FORT HOOD, Texas — Inside the "Steffey Kennels" fences on Fort Hood, military dogs and K-9 units across Texas are participating in the working dog competition for the first time in history.
A total of nine agencies and 18 canine teams are competing and training from March 6 to 10. There are 11 narcotics teams and seven explosives teams.
"This is going to be monumental," Sergeant 1st Class Jeffrey Pearlstein, 226th Military Police Detachment Kennel Master said.
Outside units from the Williamson County Sheriff's Office, University of Texas at Austin Police Department, Coryell County Sheriff's Department, Temple Police Department, Austin Transportation Security Administration, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Dallas Police Department are all participating. The 226th Military Police Detachment and D/701st Military Police Battalion (JBSA) are competing as well.
"Today's one of those days where we get to work with our brothers and sisters from all over Central Texas," Pearlstein said. "We get to build these foundations that have been long overdue. It's not just on Fort Hood, it's outside agencies working together, coming together and training and seeing where we can all come together and build the capabilities of these dog teams."
Monday's competition consisted of the most aggressive and hardest hitting dogs. The judges rank the dogs based on their speed, the way they hold the bite and how much air they get.
"Each agency will find something they can apply in their own personal discipline, whether it's different techniques and watching their dog as it's getting ready to final for building clearing," Deputy David Ashley, Coryell County Sheriff’s Department K9 Handler said.
"There's lots of little things that if we haven't practiced on a regular basis, or with some of the younger handlers, the newer handlers, if they have not been been taught that previously, now that's an opportunity for them to learn and take it back to their agency and continue to practice it," Ashley added.
They know this competition and training will be valuable.
"For him, being able to get out there and actually perform what he's trying to do," Ashley said. "He's going to be really excited by the end of the week. He's going to be totally different."
While training the dogs are important, another goal of the competition is to strengthen relationships between the different agencies.
"People can always come together," Staff Sgt. Carlos Wade, 226th Military Police Detachment said. "It doesn't matter what branch, no matter what service, no matter what agency that you work with, we're all one team, one fight."
Despite working together, the handlers are still ready to fight for the winning spot.
"I'm a competitor," Spc. Jarima Rivera, 226th Military Police Detachment said. "I don't like to lose."
On Friday, the competition will consist of water aggression and confidence, scouting, tracking and trailing. The winner will be announced Friday along with a barbeque.