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New dog apprenticeship program nears approval

Nov. 25, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
What I've Learned Paul Kelley
Cpl. Paul Kelley, a military working dog handler at the Provost Marshal's Office at Twentynine Palms, Calif., plays with his dog, Collie. (Cpl. D. J. Wu/Marine Corps)
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Master-at-Arms 1st Class Eliot Fiaschi, regional kennel master assigned to Navy Region Southeast, sits with military working dog Pato at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Fla. Kennel masters would be eligible for the new apprenticeship. (MC1 Greg Johnson / Navy)


Hundreds of dog handlers in the Navy and Marine Corps soon will be able to certify that experience in a formal apprenticeship. This credential could boost your military career, but also help you land a law enforcement gig when you exit.

The Navy’s Center for Security Forces is in the final stages of creating the first apprenticeship trade program for those with military specialties that involve working dogs.

The Navy is hopeful of landing approval from the Department of Labor by December, said Jose Bautista, head of the center’s credentialing programs. “It normally takes six months to a year to get these approved — and it was submitted very early this year, and the last we checked it was close to being final.”

Once DOL gives that stamp of approval, Bautista said, the U.S. Military Apprenticeship Program will post it online along with the hundred-plus other apprenticeships available to sailors, Marines and Coasties.

The office was created in the 1970s to help service members document their military experience through formal apprenticeships for civilian employment, but even for those making the military a career, having the documented apprenticeships can also enhance their chances to advance.

“Completing an apprenticeship in your rating like this enhances your military career as it’s concrete documentation of your skills and experience, and that’s what selection boards love to see,” Bautista said. “That same documentation enhances someone’s marketing potential in the civilian workforce when their military service is complete for the same reasons. I’ve seen many apprenticeships on the resumes of senior enlisted sailors who’ve walked out of the Navy’s door into very good civilian careers.”

To qualify, those in the Navy must be in the master-at-arms rating and have the Navy Enlisted classifications of MA-2005 Working Dog Handler or the MA-2006 Kennel Master. Of the nearly 9,000 master-at-arms in the Navy, Bautista said there are 252 working dog handlers and another 49 serving as kennel masters.

In the Marine Corps, you must be have the 5812 military occupational specialty, Military Police Dog Handler.

Regardless of the service, these dog handlers’ jobs are nearly the same. They and their four-legged comrades conduct: patrols, crowd control, security operations, explosives and drug detection; and often assist in the apprehension of suspects.

The job doesn’t end there, as handlers also see to the daily care, grooming and general well-being of the working dog. That includes wielding the poop scoop and cleaning the dog’s kennel.

After completing the 2,500-hour apprenticeship, a sailor or Marine would receive a certificate from the Labor Department that documents their experience on the job in that specialty. Many of the skills can translate to the civilian world — serving on a police department’s K-9 unit, for example.

Though the Coast Guard also has dog handlers, the service is not yet part of this apprenticeship program, Bautista said.

'Security guard' cred possible

Once approved, the dog handler credential will be the 10th USMAP apprenticeship open to MAs — eight of them focus on law enforcement and security skills, while two document computer and administrative duties.

The center may soon add an 11th program to the mix as they’ve recently submitted a “security guard” apprenticeship to DOL for approval and expect that could be approved by the end of the fiscal year, Bautista said.

“This one will be open to all ratings, but the sailors must be assigned at their command to augment master-at-arms as part of a security team,” he said.

The apprenticeship program also is expanding beyond the sea services for the first time, as the Army recently joined the organization’s executive steering committee.

There are apprenticeships tied to nearly every Navy and Coast Guard rating or Marine Corps MOS. A complete list and application details can be found at https://us

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