Kenya Defence Forces, U.S. canine handlers exchange knowledge

U.S. Navy Master at Arms 2nd Class Dontay Harris, a military working dog (MWD) handler deployed to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, assists a member of the Kenya Defence Force’s (KDF) 1st Canine Regiment during a bite training demonstration with his MWD Gina. U.S. and Kenyan MWD handlers were able to share insights into their profession during the week-long exchange between the Civil Affairs Battalion’s Functional Specialty Team assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and the Kenya Defence Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kirsten Brandes) Kenya Defence Forces, U.S. canine handlers exchange knowledge U.S. Navy Master at Arms 2nd Class Dontay Harris, a military working dog (MWD) handler deployed to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, assists a member of the Kenya Defence Force’s (KDF) 1st Canine Regiment during a bite training demonstration with his MWD Gina. U.S. and Kenyan MWD handlers were able to share insights into their profession during the week-long exchange between the Civil Affairs Battalion’s Functional Specialty Team assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and the Kenya Defence Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kirsten Brandes)

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti – For the second time in less than a year, veterinarians assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa met with the Kenya Defence Force dog handlers to exchange best practices in their fields Nov. 19-23 in Nairobi, Kenya. 

U.S. Army’s 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion facilitated the meeting between U.S. Navy military working dog handlers from Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, and the Kenya Defence Force’s 1st Canine Regiment. 

“What impressed me the most is that we’ve all taken home the information we exchanged from our last time together and both put it to work,” said U.S Army Maj. Steven Pelham, a veterinarian with the 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion’s Functional Specialty Team. “I’ve seen their medics and their handlers using the information and how we do things. I’ve seen our handlers taking note of things that their dogs will be exposed to while we’re here in Africa.”

Both parties gave presentations on their areas of expertise, with the KDF providing insight into environmental concerns faced by U.S. military working dogs deployed in the task force’s combined joint operations area.

“They’ve presented several talks on diseases, things that we need to worry about catching from the local wildlife,” said Pelham. “We’ve also talked about things that our dogs may see in the environment, where we currently have dogs deployed, as far as disease processes that we need to be concerned with.”

KDF Maj. Elon Were, commanding officer of the 1st Canine Regiment, expressed his enthusiasm for the program and the benefit it provided for his regiment’s development. 

“This program has been able to give them some deep insight on what they’re supposed to be undertaking in terms of Tactical Combat Casualty Care for their military working dogs,” Were said. 

Kenya is the only country in East Africa with a canine unit organic to its military. Founded in 2012, the KDF’s 1st Canine Regiment is a force multiplier that provides Kenya a way to balance the battlefield against an enemy with unconventional strategies and tactics. The unit specializes in explosive detection, patrolling, road and building clearing, and search and rescue, making them a valuable resource in the region.

“We want to take this program beyond the normal regiment, so that we can be able to expand our capacity, and build more capacity with more handlers and more vets who have been trained on Tactical Combat Care for the dogs,” Were said.

With the exchange concluding after one week, both the 1st Canine Regiment and the U.S. participants expressed a desire to increase both the frequency and the duration of future programs.

“We hope that this relationship and these exchanges can grow into something more permanent in the future,” said Pelham.

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