Charleston trains Navy's 'Rocky' to become contender

CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- In the 1980's Rocky Balboa knocked out many contenders. At Charleston a new Rocky is poised to arise and become victorious in 2004.

The 437th Security Forces canine unit is assisting the Charleston Naval Weapons Station in developing a kennel program. The Charleston AFB unit has opened its doors to kennel and train Rocky, the Naval canine, with the 437th SFS dogs while the Navy builds a kennel of its own.

After 9/11, the NWS security forces stepped up homeland security and began developing a kennel program for the NWS brig.

"Having the opportunity to work with the Navy ... allows us the advantage to see how the other branch works with their respective mission," said Tech. Sgt. Toby McKnight, 437th SFS kennel master. "It also increases the capabilities and abilities of the dogs due to the combined knowledge and training of the Navy and Air Force."

The Navy recently purchased Rocky from the 341st Training Squadron, Lackland AFB, Texas, where all Department of Defense dogs and kennel masters are trained.

Because both the Navy and Air Force dog handlers attend the same training and receive their dogs from the same location, the partnership seems only natural.

"The Navy and the Air Force have similar missions and work hand in hand," said Sergeant McKnight. "The kennel program will be a great asset to the Navy once the program is up and running."

Charleston AFB dog handlers will assist the naval dog handlers in training Rocky for his qualification test, which is administered by the naval installation commander.

"It's been a learning experience working with the Air Force, and I am a better handler because of it," said Petty Officer 1st Class Kenneth Spade of the NWS security forces.

Once Rocky is qualified he will be the first canine member of the NWS and will be capable of detecting narcotics and explosives. Rocky, who arrived here last month, will work at the NWS brig and continue to be kenneled at Charleston AFB until the Naval facility is complete.

Rocky is one of seven military working dogs maintained here, with the rest assigned to the 437th Airlift Wing. The Charleston kennel program has existed for more than 30 years and trains dogs to search for narcotics and explosive detection to support homeland security.

With the help of his trainers, Rocky will be ready to go a few rounds with the bad guys in only a few short months.