Citizen Airmen devote time to canine training, airport security

Senior Master Sgt. Tara Corse, a member of the Air Force Reserve's 48th Aerial Port Squadron, works as the Regional K-9 training instructor at the Honolulu International Airport, Nov. 16.

Senior Master Sgt. Tara Corse, a member of the Air Force Reserve’s 48th Aerial Port Squadron, works as the Regional K-9 training instructor at the Honolulu International Airport, Nov. 16.

Story and photo by Master Sgt. Theanne Herrmann

624th Regional Support Group

Air Force Reservists from the 624th Regional Support Group (RSG) and 48th Aerial Port Squadron (APS) participated in a training scenario involving a transportation security administration (TSA) explosive detection dog to sniff around passengers at the Honolulu International Airport, Nov. 16.

While waiting in line for security, passengers came in contact with a passenger-screening dog known as Zip, a German short-haired pointer, equipped with a harness that read “DO NOT PET.”

The canine is being tested to see if he can pinpoint the decoy or detect who is carrying a simulated explosive material through the security line. If Zip successfully identifies the decoy in various training scenarios, he gains employment on the elite TSA explosive detection canine team.

Within a matter of minutes Zip provided his handler with the correct alert with his eyes glued to the suspected passenger.

“When a dog finds a very sensitive item that could put the public in harm’s way, it’s rewarding,” said Tara Corse, Regional K-9 training instructor for the TSA.

The canines must pass rigorous, real-world scenarios coordinated by Corse, who also serves as an Aerial Transportation Specialist with the 48th Aerial Port Squadron, a Reserve unit located at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Corse credits her Air Force career for giving her the insight to provide realistic training scenarios for the canines.

“When I transferred from active duty to the Reserves, I knew I was going to work at the airport as a K-9 instructor,” Corse said. “So I picked out the aerial port squadron specifically because it would help me in gaining knowledge of the airport environment and all of the inner workings.”

The 48th APS provides expertise in all areas of air terminal operations to include aircraft loading, cargo processing and inspecting passenger services worldwide in support of contingency operations, disaster and humanitarian relief.

“My TSA job and Reserve career correlates and I am able to rely on volunteers from the Air Force Reserve to help us train the canines,” Corse said.

“We need new people each time we do a different scenario. If we used the same person, the dog will associate that person’s smell with the sensitive material. Changing the decoys challenges the dogs to ensure they are effective at their job.”

Master Sgt. Marilyn Kinoshita, member of the 624th RSG, volunteers as a decoy and encourages her team to participate.

“I volunteer because as an Airman, it is our duty and responsibility to safeguard and protect the people of the United States,” Kinoshita said.

“The TSA is also a partner in this critical mission as they are the forefront of airport security and the first line of defense in air travel. Teaming up with TSA not only assists in recognizing gaps in their practices, but the outcome of our efforts contribute to corrective action plans that make air travel safe.”

After Kinoshita experienced Zip identifying her as the decoy as fast as he did, she believes the explosive detection canines enhance airport security.

“Whether in the combat zones of Iraq, Afghanistan, or in the airports of America, these security professionals are on duty and trained to deter crisis,” Kinoshita said.

“As a passenger, these dogs make me feel safe. As an Airman, it is good to know that these canine teams are professional, well-trained and on duty to support our war on terrorism.”

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Category: News