U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY2003-05-27 19:42:19

TSA Canine Boot Camp - Training the Newest Foot Soldiers in the War on Terror

At a unique boot camp in the Southwest desert, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is making ready its newest weapons in the war on terrorism: canine teams taught to find explosives in planes, cars, warehouses, terminals and luggage headed for airports across America in the coming weeks.

Thirteen teams are now in their final days of training at TSA's Explosives Detection Canine Handler boot camp at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. When they graduate at the end of the week they will provide extra security for travelers at 10 airports around the nation.

"The canine teams are involved in an intense 11-week training program that teaches them to find explosives and prevent terrorists from hiding a bomb in the airport or on board a plane," said David Kontny, Director, TSA National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program. "In addition to providing training for the dog, instructors also work to develop handler skills, provide instruction on explosives safety, instruction in the safe handling and accountability of explosives canine training aids, and contamination issues, " he added.

Teams also spend much of their time searching for explosives in a specialized outdoor training area, which includes six different types of airplanes or "classrooms" where teams check the cockpits, cabins, and overhead storage bins for hidden explosives, Kontny said. The teams also practice patrolling a parking lot filled with cars, trucks, vans and buses, and searching luggage.

When asked his reason for entering the canine training program, Officer William Vick of the Nashville (Tenn.) International Airport Police Department, said, "Just like most Americans, 9/11 changed my life. When they started flying aircraft over here and bouncing them on our buildings, killing our women and children, it's about the closest I can get to the front lines."

TSA Canine Boot Camp

Graduation for the current class of recruits is scheduled for this Friday, May 23, with teams from San Jose, Calif.; Hartford, Conn;; Boise, Idaho; Louisville, Ky; Baltimore, Md; Minneapolis, Minn; New York, N.Y; Cleveland, Ohio; Philadelphia, Pa., and Nashville, Tenn., all hoping to make the grade.

After leaving TSA's boot camp, the teams will return home where they will have time to "adjust to the crowded and hectic airport environment before being evaluated under real-world situations they are likely to encounter at the airport," Kontny said.

Teams will be ready to join the already in-place forces providing their respective airports with round-the-clock coverage. These teams meet 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, he added.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the number of explosive detection canine teams available for airport duty has doubled to 289 working regularly at 64 of the nation's busiest airports. Plans call for expanding the program to 364 teams at 82 airports by late this year.

For more information contact:
Transportation Security Administration
Mail Stop: TSA-6
400 7th St. Sw
Washington
D.C. 20590
United States Of America



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