MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. --
Marines and military working dogs with Marine Corps Air Station Miramar’s Provost Marshall’s Office hosted an event called “War Dawg Weekend,” a competition between dogs and handlers from various units across southern California at MCAS Miramar, Calif., June 8 through June 9.
“The intent [of the competition] is to bring dog handlers together for some friendly competition and camaraderie, build relationships between other stations and above all else, honor the memory of fallen handlers,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Daniels, the event host.
The two-day competition consisted of a memorial service recognizing fallen handlers and a dog competition, which judged each dog-handler team’s performance on a point system. The points are based on time, penalties, handler control and the dog’s obedience. A total of thirteen teams, consisting of one dog and one handler, came from other bases such as Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego to compete and represent their units.
Day one was a memorial for fallen handlers and working dogs, which consisted of a small ceremony wherein handlers and members of “The Dawgs Project,” an organization that recognizes and supports the military working dog community, called out names of fallen handlers and rang a bell to show gratitude for their service. Afterward, a member from each branch read a letter from the family members of fallen handlers aloud, expressing their feelings toward dog handlers and their military service.
Following the memorial ceremony, dog handlers and project members went to Mill’s Park on MCAS Miramar, where project members hosted a barbecue for competing service members.
“This year’s ‘War Dawg Weekend’ is dedicated to Cpl. Max Donahue, one of my Marines who passed a few years ago,” said Daniels. “We want to remember and celebrate his life and the lives of other handlers, not just mourn them.”
The second day of the “War Dawg Weekend” event began at the MCAS Miramar kennels for the basic obedience course.
“The purpose of this course was to test the dog’s obedience to the handler, while working through distractors and obstacles,” Daniels said.
The second phase of the competition was explosives and drug search.
“For this event, each dog team had ten minutes to find three odors,” said Daniels. “The team with the fastest time, while finding all three odors won the event.”
Tactical patrols were the next competition for the handlers and their dogs.
“For this exercise each team conducted tactical movements to three barriers and finally sending their dog to bite the decoy through a window obstacle at the third barrier,” said Daniels.
“This is something that would be done in field combat apprehension or a civilian police chase,” said Jon Hemp, co-founder of “The Dawgs Project”.
The fourth phase of the competition was an endurance run to test the handler’s endurance and control over their dog.
“We tested the handler’s stamina and obedience with their dog while completing several high-intensity obstacles geared around combat scenarios,” said Daniels.
The final portion of the competition was the hardest bite contest which judged the team on the ability of the dog to bite a decoy, their amount of force and likelihood of a successful takedown.
Cpl. Kaity Fishbough and her dog Wando with MCAS Miramar’s K-9 unit won first place with the highest overall points. The team received a plaque from the “The Dawgs Project” in recognition of Fishbough’s success as a dog handler.
“The point of events like this is to keep the memory of those service members alive, letting the community know what we do and keep this organization going to celebrate past, present and future handlers,” said Mike Dowling, a former dog handler and guest of “The Dawgs Project”.