The Best Defense

Rebecca's War Dog of the Week: A boost for Navy dog handlers

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

The Marine Times reported this week that "[t]he Navy's Center for Security Forces is in the final stages of creating the first apprenticeship trade program for those with military specialties that involve working dogs." If the Department of Labor approves the program, it means that that "hundreds" of MWD handlers in both the Navy and the Marine Corps will be eligible for apprenticeships that will not only potentially "boost [their] military career, but also help [servicemen and women] land a law enforcement gig" after they retire from the military, say with a police department K-9 unit or with a private security company.

This is especially encouraging news as many retiring military servicemen and women are finding it difficult to find jobs in the civilian workforce. The Washington Post reported in November that the "unemployment rate for recent veterans remains incredibly high -- around 10 percent -- and remains noticeably higher than it is for non-veterans in the same demographic group."

Should this new program receive the expected approval, it will, says MA Jose Bautista, programs manager at the Navy's Center for Security Forces, offer "concrete documentation of your skills and experience, and that's what selection boards love to see. That same documentation enhances someone's marketing potential in the civilian workforce when their military service is complete for the same reasons. I've seen many apprenticeships on the résumés of senior enlisted sailors who've walked out of the Navy's door into very good civilian careers."

And for many handlers, this is good news for handlers for another reason entirely: Life after the military doesn't have to mean a life working without dogs. 

Above, MWD Rex, of Naval Air Facility Atsugi Naval Security Force, lays on the deck of a MH-60S Seahawk helicopter during an aerial training exercise for K-9 units. Rex and his handler are participating in readiness training for future deployments through accumulation of scents, movement, and the feel of riding in, and being around helicopters.

Rebecca Frankel is special projects editor at Foreign Policy.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kegan E. Kay/Released

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