15:44 PM

S.C. Ground Team Members Learn About Tracking Dogs

1st Lt. Norwood A. Bodie
Public Affairs Officer
Aiken Composite Squadron
South Carolina Wing

Ground team training for the South Carolina Wing’s Aiken Composite Squadron went to the dogs this month – literally, courtesy of the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office.

The unit’s Sept. 19 training session centered around working with a canine team in a missing person search. Ground team members working with dog teams need to understand how to work with the canines without interfering with their search abilities.

The Aiken County Sheriff’s Office provided one of its dog teams to assist in the training. Sgts. Christian Stutts and Billy Tucker brought canine Annie out to work with the cadets and senior members at the squadron’s weekly meeting.

The squadron’s ground team members were instructed on the rules for working with dog teams as well as the use of different types of dogs, depending on the task at hand.

Stutts and Tucker talked with the squadron members about the different types of dogs used in searches and discussed differences in how they work to find their objective.

Search dogs are usually one of three types: air scent, article and trailing dogs.

Air scent dogs are used to help locate human scent in such daunting settings as underwater and in avalanches. They’re also used to find cadavers when the mission is to search rather than rescue. These dogs are also most commonly used by law enforcement in weapon and drug searches.

Article dogs are trained to track a specific scent from an item of clothing belonging to the missing person. Once allowed to smell the article, the dog can then follow the scent along the ground. The squadron learned that while dogs might smell many scents, they have the ability to single out the one they’re tasked with following.

Trailing dogs, which the Sheriff’s Offices uses, are taken to a point where the missing person was last seen or to the person’s last track, then put on the trail. Tracking dogs follow the scent of dead skin cells that fall from a person as they walk.

The session was part of an active year of search and rescue training for the squadron, including compass training, map reading and hiking, land navigation and other short-term exercises.

Photos by 1st Lt. Norwood A. Bodie