Saturday 6th September saw the culmination of the RAF Police UK Dogs Trials 2008 at RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire.  The competitors for the trials were all regional champions in their own right and competition on the day was fierce.

The aim of the trials is to establish which team is considered to be the overall champion and in order to achieve this both handlers and dogs are put through a series of practical exercises designed to test their capabilities to the full. 

The Trials always attract a high level of support from the RAF and this year the Provost Marshal (RAF), Group Captain Horscroft was honoured to host Air Marshal McNicoll, the RAF’s Deputy Commander-In-Chief Operations.  Group Captain Horscroft said:

“We see on an almost daily basis the evidence of the challenges that our personnel face in Iraq and Afghanistan.  All of the dog handlers who competed in the Trials have recent operational experience and many have supported British Army units undertaking difficult and dangerous operations in very hostile conditions.  Therefore, their skills have been honed in the most challenging of operational environments.”

In order to simulate operational areas that would be patrolled by dog teams, a variety of locations were used, including wide-open areas, heavy undergrowth and uneven ground was the setting for the wind scenting exercise, airfield and hangars for criminal and night work together with obedience and obstacles disciplines. 

Prior to commencing each exercise the handlers were required to assess the ground, brief the judges and carry out the exercise within the allocated time constraints.  Each exercise represented a realistic situation that the teams might encounter in an operational theatre overseas.

The wind scenting, an exercise during which the dog must pick-up the windborne scent of a hidden intruder and follow the scent to its source within an area of approximately 250 meters square, proved to be very challenging.  The intruder was well concealed and the handlers had to rely on the dog’s scenting powers. 

The night building search required the dog to locate a person hidden inside an unlit hangar within a 15 minute time limit.  This can prove challenging as the scent pattern of the intruder is affected by the air temperature.  The warmer it is, the greater the distribution of the scent and can lead to frustrating false indications. 

The night airfield patrol required the team to guard 3 vehicles (the vehicles were parked not less than 60 metres apart in the shape of a triangle to simulate parked aircraft).  The aim is to patrol the area in such a way that any attempt by an intruder to get to the vehicles is deterred.  Being able to accurately assess wind direction and being able to understand the indication being given by the RAF Police Military Working Dog (MWD) was the key to success. 

Other exercises included send away and re-direct, agility, obedience, retrieve of article and distance control.  The final exercise’s, which culminated in the selection of the competitors for the final day, was Crowd Control and the Criminal Work Out.  Here the teams were faced by various scenarios involving both armed and unarmed intruders.  Flight Sergeant Kenny Braddick, the Provost Marshal’s Dog Inspector said:

Split decision making and total control of the situation is critical to a successful outcome.  This is the exercise that all good RAF Police dogs enjoy!“

 The final day started with the Control and Agility competition and all teams executed their test in an impressive manner.  After a few minutes preparation the arena was then ready for the main competition and the culmination of the weeks work.  The criminal work is undertaken in highly controlled circumstances and all competitors gave a very commendable performance.

While the final marks were being compiled an RAF Police MWD Capability Display was provided.  The gathered audience saw typical Tactics Techniques and Procedures utilised both at home and abroad.  The display included; patrol techniques, Vehicle Check Points, a successful search of a vehicle by an Arms and Explosive Search Dog and effective crowd control and dispersal by two Police Dogs.

The first Trophy awarded on the day was the Tosh Thomas Memorial Trophy awarded to the Kennel Assistants in recognition of outstanding contribution to RAF Police MWDs and this year it was presented by his son Lee Thomas who was accompanied by his wife Ika and Val, Tosh’s mum.

The judges reviewed the performances of each team and came to the following decision:

Champion RAF Police Dog Team 2008: Cpl Haworth and Air Dog Amber, RAF Kinloss.

Runner Up: Cpl McGovern and Air Dog Max, RAF Waddington.

Third: Cpl Kaye and Air Dog Attila, RAF Aldergrove.

Additional awards were given for the performance of the teams during the week.  They were for the following:

Best Criminal work: Cpl Cooper and AD Babe, RAF Waddington.

Best Wind scent: Cpl Simpson and Air Dog Charlie, RAF St Mawgan.

Best Night work:  Cpl Haworth and Air Dog Amber, RAF Kinloss.

Winner of the Agility and Control Competition: Cpl Haworth and Air Dog Amber, RAF Kinloss.

RAF Police Association Trophy - Cpl M Ginger and Air Dog Alfie, RAF Kinloss

Lady Kemball Trophy AES Cpl Walker and Air Dog Bruno, RAF Aldergrove.

Lady Kemball Trophy DD Cpl Rae and Air Dog Benji, CJPU Cyprus.

Drissell Trophy Cpl Hartford and Air Dog Kubo, RAF Lyneham.

The Association Trophy was not presented at this year's Trials.  Clare and I chose the trophy in Exeter, and on advice from the shop owner, one made of nickel rather than silver plate.  It can be quickly washed with soap and water.  The base is square and now has 4 "silver" plates on which to record the names of winning teams.  We also bought five personal medals with an alsation's head for the winner  to keep. 
I took "professional" advice from the retired QPD world about who shold receive the trophy each year.  The result is that it is the "Dog Inspector's Choice" which team will be awarded the RAFPA Trophy.  And so their extensive knowledge of all the teams in the UK, may well result in awarding the trophy to a team not present at the Trials.  The absence may be due to a variety of reasons including the very real absence on duty overseas.  This happened this first year as the handler of the team chosen, is presently serving in Iraq.
I will be in touch asap.