MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- The station’s Provost Marshal’s Office K-9 Unit received a new dog recently. However, she didn’t just follow them home one day.
Hexa, the 3-year-old German shepard, arrived on station two months ago and was assigned to Cpl. Ben D. MacDonell, a PMO dog handler and native of Los Alamon, N.M.
“Hexa is a great dog,” said MacDonell. “She just needs some training and experience.”
MacDonell received Hexa after his previous dog Bepo, a 7-year-old male German shepard, died of pneumonia while the pair was deployed to Iraq. They spent 7.5 months together at Camp Ramadi working with both the Army and Marine Corps. MacDonell and Bepo were together for nine months.
MacDonell transferred in to K-9, worked with several other dogs briefly before being permently assigned to Bepo.
Bepo was one of many military working dogs that have been aiding Marines in the war on terror since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“The dogs serve in Iraq just as long as most Marines,” said MacDonell. “While over there the dogs are used for locating explosives and narcotics at vehicle checkpoints. We also did room searches and raids.”
When MacDonell returned from Iraq he received Hexa.
Lackland Air Force Base has buyers that go to different dog vendors and choose the best dogs for purchasing. After being chosen by the vendors, Hexa went through three and a half months of training at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, before arriving on station. Hexa along with every K-9 on station is duel certified, which means the dog is qualified in one of two different areas of detection as well as patrol work. Upon arrival on station the dogs have received nearly $50,000 in training.
“Some dogs are used for locating explosives and some for narcotics,” said Sgt. Daniel R. Williams, station kennel master. “However, all of our dogs are certified for basic patrol work, intruder detection and locating people who are lost.
“Hexa and the other dogs are mainly used to provide security and protection for those living on base,” said Williams. “However, they also go on deployments and occasionally assist the Secret Service.”
Hexa works on the obstacle course every day, jumping hurdles, going through tunnels and windows, and climbing over bridges and other things to simulate real life situations and obstacles, said MacDonell.
This is done with every dog in the K-9 kennels to increase agility and dexterity in the dogs, said Williams
“After all the training handlers and the dogs go through, we still aren’t done,” said MacDonell. “We work with the dogs between eight and ten hours a day. We learn new things about the dog and the way he acts every day it’s a learning experience.”
“Working with the dogs is a lot of fun,” said MacDonell. “There’s a lot we get to do that other Marines can’t. We create a bond with these dogs because we work with these dogs every day, and while that can be a little frustrating at times, it still is fun.”
It takes several years for a K-9 dog to reach their peak in training, and when Hexa reaches her peak not only will there be $1 million in training in to her, but she may also be the top dog on station.
“With the way Hexa’s training is coming along she will be one of the best K-9 dogs on station,” said Williams. “MacDonell and Hexa will be one of the top teams we have here.”