Spc. Vincent Ledesma, 226th Military Police Detachment, is one of the many dog trainers busy at work here at the Great Place.
“Honestly, I wasn’t really planning on being a dog handler,” Ledesma admitted. “It’s kind of one of those jobs that got thrown at me. I was like, ‘I’ll take that any day’ – playing with dogs, but it ended up turning out to be more than just playing with dogs every day.”
It’s definitely more than playing with dogs everyday. In fact, they don’t even have to be in another country for their skills to be needed.
“We have two missions. We have garrison, and then we have our deployments side. For the bomb side, we have deployments – either Iraq, Afghanistan (and) all those other deployments. We also have Secret Service missions that we go on,” Ledesma said. “We can also support the president, vice president, all that kind of stuff, just helping them out. Then we have the garrison side, which would be explosive and drug dogs. Our MP’s patrol the streets with drug dogs. They get called out to drug calls and if there’s a bomb threat or anything like that, then the bomb dogs will show up.”
Ledesma was assigned to a drug dog when he first arrived at Fort Hood, the norm for newer trainers.
“They kind of usually put the new handlers on a drug dog until they’re more experienced. They put you on an explosive dog whenever you have more experience, and they feel like you’re responsible enough to handle a bomb dog,” he stated. “It’s kind of like if you’re a handler and you have no dog, then they’re possibly going to put you on a drug dog.”
Ledesma’s partner is a 3-year-old drug dog named Blake. He admitted the most challenging part of the job is keeping the training up so Blake can do his job properly.
“My dog, I’ve had him for almost a year now. Whenever I first got him, he was brand new, so we call them green dogs,” Ledesma said. “I guess those dogs are definitely more challenging, because they’re brand new. You kind of have to teach them everything all over again, teach them the basics. Even now, even though we’re certified and everything, we still have to keep up with that progress. Keep going with it, so they don’t forget.”
Though there is a lot of training involved, his favorite part of the job is seeing the rewards of all of their hard work.
“Just seeing your progress being put into real life scenarios. So, us training with the dogs on explosives or drugs, just seeing it being implemented in real life and watching all the hard work show,” Ledesma said of his favorite part about his job as a dog trainer.
Ledesma has some advice for those who think being a dog handler might be a good career path for them.
“Have a lot of patience before you join,” Ledesma said. “Definitely patience, because it’s like dealing with a kid almost. Patience and come in with a good hard-working attitude, go-getter attitude.”