Military dog training welcomed

Published 9:41 am Saturday, August 13, 2011

A few years ago, when it was announced that the U.S. Navy was considering several sites for a new Outlying Landing Field in Southampton County and various other locations in southeast Virginia, I looked at the facts at the time and decided it was a bad deal for our community.

Over time, as I studied the issue, I became convinced I was right. Many agreed with me, some disagreed. Many questioned my patriotism and probably still do.

I’ll acknowledge today that it hurts to hear people question my loyalty to and love for this country. And I suspect that, regardless of what I do or say from this point forward, some people will always believe that I, and others, weren’t willing to sacrifice in the name of national security and to provide the necessary resources to train our greatest national treasure — our men and women in uniform.

Nothing could be further from the truth, at least as it relates to my own personal beliefs. The primary reason I opposed the Navy project is because I believed a primary reason for the OLF was to export the noise associated with fighter jets from the more densely populated areas of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach to the more sparsely populated Western Tidewater.

We get the noise; they keep the money.

I didn’t like that deal then, and I don’t like it now. It wasn’t about training Navy pilots as much as it was about appeasing those who had built right up to the fence lines at Oceana and Fentress, and then had the gall to sue the Navy over the noise they had subjected themselves to.

If someone could prove to me it wasn’t about the noise and money, that the Navy really needed more space to adequately train pilots, I would have been first in line to welcome them with open arms.

At 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15, the Southampton County Board of Zoning Appeals will hear a request from American K-9 Interdiction, a Walters-based company that trains dogs to detect explosives and save the lives of military personnel in conflict zones around the world. American K-9 Interdiction will be seeking permission to use nine properties in the county to train dogs.

I am officially claiming my place in the reception line to welcome them here.

The service this company provides, like the service provided us by the Navy and its brave pilots, is vital to our national security efforts.

The dogs they train, as I stated previously, provide a service designed specifically to protect and save the lives of our troops on the front lines. They are taught to sniff out various explosives, including the improvised explosive devices that have claimed the lives and limbs of too many of our bravest, so they can be avoided or disposed of without injuring or killing our soldiers.

But unlike the Navy, they really do need the extra space.

The dogs train on various courses at the company’s property in Isle of Wight County. Once the dogs become familiar with the surroundings and variables that each course presents, the training value to the dogs diminishes. It’s like taking a test in school having already been given the answers in advance.

And unlike the Navy’s pursuit of an OLF, landowners have been able to offer use of their property freely, not having been threatened with eviction under eminent domain.

So in my opinion, there is no correlation between an OLF and the use of property for training military dogs, as some have begun to suggest. And I hope the county paves the way for the dogs and their trainers to train on appropriate parcels of land.

When we argued against the OLF in Southampton County, many fought for the preservation of a certain way of life. If all American K-9 Interdiction is bringing in a few more dogs and a little more gunfire, won’t they really just blend right in?

TONY CLARK is the general manager and advertising director at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at