Eight working dogs trained for drug and bomb detection are being cared for at Camp Katuu by the Civic Action Team (CAT), while their five handlers from Bellum k9 LLC are in quarantine.
The working dogs, provided by the United States Department of Defense grant aid, will eventually be used by Palau national law enforcement to patrol checkpoints in its airport and ports, and search for illegal drugs or explosives being brought into the country.
Four of the dogs are trained to sniff explosives, while the other four are trained to detect narcotics.
While their five handlers, who arrived in Palau with the dogs on September 21, continue to undergo their two weeks of quarantine, the working dogs are currently being looked after by Petty Officer Jonathanjay Samson of the CAT, who has had five years of experience as a military working dog handler during his time as a Master at Arms.
According to Petty Officer Samson, care for the dogs—which include three German Shepherds, four Belgian Malinois, and one mixed breed– involves feeding them twice a day, walking them twice a day for 30 minutes each, providing basic obedience training, and checking them every four hours to ensure they are in good health.
“After handling them for a little over a week, I can see that the dogs will do great getting certified, given the proper training,” Samson said. “I’ve grown to have a lot of love for military working dogs, due to the time I’ve spent handling them.”
The Working Dogs Program is a $2.6 million project, and provides for the eight dogs, twelve weeks of k9 handler training, support equipment, one year of veterinary care, two years of dog food, and construction of a permanent kennel facility to shelter them.
The program, established by the United States Indo-Pacific Command, is one part of a multi-year, multi-million dollars grant assistance program designed to improve the Palau National Government’s ability to patrol its borders and respond to threats in its territorial waters.
Ms. Jennifer Anson of the Ministry of Justice says that the program has been four years in the making, and coincides with other endeavors by the US military to provide for Palau’s security.
Ms. Anson cited the planned establishment of “joint-use” military sites in Palau which could be regularly used by the US military, such as the US Aerial Domain Awareness site being set aside on Angaur.
She also mentioned the Sea Dragon program, which was developed by the US Air Force Research Laboratory for aerial surveillance. The program, which the US military has opted to base in Palau, uses radars mounted to Cessna 337 “Skymaster” manned aircraft to search wide areas of ocean in the Micronesian region, and detect illegal activities such as illegal fishing vessels in closed zones. The program is allegedly capable of monitoring over 35,000 kilometers of open ocean every hour.
Ms. Anson says that these initiatives for Palau’s safety are long overdue.
“We know that the United States is responsible for Palau’s security,” said Ms. Anson. “However, we’ve sort of been ignored through a lot of this time.”
Ms. Anson said that in recent years the United States has been doing more to bolster Palau’s international security. She cited tensions with countries on the Asian mainland, such as China and North Korea, and Palau’s strategic position as reasons for this.
“I think that lately the US is realizing that we really have to start establishing this relationship,” she said.