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MWD helicopter training takes flight

NEVADA TEST AND TRAINING RANGE, Nev. --  An HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 66th Rescue Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, carrying security forces members and military working dogs assigned to the 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron prepares to land at a ground combat training range outside of Las Vegas June 14, 2013. The Pave Hawk is a highly modified version of the Army Black Hawk helicopter which features an upgraded communications and navigation suite that enables rescue personnel the ability to conduct day or night personnel recovery operations into hostile environments to recover isolated personnel during war.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. D.H./Released)

NEVADA TEST AND TRAINING RANGE, Nev. -- An HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 66th Rescue Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, carrying security forces members and military working dogs assigned to the 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron prepares to land at a ground combat training range outside of Las Vegas June 14, 2013. The Pave Hawk is a highly modified version of the Army Black Hawk helicopter which features an upgraded communications and navigation suite that enables rescue personnel the ability to conduct day or night personnel recovery operations into hostile environments to recover isolated personnel during war. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. D.H./Released)

NEVADA TEST AND TRAINING RANGE, Nev.-- Military working dogs and their handlers assigned to the 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron make their way to a rally point after disembarking from an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter to conduct pre-deployment training outside of Las Vegas June 14, 2013.  Military working dogs and their handlers attend specific training at Silver Flag Alpha prior to attending the Base Security Operations Course, which ensures MWD teams are exposed to current enemy tactics, techniques and procedures and that they are certified on all aspects of their specialized role within the Integrated Defense Operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. D.H./Released)

NEVADA TEST AND TRAINING RANGE, Nev.-- Military working dogs and their handlers assigned to the 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron make their way to a rally point after disembarking from an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter to conduct pre-deployment training outside of Las Vegas June 14, 2013. Military working dogs and their handlers attend specific training at Silver Flag Alpha prior to attending the Base Security Operations Course, which ensures MWD teams are exposed to current enemy tactics, techniques and procedures and that they are certified on all aspects of their specialized role within the Integrated Defense Operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. D.H./Released)

NEVADA TEST AND TRAINING RANGE, Nev. -- Military working dogs and their handlers assigned to the 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron prepare to board and HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 66th Rescue Squadron outside of Las Vegas June 14, 2013.  The 99th GCTS is the Air Force’s largest regional training center and oversees the pre-deployment training for security forces personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. D.H./Released)

NEVADA TEST AND TRAINING RANGE, Nev. -- Military working dogs and their handlers assigned to the 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron prepare to board and HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 66th Rescue Squadron outside of Las Vegas June 14, 2013. The 99th GCTS is the Air Force’s largest regional training center and oversees the pre-deployment training for security forces personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. D.H./Released)

NEVADA TEST AND TRAINING RANGE, Nev. -- The 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron and 66th Rescue Squadron performed new military working dog helicopter operations training for the first time here June 13.

During this type of training handlers and their dogs typically enter a stationary helicopter before it is turned on, then once in place the aircraft is turned on and off again. However, the new training requires the handlers and their dogs to load onto a running helicopter, fly to an area where they will perform exercises and then take a return flight.

Staff Sgt. Wendy Montellese, 99th GCTS military working dog instructor, said the training has benefits for both of the squadrons.

"With this type of training, both sides get a realistic scenario," she said. "The handlers and dogs practice on- and off-loading, get a feel of the aircraft movement both on the ground and in the air, the noise and vibrations, and are exposed to all of that together. On the other side of it, the pilots are familiarized with the operations of the handlers and MWD and can see what it is that we do."

During the training, Tech. Sgt. Donald Ellison, 21st Security Forces Squadron kennel master, said this type of training helps the teams learn something new. The handlers and dogs will see how each other react and improves performance down range.

"If a handler and his dog will be going out to the smaller forward operating bases they will sometimes fly out on a helicopter, so this is good training for the dogs to get used to it now," he said. "Training in this desert environment is a way for them to get used to the heat and know what they are supposed to do. Down range it won't be their first time so they will be more relaxed."

Learning these tasks together is important for both the military working dog and the handler.

"During flying missions it is important to know how a handler or a dog is going to react," she said. "This is an opportunity for both to find out what each other's strengths and weaknesses are."

Performing live scenario exercises was one aspect of the training Ellison specifically highlighted.

"It's really nice have the combat rescue team out here and letting us use their aircraft," he said. "It's a great experience to get on the aircraft and then have them take us out to a location where we can simulate some of the things that we actually do."

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