Anchorage, ALASKA – The events of Sept. 11, 2001 forever changed air travel, not only in the U.S., but throughout most of the world.
Despite its remoteness and vast distance from the “Lower 48” states, Alaska’s airports routinely keep pace with other facilities in ensuring airport safety.
Much of that safety depends on airport police and the dogs or canine units responsible for being vigilant and conscientious of traveler and facility safety.
While airport police regularly participate in training, constantly honing their skills, so do the Fidos that accompany them.
But training must be tested to evaluate the competency of those who have been trained, and that includes both the officers and the pooches.
Between March 11 and 15, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) dog-handling officers and their canine partners participated in Transportation Security Administration (TSA) final exams.
Annual K9 testing took place during this time for four airport dogs and their handlers. Evaluators from the TSA National Canine Program in Texas arrived in Alaska and tested the three airport officers and one TSA explosive detection canine team throughout the week.
At week’s end, the results revealed excellent ratings. Canines “Batman” and “Kay” and their handlers achieved 100 percent success ratings.
The TSA evaluator concluded that never before had he written commendations for handlers, but felt compelled to do so during this recent exam cycle.
The unidentified TSA representative stated (according to a Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) press release) that both organizations have an outstanding training program in place and completely understand and perform canine training to superb levels of expertise.
The Anchorage airport began employing K9 units in 2002. When a K9 position opens, officers can apply to the Chief of the Airport Police and Fire Department.
Those selected spend 10 weeks training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas with their assigned canine. Upon returning to Anchorage, canine and handler begin a life-long career that typically spans 7 to 10 years.
The canines are full time police working dogs with their own law enforcement badge. Canines are integrated into the handler’s family and not kenneled at the police department. When not responding to calls, canine and handler train side-by-side daily. Upon completion of their tour of duty, the handler is given the option of adopting the dog.
The Alaska International Airport System (AIAS) – comprised of Ted Stevens Anchorage International and Fairbanks International Airports – is home to more than 30 international and domestic airlines providing passenger and cargo service throughout Alaska, the U.S, Europe, and Asia.
AIAS is an extraordinary economic engine; serving nearly six million passengers a year and accounting for one in 10 jobs in Anchorage and one in 20 jobs in Fairbanks.
The purpose of AIAS is “To Keep Alaska Flying and Thriving.”
DOT&PF oversees 254 airports, 11 ferries serving 33 communities, 5,700 miles of highway and 660 public facilities throughout the State of Alaska.
DOT&PF’s mission is to “Get Alaska Moving through service and infrastructure.”