MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO Va. --
Loyal, bright-eyed, intelligent and hard-working, these are just a few of the words Cpl. Justin Territo, used to describe his best friend.
Jesi, is a 4-year-old Marine who works alongside Territo to find hidden narcotics and stop crime.
She is a Belgian Malinois that provides the Military Working Dog section with a less lethal way to take down hostile targets.
Her day starts at 5 a.m. with a health and comfort inspection followed by some one-on-one brushing and grooming time with her handler. One hour after Jesi has eaten, she will go through an obedience course, narcotics’ detection training and patrol training.
However, this is only the start of her day; from here she will undergo a training schedule created specifically to test her strengths and weaknesses. The schedule is created by her handler and the kennel master, Sgt. Andrew Lowers, Military Working Dogs section.
“Training is ongoing, because every day is a nonstop day and the handlers are always training their dogs,” said Territo.
Before a dog is qualified to be a Marine Dog it must pass a 130-day course held at Lackland Air Force Base at San Antonio, Texas. Each dog must pass two of three requirements before being transferred to their first duty station.
“The dogs must pass roadside patrol and narcotics detection or explosive detection,” said Lowers.
Each dog can only have one certification for their sense of smell. The dogs can be ether narcotics certified or explosive certified, but never both.
The unit may be a small section of security battalion, but they still play a huge role in keeping the base safe.
The dogs often find themselves supporting road units, finding missing persons, conducting vehicle sweeps and standing as a visual deterrent to criminals.
“We work hand in hand with the Special Reaction Team,” said Territo. “We do this to provide everyone on base with a sense of security.”
The section is constantly changing the way they train their dogs.
“The best thing about the job is coming to work and knowing there is always someone happy to see you,” said Alton Davis, civilian dog handler, Military Working Dog section as his face erupted with a smile.
The spontaneous training helps prepare the handlers and the dogs when the time for action arises.
“There is no such thing as a perfect dog, so we are always pushing each other to train our dogs and ourselves,” said Territo.
Not every Marine that goes through Military Police School will be a dog handler, only the chosen will be.
“When I was at [Military Police] School, the teachers asked my class who wanted to become a dog handler, 15 of use raised our hands, but only two of use got selected,” said Territo. “This was something that I had always wanted to do, so when the opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance and now I am living my dream job.”