- Kandy,a senior member of the trio we were introduced to, is a golden retriever.
- Frank was able to detect explosives at a reputed hotel in Colombo, last month.
By KALANI KUMARASINGHE
The heightened state of security over the past month has brought much attention to the dedicated service and commitment of the armed forces of Sri Lanka. While Sri Lankans across the nation took pride in our valiant heroes, special recognition was also accorded to the service rendered by some of our furry friends, whose adorable faces were shared among many users on multiple social media platforms. Some of these friendly four legged friends belong to the Commando Regiment of the Sri Lanka Army. We recently visited three brave soldiers who have been instrumental in a number of recent missions. Major A.M.S. Alahakoon, Commanding Officer of the K9 Group of the Commando Regiment noted that canines were first introduced to the Commando Regiment in the 1980s. “The primary reason to accommodate canines in the regiment is the worsening of terrorist activity, especially activity involving explosives, at the time. Therefore it was a timely requirement to employ these dogs,” he said.
In 1984, on December 10, six canines were brought from Australia to Sri Lanka. A Thai team of experts trained officers of the Commando Regiment as well as the dogs. Following this inital training, soldiers of the regiment were involved in numerous local and overseas training programmes in order to establish the K9 Unit of the Commando Regiment. Today, the unit comprises almost 100 dogs of about 10 breeds. “The canines of the commando regiment have been deployed to various locations covering the entire island due to the security situation of the country and for future missions. The canines of this unit have also been deployed in missions overseas, such as the UN peacekeeping missions,” Commanding Officer Alahakoon said.
Kandy, a senior member of the trio we were introduced to, is a golden retriever. He has been on missions to Lebanon and has even been awarded medals for this valiant service. Sergeant W.A.J. Prabath who has been employed as a canine handler for over the last 8 years first met Kandy when he was a 45 day old pup. Together, Kandy and Sergeant Prabath started obedience training when Kandy was just 4 and half months. Following the initial three month training period, Kandy was assigned for an advanced explosives training spanning six months.
The canines of the commando regiment have been deployed to various locations covering the entire island, due to the security situation of the country and for future
missions. The canines of this unit have also been deployed in missions overseas, such as the UN peacekeeping missions”
“Golden retrievers were first bred in Scotland, making them friendly and kind companions to humans. Kandy weighs 30 - 35 kgs and presently works at the Bandaranaike International Airport. He checks the luggage to assure the security of travellers. He sniffs for potential threats every half an hour. He takes hourly intervals after a breakfast at 8.30 am,” Prabath said. Sergeant Prabath and Kandy were deployed in Lebanon for a period of 1 year on a peacekeeping mission. They were awarded the first place in explosives training exercises. Lance Corporal N.W.A.B.K De Silva is a combat canine handler for Rasa, the English Springer Spaniel. Adorable Rasa with a long brown and white coat is from Britain. Standing at 50 cms tall, and weighing 23 kgs he is an expert in explosive detection and entertaining at dog shows. “Rasa performs meticulous checks on vehicles as well as luggage at hotels where he has been assigned to. His breed is also known as gun dogs used in hunting birds. English Springer Spaniels are known for their love of swimming and sprinting. Rasa is an active and intelligent boy. He is friendly with children and loves a good petting,” he said.
Frank, Rasa and Kandy
Penny, Dixie and Gismo
However according to De Silva, Rasa is also a very good detective. “Rasa is well trained in explosives detection. If there’s anything suspicious or if he has detected any explosives, Rasa is active and restless. He looks at me to tell me that there’s something suspicious here,” De Silva explained. Lance Corporal SRSS Rathnayake is the handler of dark, tall and handsome young boy, Frank. “Frank was born in Canada,” Lance Corporal Rathnayake recalled the first time he met Frank when Frank was a three month old puppy. “Following his three month obedience training, Frank was selected to undergo the 6 months special explosives training owing to his special skills,” Rathnayake said. Frank is only 1 year and 6 months old and the youngest member of the trio which is apparent with his active and alert behaviour. “Being a handler for a canine takes dedication and commitment. Training is an art and the relationship with the handler is a special and unique one,” Frank’s handler explained. “The dogs pick up on subtle cues such as heartbeat and eye contact. Trust is really important to these dogs and they cannot be lied to at any time” he added.
“Frank stands out from the rest of his teammates, as he is eager to participate in a search operation. As a result of his dedication, Frank was able to detect explosives at a reputed hotel in Colombo, last month,” said Frank’s proud handler. Accompanying this friendly trio are another steely eyed trio, Penny, Dixie and Gismo. They are special canines all belonging to the Engineers Corps of the Sri Lanka Army. Penny, Dixie and Gismo have been indispensable in explosive detection activities conducted recently.
Penny, Dixie and Gismo have been indispensable in explosive detection activities