruiter for IND’s multi-agency joint training K-9 event which assembled over 100 handlers from around the country. He worked on this event in his off-duty time and created a professional flyer which is distributed throughout the K-9 community.

“We are all excited for Keith and his canine partners, TTirado and Ari, on winning such a prestigious award as TSA’s 2020 Canine Handler of the Year,” said Aaron Batt, TSA’s Indiana Federal Security Director. “Throughout the year, Keith participated in a two-dog pilot program where he trained his new, uncertified partner Ari, while simultaneously working alongside his operational partner TTirado, so there were no gaps in their operational capabilities.”

TTirado was an explosive detection canine at IND before retiring from TSA after an impressive eight-year career and has been adopted by Gray’s family. Ari is Gray’s current operational partner.

TSA’s honorary awards are announced annually. Employees are encouraged to nominate colleagues whose work in the past year was extraordinary and supported the agency’s strategic goals. This year, the awards will be presented virtually by TSA Administrator David Pekoske from agency headquarters in Springfield, Virginia.