Taking a bite out of crime

By Pfc. Abel Trevino
28th Public Affairs Detachment

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — "I love K-9. This is my calling," said Sgt. Carlos Aviles, a K-9 military policeman with the 95th Military Police Battalion. "There's nothing I'd rather do than work with dogs."

By placing themselves on the cusp of life and death situations, Aviles and the other K-9 handlers are securing LSA Anaconda from explosives and contraband, with the possibility of a car bomb detonating as they search a car. Securing the post by finding explosives is the primary mission of the K-9 unit.

"[My dog and I] go find explosives when there is a bomb threat," he said. "The dogs can find C-4, TNT, dynamite and other explosives. That's just our job."

When explosives are found, Explosive Ordnance Disposal is contacted to handle the dangerous materials from that point.

Sonya is Aviles' explosive-sniffing dog. She is a purebred 9-year-old Belgian Malinois. The pair were stationed in Vicenza, Italy, for the last year and a half.

Since arriving here almost six months ago, he's lived and worked with Sonya.

"On our off time, we watch movies [together] and play rough," said Aviles. "A majority of our time is [dedicated to] training," Aviles said. "I train her to fight for herself, I try to train all dogs that way."

Commands range from simple control commands such as sit and heel to attack commands.

"She's friendly, but if I tell her to bite, she'll bite," Aviles said.

Sonya, like all military working dogs, was trained with a system of incentives. When she reacts properly and finds explosives, she is rewarded, usually with her ball or another treat, Aviles said. There are plenty of opportunities for Sonya to get rewarded.

"We try to go [to the gates] every day," Aviles said. "Or whenever they call us for suspicious vehicles."

If they're not working the gates, then they are training to work the gates.

Things were not always so close between Aviles and Sonya.

"Dogs have their own personalities and [for the first three months together] we didn't kick it off so well," said Aviles.

Despite their closeness, Aviles does not consider Sonya a best friend or pet since he will only be partnered with her while stationed at Vicenza.

"The dog is a Soldier," Aviles said. "I don't consider my dog my best friend, I consider her more of a partner than anything else. There is a certain time when I'm going to leave her and another handler is going to pick her up . Every time you [change duty stations], you get a new dog."

Aviles has a passion for his job of training and working with the dogs.

Editor's Note: Pfc. Trevino is assigned to the 28th Public Affairs Detachment from Fort Lewis, Wash. He is currently deployed to Iraq in support of the 13th Corps Support Command at LSA Anaconda.


news photo
Sgt. Carlos Aviles and dog Sonya

news photo
Sgt. Carlos Aviles and dog Sonya