Over the period 28 Sep – 1 Oct 09 RAF Henlow hosted the 52nd Provost Marshal’s UK Dog Trials.  This year saw a change in format with the emphasis being placed on operations and the relevancy of RAF Police MWDs in the theatre of war.  Over a 4 day period six teams (Handler and Dog) competed against each other, taking part in both mentally and physically challenging scenarios.  Each was designed to test core disciplines as well as the reaction of dog and handler to each situation.  The testing period took place during the day as well as at night with the aim of the trials is to identify the team considered worthy of the title ’Champion’


In order to simulate operational areas that would be patrolled by RAF Police MWD teams, locations at both Chicksands and RAF Henlow were utilised.  Chicksands with its wide-open areas, heavy undergrowth and uneven ground was the setting for the wind scenting exercise whilst RAF Henlow’s airfield and hangars proved suitable for criminal and night work together with obedience and obstacles disciplines.  In addition, this year saw the introduction of a K9 Biathlon.  The Biathlon was introduced in order to consolidate on tactics, techniques and procedures required on operations as well as further increasing both the physical and mental pressures experienced by both handlers and dog. 


 Participants of the biathlon were required to negotiate a 3.5 mile Cross Country course in full combat clothing and equipment; ECBA, helmet and day sack containing sufficient life support for both handler and dogs for a period of 48 hours.  During the route competitors were tested on weapon handling skills, K9 First Aid, memory testing, map references and physical obstacles to be negotiated by both members of the team.  The course provided a challenging environment in which to operate, ensuring that both handler and dog had to work hard to successfully complete the test.   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. 


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 your canine companion is 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.  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 ‘Crowd Control’ 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 added up an RAF Police Military Working Dog capability demonstration took place on the arena.  The demonstration involved a combination of capabilities; Arms and Explosive Search Dog capability and its support to ground forces and Police Dogs dealing with a hostile crowd.  


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


Champion RAF Police Dog Team 2009: Cpl Bland, and AD Ben, RAF Lossiemouth.


Runner Up: Cpl Scutt and AD Argin, RAF Lyneham.


Third: Cpl Freer and AD Ero, RAF Lossiemouth.


Additional awards were given by the PMDI, FS Braddick and FS Sargeant, who had been judging the competition up until the final day.  They were for the following:


Best Criminal work: Cpl Scutt and AD Argin, RAF Lyneham.


Best Wind scent: Cpl Bland and AD Ben, RAF Lossiemouth.


Best Night work:  Cpl Cooper and AD Shadow, RAF Waddington.


Best Arena: Cpl Freer and AD Ero, RAF Lossiemouth.


1st place Biathlon: Cpl Scutt and AD Argin, RAF Lyneham


The winner of the RAFPA Trophy at the 2009 UK Dog Trials was Cpl. Gareth Scutt and AD Argin fro RAF Lyneham.


Congratulations not only go to the Champion, Cpl Bland and AD Ben, but to all the other winners and competitors for making the trials a most enjoyable event.  Well done, a fantastic achievement.  


We are very grateful for the level of support received to stage such an auspicious event including the continued support from our guests Air Marshal Sir John and Lady Kemball, Gp Capt Smith, Stn Cdr RAF Henlow and Mr and Mrs Lee Thomas.  Special thanks is given to Mike Bloxsome of Eukanuba for sponsoring the trails and all the support staff and volunteers for making the 52th Annual RAF Police Working Dog Trials such an outstanding success.


Photo Captions


Photo 1 – Top Dogs.


Photo 2 – Vehicle Search.


Photo 3 – Crowd Control.


Photo 4 – Stop, Stand Still!


Photo 5 – AES Indication.


Photo 6 – Biathlon.


Photo 7 – Patrol Dog in Action.


Photo 8 – RAFP Challenge.







Competition tests skills of RAF dog handlers in Afghanistan

A People In Defence news article

5 Oct 09

The skills needed by RAF dog handlers on operations in Afghanistan were put to the test last week at this year's RAF Police Dog Trials.


Winners of the RAF Police Dog Trials for 2009, Corporal David Bland and air dog Ben
[Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

The intensive week-long competition held at RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire was won by Corporal David Bland and air dog Ben after they beat off tough competition.

The event featured a range of challenging tests designed to reflect closely on the skills dog handlers need on current operations in Afghanistan.

Although the RAF Police UK Dog Trials have been in existence since 1957, this year sees a greater focus on the skills needed for operations.

The RAF Police has personnel regularly deployed alongside MOD Police and Royal Military Police in a variety of roles in Afghanistan, including the training and mentoring of the Afghan National Police.

It is widely recognised that dogs can play a vital part in support of this work whether conducting arms explosive searches or managing difficult crowd control situations.

They are in military terms a 'force multiplier' as a single dog team can take on the role of many Service personnel.

Provost Marshal (RAF) Group Captain Whitwell said:

"The finalists in this year's trials are the first to participate in more operationally focused trials. The aim of the trials is to introduce more of the situations which the handlers may come across whilst on operational duties both in the UK and overseas.

"The inclusion of the canine biathlon is a true reflection of the requirement for individuals to be fit for operations and to possess the ability to react quickly to unexpected events."

Winning the trials is a second feather in Cpl Bland's cap as he and Ben won the RAF Police Northern Area's top police dog trials earlier this year.