Military and Civilian Leadership Tours Search Dog Foundation

By NCG 1 Public Affairs

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Service members and a search dog handler stand in front of a training facility at the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation’s National Training Center during a tour, Santa Paula, Calif., July 9. (Photo by MCC Lowell Whitman/150709-N-HA376-344)

Local civic, reserve and active duty military leaders toured the National Disaster Search and Rescue Dog Foundation’s (SDF’s) National Training Center (NTC) to see first-hand the naval construction efforts, Santa Paula, Calif., July 9.

Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCBs) 4, 18 and 22, along with support from Naval Construction Group (NCG) 1 and 1st Naval Construction Regiment (1 NCR), are working under the Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training Program (IRT) and alongside a general contractor to construct various training facilities at the center. The facilities simulate realistic disaster scenarios for search dogs. The SDF tour highlighted the capabilities of the training facility, the search dogs and their handlers the foundation serves, as well as the Seabees’ ongoing construction projects.

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Rear Adm. Eric Young, commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command, speaks with visitors at the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation’s National Training Center during a tour of the facility,. (Photo by MCC Lowell Whitman/150709-N-HA376-221)

SDF was founded in 1996 to help strengthen disaster response capabilities by training rescued dogs and then partnering them with firefighters and other first responders to help find people buried in rubble following a disaster.

Military and civilian leadership had the opportunity to tour “Search City,” a one-acre area consisting of mock homes and businesses designed to reflect the damage that may occur in a disaster.

“All of these buildings that we’re building are the only kind in the entire world,” said Lt. Justin Perry, project officer-in-charge. Perry added that the buildings will have a unique scent system, built with piping to allow the smell of trainers acting as simulated disaster victims to travel throughout the city.

Additionally, the mock city includes a convenience store, a house with an 11-degree tilt, 11,000 cubic yards of earth work, and three facades simulating collapsed houses, as well as observation areas and trails.

“The Seabees are getting advanced builder skills and advanced equipment operator skills,” said Perry. “[The reservists] can take these skills that they’ve learned and not only apply it to their civilian employment, but also apply it to overall attainment in the construction battalions as well. They get a very diverse type of training and it’s something they may not see for a long time.”

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Service member watch as a search dog navigates an obstacle at the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation’s National Training Center during a tour of the facility, Santa Paula, Calif., July 9. (Photo by MCC Lowell Whitman/150709-N-HA376-290)

Commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command, Rear Adm. Eric Young attended the tour and spoke about the importance of the projects.

“One of the reasons that we’re ready – you know, anytime, anywhere – is because of projects like this. It’s two things: building relationships and being able to train,” said Young. “And it allows the Seabees in this case to be ready and train to accomplish any mission they may have.”

Serenity Nichols, an executive assistant at SDF, said her first contact with the Seabees started when they volunteered at the training center, constructing a retaining wall in their off time. And it was through those interactions that she learned of the IRT program. Nichols echoed the collaborative relationship between her organization and the Seabees.

“They’re getting the training that they need to become deployment ready or [to help] a community in need, and we are getting the training props built for our search dogs, so it’s a win-win partnership,” she said.

Future work at the foundation is expected to include a climate-controlled dome to simulate weather conditions, a collapsed bridge, a rappelling tower and road work.

“It’s been a great project,” said Perry, adding that he hopes the success of Search City would be followed in-kind by the success of a nearby industrial park under construction.

“In the end it’s not going to matter if the reserve or active duty built it,” said Perry. “It’s going to be the Seabees who built it, and it’s going to [leave] a lasting impression for future generations.”

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Seabees assigned to NMCB 18 tie rebar during construction at the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation’s National Training Center, Santa Paula, Calif., July 9. Seabees are members of a team tasked with constructing various training facilities at the center to simulate realistic disaster scenarios for search dogs under the Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training Program. (Photo by MCC Lowell Whitman/150709-N-HA376-080)

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