Yuma, Ariz.— With seven months of training under their collars, followed by four weeks of certification, the newest members of Yuma Sector’s canine crew have been certified “good to go” and are slated to begin their first assignments at a Blythe Station checkpoint.
The two puppies, brother and sister from the K-litter at the Canine Center in El Paso, arrived at the Yuma Sector K-9 unit in March 2013. Barely four months old when they arrived in Yuma, the Malinois pups are as energetic and curious as when they entered the “expose to environment” stage of training at Yuma Sector. Their enthusiasm had not waned when they hit their first birthday November 23.
Known for their energy, intelligence, and keen sense of smell, the dogs “did real well during their training,” says Supervisory Border Patrol Agent (SBPA) Guadalupe Medrano, Kala’s partner. “They met every challenge as they were taught to identify different odors in different environments.” According to their human partners, the dogs were trained to detect concealed people, as well as the odors of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and their derivatives. The two pups were accompanied by their agent team members in training from start to finish.
SBPA Mark Sims, Yuma Sector’s Supervisory Canine Instructor for all canine training and a recognized canine training expert, acknowledges the two puppies proved to be star pupils throughout the training process.
“I expected no less of them,” SBPA Sims explains. “Their breeding background is exceptional and they performed extremely well in training. I have no doubt they will serve their agent partners and the Border Patrol well. As the offspring of Rev, the sire and a trained patrol canine assigned to Special Operations Group in El Paso, and Ivory, the dam and a trained concealed human/narcotics canine, they have big paw prints to fill.”
The two dogs are named “in honor of fallen Border Patrol Agent Alexander Kirpnick and CBP Officer Mickey Kunter.”
Agent Kirpnick was killed in the line of duty while assigned patrol duties in the Nogales area on June 3, 1998. Agent Kunter was off-duty when he died on July 9, 2011 at a hospital in Athens, Ala., due to cardiac arrest.
“This is the first time Yuma Sector has been allowed to rear, train and retain a brother and sister team of puppies,” Agent Sims concludes. “This has been as much a test of the efficiency and professionalism of our program as it has been for the two new canine agents. I believe we have shown our program has what it takes.”
Special Operations Supervisor Wes Burch adds, “Canines have been used in the Border Patrol as far back as the 1950s, but the current Yuma program started in 1986 with four teams and has grown to more than 60. With these teams, we can cover much more ground.”
He points out that their dogs not only man checkpoints along the highway, “We also have teams working at the San Luis Port of Entry in partnership with CBP officers.”
Yuma Sector’s canine teams proved highly successful in fiscal year 2012 by seizing more than 500 pounds of cocaine, 210 pounds of methamphetamine, 162 pounds of heroin, and 4,452 pounds of marijuana. That is a total estimated value of more than $31,300,000.
“Most of our canines are highly specialized detection dogs,” Burch explained, “but a few are patrol and search and rescue dogs.”
The Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector effectively combats smuggling organizations attempting to transport contraband through southwestern Arizona. Citizens can help the Border Patrol and U.S. Customs and Border Protection by calling (866) 999-8727 toll-free to report suspicious activity. Callers can remain anonymous.