Every day is a game of hide and seek for Barry, Jack and Britt. But this game is serious business for the three-dog TSA canine team at Charleston International Airport.
Trained to sniff out explosives, the TSA dogs know every nook and cranny of the airport terminal as well as the surrounding property. Our Terminal Redevelopment and Improvement Program (TRIP) creates some navigation challenges for our passengers, but it’s just another day at the airport for the TSA dogs.
“We have an important mission, and we do it regardless of the environment,” said TSA Regional Spokesman Mark Howell.
Trained at the TSA National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, the TSA dogs don’t mix and mingle while they are working. Jackets worn by each dog lets people know not to pet the dogs while they are making their airport rounds. CHS handlers Kimberly Barnett, Wayne Hahn and Bobby Jones are always close by to ensure the dogs stay focused.
According to the TSA web site, operant conditioning is used in training TSA dogs. ""This model is reward based where the dog is trained to 'indicate or respond' to the location of an explosive odor. When the dog responds correctly, it is given a reward that is of great value to the dog, such as a ball, kong, food or toy. The dog actually determines which reward it will receive. This association of explosive odor and reward (for correct responses) is done on a continual basis for hundreds of repetitions until the dog learns 'the game.' ""
According to the TSA web site, the dogs are acclimated to the unique characteristics of the airport and are well versed in searching many types of aircraft. A handler and his or her assigned dog go through extensive training as a team in order to be certified.
The canine program was created in 1972 by President Richard Nixon in the wake of a bomb threat aboard a Los Angeles to JFK Trans World Airlines flight. Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks, bomb sniffing dogs have become an important part of airport security and a way to help deter terrorism in aviation as well as mass transit and cargo environments.
Here’s more about the Charleston International Airport canine team.
Barry, 5 years old
Handler: Wayne Hahn
Barry has been trained to find bombs and explosive materials. When he is not working, Barry loves to fetch balls and hang out with his Poodle friend, Tommy.
Jack, 5 years old
Belgian Tervuren Shepherd
Handler: Bobby Jones
Born in the Czech Republic, Jack lived in Texas where he was trained to find explosives before moving to Charleston. He spends a lot of time outside, sniffing planes, trains and automobiles. When not protecting the traveling public, Jack likes to chase squirrels, bark at the postal carrier and hoover the floor at home for food crumbs.
Britt, 6 years old
Handler: Kimberly Barnett
Britt has been trained to find bombs and explosives. He lives in Goose Creek, but travels a lot across South Carolina. When he is not working, he loves to run and chase squirrels.