“Seek,” she says, and he goes to work.
The dark-furred dog quickly scans the old theatre with his nose barely off the ground, sniffing to detect possible threats. He knows what he is looking for and he knows what he will get if he finds it.
The handler walks cautiously through the training scenario, calling him to search areas he has missed, like giving the drinking fountain a second look. He smells more closely and with a stare of unfaltering concentration, he alerts his handler to the explosives.
Upon confirmation, she tosses him his blue chew toy and showers him with praise. Kobus wins again and he relishes in his victory by gnawing on his favorite and most prized reward.
When Sgt. Holly M. Moore joined the 550th Military Working Dog Detachment, 16th Military Police Brigade, last February, she did what most confident and skilled Soldiers do — she volunteered to go to Afghanistan.
“As soon as I got there I told them that I would deploy because I’m good at my job,” Moore said.
Still, as an MWD handler, Moore was not expected to jump on a plane and deploy with her dog right away. There is a process to work with dogs — one that Moore was already familiar with.
Moore has deployed twice before, once as military police and again as an MWD handler with a German Shepherd. However, because the dogs are considered equipment in the military, when the handler performs a permanent change in station as Moore did, the dog remains behind to be assigned to a new handler.
Moore came to Fort Bragg ready to deploy, which meant she has to make sure her new partner, a four-year-old Dutch Shepherd named Kobus, is ready to deploy as well.
Kobus has never worked with another handler and their deployment, slated for August, will be his first. Upon every encounter, Kobus was calm and focused — much like his handler.
“The way he works and the way he listens, people can tell that he’s very trusting,” said Moore. “His obedience to me tells me that he trusts me.”
At 76 pounds, Kobus could be a lot to handle, but his general disposition makes him more like a teddy bear.
Still, when he is needed to serve as a patrol dog ready to attack fleeing assailants, a fierceness matching his tiger-striped coloring transforms him into the tough teammate that Moore may require in situations.
Although they have not worked together long, their latest certification dispels any concerns about requiring a lot of time to become a strong team.
They scored 100 percent.
“They’ve only been together for about three and a half months, so we’re really proud of the gains they’ve made in such a short amount of time,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Rowell, officer in charge of the 550th Military Working Dog Detachment.
Moore attributes hard work as the main factor in making progress as a team; though her competitive nature doesn’t hurt either.
“Whatever dog I think is the best, Kobus is going to be better than that,” she said. “So that when I leave here, Kobus is going to be the best dog and I know that handler better do good things with him.”
Without a doubt, Moore loves her job and Kobus is a big part of the reason.
“It may sound weird, but I like coming to work,” she said smiling. “Most people are like, ‘oh, I’m jealous!’ and I’m like, ‘well, you should be, because it’s fun.’”
Still, the fun aspect is mixed with hours of hard work that MWD handlers invest into training their canine counterparts.
Moore said she was happy to be Kobus’ first handler and also to be taking him on his first deployment. She is confident in their strengths as a team and other Soldiers within the unit agree.
“They’re a good team,” said Sgt. Chris Burrell, an MWD handler with the unit. “They work well together, and she’s got a lot of experience. They will be a good asset to get used downrange.”
MWD teams deploy together and meet the units that they will support after getting into country.
“Most of the other units are very supportive, which is good,” she said. “It makes our job easier when they support us.”
With one successful deployment as an MWD handler under her belt and loyal Kobus at her side, Moore said she is excited to serve on this deployment.
“I want all the units, whoever we might get attached to, to feel safe and comfortable knowing that we’ll bring them back home.”
Though experienced, or perhaps because of it, Moore understands that this deployment will still be dangerous for Kobus and herself. And for MWD teams, those dangers may be even greater because when these teams go out on missions to search areas for explosives, they are always in the front.
“Absolutely, I think it makes you a bigger target because you have the tool to find (the enemy’s) explosives that they’re hiding. So of course they want to take you both out,” said Moore.
Regardless of the dangers, this Soldier loves deploying and remains confident in Kobus’ abilities. She describes Kobus as a hard worker with a good nose on him.
His skill in detecting bombs and alerting Moore to their locations is likely to save lives while they serve in Afghanistan later this year.
After considering the impending dangers of deploying, Moore’s confidence doesn’t waver.
“That’s my job,” she said. “That’s my passion; it’s what’s in my heart and what I want to do. I feel comfortable knowing that if me and Kobus are out there, we can save twenty lives behind us.”