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Black labs bring enhanced capabilities to the kennel

Allie, 374th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, prepares for exercise at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 11, 2021. Due to prior Marine Corps training, Allie can detect additional scents not required through Air Force training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Allie, 374th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, prepares for exercise at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 11, 2021. Due to prior Marine Corps training, Allie can detect additional scents not required through Air Force training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Allie, 374th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, prepares to race through a tube at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 11, 2021. Besides being a black Labrador retriever, Allie differs from other 374th SFS MWDs by being able to be used off leash and recognizes hand signals. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Allie, 374th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, prepares to race through a tube at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 11, 2021. Besides being a black Labrador retriever, Allie differs from other 374th SFS MWDs by being able to be used off leash and recognizes hand signals. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Staff Sgt. Miguel Guajardo, 374th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, kneels near Splash, 374th SFS MWD, at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 11, 2021. With the acquisition of Splash and another MWD, the 374th SFS went from a year-long shortage in manpower for MWDs to an overage. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Staff Sgt. Miguel Guajardo, 374th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, kneels near Splash, 374th SFS MWD, at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 11, 2021. With the acquisition of Splash and another MWD, the 374th SFS went from a year-long shortage in manpower for MWDs to an overage. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Splash, 374th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, runs back to a handler at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 11, 2021. The Marine Corps closed a mission set for their MWDs allowing the 374th SFS to acquire two new black Labrador retrievers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Splash, 374th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, runs back to a handler at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 11, 2021. The Marine Corps closed a mission set for their MWDs allowing the 374th SFS to acquire two new black Labrador retrievers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Staff Sgt. Miguel Guajardo, 374th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, throws a tennis ball for Splash, 374th SFS MWD, at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 11, 2021. Splash is one of two new black Labrador retrievers the 374th SFS acquired from the Marine Corps. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Staff Sgt. Miguel Guajardo, 374th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, throws a tennis ball for Splash, 374th SFS MWD, at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 11, 2021. Splash is one of two new black Labrador retrievers the 374th SFS acquired from the Marine Corps. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan --

The 374th Security Forces Squadron received a 5-year-old and 4-year-old black Labrador retriever from the III Marine Expeditionary Force located at Camp Hansen in Okinawa, May 17.

Staff Sgt. Miguel Guajardo, 374th SFS Military Working Dog handler, with the help of the 459th Airlift Squadron, travelled to Okinawa to pick up MWDs Splash and Allie last month.

“It was a last minute notice and I was told I had to go pick them up,” said Guajardo. “The 459th had a plane for me, a C-12 [Huron]. We flew all day to get them. It was four hours there and another five hours back.”

The dogs came from a deployment program the Marine Corps is downsizing in favor of normal law enforcement MWDs.

“The Marine Corps were originally going to retire these dogs,” Shannon said. “These dogs are worth $100,000 apiece. Instead of retiring them at such a young age, it made more sense for them to reach out to the other services. When we found out about it, I immediately reached out.”

Since Splash and Allie were trained to meet Marine Corps regulations, they have a slightly different skillset than the normal Air Force trained German shepherds and Belgian Malinois.

“These dogs know three more explosive odors than the Air Force standard,” said Shannon. “They are single purpose, which means they will only do detection and were never trained on bite. In the event that we go down range, we can use them off leash and have them search around without having to think about if my dog is going to bite someone.”

This allows the labs to travel farther from their handler than Air Force MWDs and watch for a variety of hand signals while off the leash.

“They are a lot of fun to work with and it’s a different experience than working with what I’m used to,” said Guajardo. “My normal dog, Florida, searches one way and these dogs search a completely different way. Not all dogs are the same, and I’m learning more and more as we go along.”

With the acquisition of the labs, the 374th SFS went from a year-long shortage in manpower for MWDs to an overage. This will allow for the retirement of a MWD that has been at Yokota for several years and not leave any gaps in the mission.

While neither MWD currently has anyone assigned to them, their handlers are due to arrive at Yokota within the next couple months.