EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Who do you call for backup when you’re patrolling alone? Man’s best friend.
The 96th Security Forces Squadron modified a military working dog squad car last summer with a safety feature that protects both the dog handler and their canine companion while out on patrol.
The patrol vehicle now contains a door popping feature that releases the canine from the vehicle by a remote control. The security forces member wears the remote on their vest.
Danger is ubiquitous in the security forces line of work, with situations susceptible to escalate or de-escalate at any moment. The dog handler may engage an individual, and if that person becomes combative toward the SFS member, a way to open the rear door of the patrol vehicle for the canine’s help comes in handy.
“If we are by ourselves,” said Tech Sgt. Michael Castilleja, a 96th SFS MWD trainer, “our dog acts as our backup.”
Dog handlers use the canines as another line of defense only when necessary, and the automatic door gives the dog handler the option at their discretion.
“All the handler will need to do is press the button to pop open the door and the dog is released,” said Tech Sgt. David Garver, the 96th SFS kennel master.
To train the canines with the door opening automation, the dog handlers averaged three tries while increasing their distance away from the vehicle for the dogs to get used to jumping out of the patrol car without the presence of their handler.
“We train the dog to be our backup until we get another patrol on the scene,” said Castilleja.
The car is also outfitted with an alarm that activates a horn honk system when the internal temperature is too high for the MWD in the back seat. The first honk is a warning, and the second alarm automatically rolls the back window down, activating an air conditioning system to immediately equalize the inside of the vehicle to a safe temperature.
“The handlers like the change,” said Garver. “The door popping system makes the force better by providing the handlers with another layer of officer safety.”
There is currently only one 96th SFS canine patrol vehicle with the door popping technology. The handlers have aspirations to obtain the same automatic door popping technology and temperature alarm system in their sport utility vehicle squad car.
An SUV patrol car with this technology would enable security forces to improve safety for both dog handlers and their “backup” on the austere terrain of the Eglin range.