Picture: Courtesy Of Billy Hollendonner
Jacksonville resident Billy Hollendonner and his four-legged companions shield the USA Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan and his job is the direct results of an opportunity 2009 encounter whereas he was stationed at Nellis Air Pressure Base in Las Vegas.
“Sooner or later I noticed a dude with a canine and he got here up and began hanging out with us. I requested ‘what’s your job?’ And he stated ‘I’m a canine handler.’ And I stated, ‘that’s a job for the navy?’” Hollendonner stated. “So I began studying about it and determined, ‘I’m going to do this.’”
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The 33-year-old Hollendonner has been an expert canine handler ever since, utilizing his highly-trained canine co-workers to guard United States installations throughout the globe. He retired from the Air Pressure as an E-5 workers sergeant in June 2016, and for many of the previous 4 years Hollendonner has been employed by Garda World Safety doing the identical factor, utilizing canine to ensure the U.S. Embassy in one of many world’s most unstable environments stays protected.
“Our canine are skilled to both sit or lay down after they detect the odor of explosives. We are going to then instantly notify our boss on the checkpoint and fall again to attend for explosive ordnance disposal to indicate up and have a look at it,” Hollendonner stated. “We search each automobile coming into the U.S. Embassy compound for explosives. Fortunately, I haven’t discovered any explosives to this point.”
Hollendonner works in Afghanistan for Garda, a personal safety agency contracted by the U.S. authorities, for 3 to 4 months at a time, then has a month and a half off, throughout which he usually returns to his mother and father’ dwelling in Jacksonville. It’s been an uncommon however rewarding profession for the Jacksonville Excessive Faculty graduate who joined the U.S. Air Pressure in 2006, and who at all times appreciated canine however by no means thought they’d be his approach of constructing a dwelling.
Hollendonner shortly found that the handlers want as a lot coaching because the the canine.
“I went to ‘canine faculty’ at Lackland Air Pressure Base in San Antonio in 2009 and discovered all about how the navy does canine coaching, how we use them around the globe for what we do,” Hollendonner stated. “The canine we discovered on have been already skilled, however there was often one thing bodily incorrect with them so that they couldn’t work within the area. As a brand new handler I used to be studying with these veteran canine. The canine have been just about instructing us.”
Shortly after coaching Hollendonner reported to the U.S. Air Pressure Academy in Colorado Springs and picked up his first canine, a German short-haired pointer named Haus. The soldier and canine companions supplied safety and carried out legislation enforcement capabilities there that have been similar to these supplied by civilian canine police officer groups.
Hollendonner stated that the navy trains canine for explosives detection, narcotics detection, or basic safety and safety work. He stated any canine could also be skilled for safety work, however the canine used for both bomb or drug detection obtain very several types of coaching.
“A narcotics canine is skilled to aggress in a spot the place the odor is and that enables the police or the navy to know precisely the place the medication are,” Hollendonner stated, “however you don’t need bomb canine to aggress on explosives, as a result of as quickly as you hit the explosive, it’d blow up. So bomb canine are taught to take a seat or lay down after they detect explosives.”
Hollendonner stated that the navy and personal contractors like Garda primarily use Belgian Malinois, German shepherds, Dutch shepherds and Belgian tervurens breeds for his or her functions, though the Military likes to make use of Labrador retrievers as their detection-only canine.
Following the two-year safety stint on the Air Pressure Academy, Hollendonner was deployed to Qatar with Haus. He and Haus needed to repeatedly undergo a certification course of that concerned discovering hidden explosives in several coaching areas.
“You present as much as a base as a canine handler they usually would possibly say ‘OK, you go get the third canine on the left.’ That’s your canine, you seize his leash, collar and toys and go proper to the obedience yard,” Hollendonner stated. “I bought to construct rapport with the canine, go on walks, do obedience, play with the toy. Then we grew to have a bond.”
Hollendonner was then despatched to Japan and picked up a brand new canine, a German Shepherd named Arco, and deployed with Arco to the U.S. Air Base at Kandahar, Afghanistan. The duo returned to Japan after their deployment, however Arco needed to be retired from service in 2014 resulting from medical points. When Hollendonner was despatched to Kirtland Air Pressure Base in New Mexico, Arco accompanied him as his pet. Arco joined him in Jacksonville when Hollendonner’s Air Pressure service was over.
“We developed a extremely, actually shut bond, shut sufficient that after I got here again from deployment, I might sit in his kennel,” Hollendonner stated. “If I couldn’t sleep, I simply went into the kennels and laid there with him.”
Hollendonner did some contractual canine dealing with work for a personal agency in Las Vegas for a few 12 months, however when he accepted the Garda place and its abroad responsibility calls for, it meant the top for him and Arco.
“I went away to coaching and he went right into a state of melancholy. He was 11 years outdated and had some medical points involving his again and hips,” Hollendonner stated. “So earlier than I left for abroad I needed to put him down as a result of he in all probability wasn’t going to outlive me being gone for months at a time.”
Hollendonner has since developed shut bonds with different canine he’s labored with, together with Ficko, his companion throughout the first three years of working for Garda. Ficko retired in early November and Hollendonner took him to a personal residence in Dallas, the place the canine can get pleasure from his retirement.
“As soon as the canine hit seven years of age, they’re now not allowed to work for the corporate. They need to be retired out,” Hollendonner stated. “We’ve retired greater than 60 canine up to now 12 months they usually have all gone to houses.”
Hollendonner is in Jacksonville however will return to Afghanistan in January, and when he does his mother and father will ship him off with “a relentless ‘watch out’ kind of factor,” he stated.
“Folks hold asking me how lengthy I’ll hold doing this and I inform them ‘till the cash runs out.’ I get pleasure from it, it’s enjoyable,” Hollendonner stated. “That’s all I’ve recognized for my grownup life.”